When Should You Steam Versus Iron?

Woman ironing cloth on board, closeup.

Both irons and steamers can be used to get the wrinkles out of your clothes and to give them a fresh-pressed look. But, have you ever wondered when to steam and when to iron? Can both common laundry tools be used interchangeably?

Whether you steam or iron has to do with the clothes you’re trying to de-wrinkle, and the fabrics they’re made from.

The average household iron can heat up to 360 degrees Fahrenheit and uses metal plates to remove wrinkles. But, heat, metal, and certain fabrics don’t mesh well together. For example, a hot iron can do a lot of damage to silk, polyester, and cashmere.

While it gives you more control over your movements and lets you target specific “spots” of a garment, it can be a harsh way of de-wrinkling your clothes if they’re delicate. An iron is a better choice for “bulkier” fabrics like cotton, denim, and wool.

A steamer, on the other hand, works by loosening the fibers of certain fabrics to get the wrinkles out. You don’t have to place the tool directly on your garment for the steam to be effective, so it’s safe for things like silk and cashmere.

Irons are the winner if you need to create creases or pleats in your clothes. They provide direct heat and pressure that you can’t get from a steamer. But, if getting rid of wrinkles is your main concern, a steamer should do the trick.

Plus, today’s steamers are practical and portable, so you can travel with them easily.

Pay attention to the fabrics you frequently wear, and it should be easy to end the ironing versus steaming debate for your personal wardrobe.

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