First off, I don't know about you, but ironing is NOT my favorite chore to begin with. Second, I am what you would call a "pre-ironer" - meaning I launder my clothes, then iron, then put away in my closet. Well, I don't have the largest closet known to man (& I have a lot of clothes in there), so when I hang my freshly ironed clothes in the closet, you can imagine what happens...the clothes get all wrinkled again, ugh!! Hence the wanting of a steamer - so I can skip ironing all together, or simply freshen up pre-ironed pieces.
But this begs the questions - what's the difference between steaming & ironing, which is better, can you use either method on all fabrics, etc? I've done some experimenting & reading so I'll fill you in on what I know....
- Steamers fluff the fibers of the fabric giving a soft, clean look. Another way to think of it is steaming actually lifts the wrinkles out of the fabric.
- Can be used to sanitize fabrics/garments, remove odors from fabric/garments, & can be used to remove particles such as lint & hair using a Fabric Brush attachment (depending on the steamer model).
- Steaming is safe on all fabrics including silk & cashmere (always follow the instructions provided with your garment & steamer model). I would always test on a hidden area of the garment when dealing with delicate fabrics as well.
- Can typically be stored easily. Roll it away into the corner of a closet or room - no bulky ironing board to get out & set up each time. There are also travel models of steamers that could very easily be stored on a shelf.
- Because steaming is lifting wrinkles, not pressing them out, you may not be able to produce the crisp lines & seams as you can with ironing.
- In my experience, you may get less than great results with certain fabric types (i.e. fabrics/garments made of cotton or cotton blends don't have stellar results from steaming).
- Ironing flattens the fibers of the fabric by pressing it. This can create structure & shape especially when creating creases on shirt sleeves or slacks, or the pressing out of a collar.
- Because it is "pressing" ironing gives a "sharp" appearance to the finished product.
- Irons have different settings to accommodate different fabric types.
- Space/storage can be an issue because it typically involves the ironing board.
- Time consumption - it takes me longer to iron a garment than it does to steam it.
- It can be harder to iron pieces that have pleats & difficult seams & still have a nice result.
I took a few quick before & afters when I was experimenting with my steamer. I have the SteamFast SF-407 model. All of these garments are items I would typically iron & I will link to each item if available.
Flowy Button-Up: Fabric - 100% Polyester
Results: The steamer was perfect for this fabric. The results are exactly what I wanted - wrinkle free, yet still naturally flowy & soft. You can see the lifting of the wrinkles especially on the pockets & near the bottom of the shirt.
Structured Button-Up: Fabric - 100% cotton
A closer look before:
A closer look after:
Results: While dramatically improved, I would prefer this shirt to have a crisp look to it as a final product. Although the steaming was "good enough" to wear this shirt as an underneath layer, if I wanted to wear it as a primary shirt, I would choose to iron it the next time.
Pixie Pants: Fabric - 95% Cotton, 5% Spandex
Results: Much like the shirt above, the steaming did improve the look of these pants, but I would still prefer something more crisp for these pants.
Bottom line: Both steaming & ironing can be used to serve different purposes. For me, I will use "McSteamy" for pieces that are typically "flowy" or relaxed in appearance (most of my pieces will fall in this category), & continue to use "Iron Man" if I would prefer a more crisp look. Although not shown here, steaming would also be good on dress pants/slacks versus the cotton pants shown. I will also use the steamer to "touch up" those items I have already ironed that just need a little refreshing.
If you have a steamer let me know how you use it, what you think of it, & feel free to share the model you use in the comments. We can all use the helpful information from the masses :-)
Disclaimer: Never iron or steam a garment while you are wearing it. As with all appliances, be sure to unplug when you are through using it. Both irons & steamers can cause burns, use caution & read all manuals before using.
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