How to use a Clothes Steamer

A fabric steamer or clothes steamer is a great product which is used to remove the wrinkles from clothes. There is a mechanism of heating water to become steam and this steam is applied to clothes for removing the wrinkles with the help of nozzles by relaxing fabric’s fibers.

Its use is different in comparison to an iron. If you are unsure about how to use a clothes steamer, you first need to understand when to use a clothes steamer vs an iron. It is helpful to learn about the fabrics to be steamed with the clothes steamer and use the correct heat setting for the type of fabric you are steaming.

Clothes steamers provide a new wrinkle-free experience for your fabrics. Steamers are used for a larger variety of fabrics whereas an iron may burn delicate fabrics like silk. Steamers are less likely to damage the fabrics in your clothing than an iron as the use of heat is more indirect than an iron.

All the best ways of using the fabric steamers are given below:

Prepare Steamer For use  

Firstly, please read the manufacturer recommendations regarding the use of your garment steamer. Ensure you are using distilled water in your clothing steamer, unless your steamer has a built-in function for de-calcifying tap water.

It is important to use distilled water to keep your steamer in the best condition internally and avoid calcium deposits clogging up your steamer, which can cause water spitting and white marks on your clothing. Read more about the benefits of distilled water here.

Fill the water chamber of your steamer. It is good practice to empty out the water chamber when you are finished steaming, so consider how many garments you need to steam when filling the water tank. Do not overfill the tank. Secure the lid of the water tank before plugging in and turning on your clothing steamer.

The size of your clothing steamer and the amount of water you have put into the tank will determine the time it takes to heat up and start to produce steam. If your garment steamer has multiple steam settings, choose the most appropriate steam setting for the fabric. We’ll cover more of this in the points below.

Hang the Garments

It is far easier to steam your clothing whilst it is hanging on a clothes hanger. Most full size upright steamers for home and/or commercial use have a hook to hang a coat hanger off, or a clothes hanger attachment including clips for pants, trousers or jeans.

If you are using handheld steamer, hang your item on a clothes hanger. An over the door hook is useful to hang the coat hanger on, and the door itself provides a good backing for the item. Depending on the size of your item, you can also use the back of a chair, shower rod or curtain rod to hang your clothing from.

Steaming with Downwards Stokes

Starting from the top of the item, steam your fabric using downward strokes. You do not need to push or press hard against the fabric to remove the wrinkles. Downward strokes will remove the wrinkles clearly. Work your way from the top of the item to the bottom using smooth downward strokes.

There are other ways to get better results in downward sliding the steamers.

Using a Handheld Pad

There is the option of using a handheld pad on the opposite hand that you are holding the steamer with. Holding this pad behind the fabric as you steam will help you to remove the wrinkles from dense fabrics.

Steam from the Inside

If you are looking for extreme wrinkle removal, try steaming from the inside, or beneath the garment. This is particularly useful for skirts and heavier tops. Here the performance of your clothing steamer can be increased by the weight of fabric.

It is very important to protect your hands if steaming from the inside of the garment. We highly recommend the use of heatproof protective gloves for steaming if using this method.

Embellishments and Pleats

If there are fabrics with embellishments, use your steamer 1-2 inches away from these. For any pleating in fabrics, hold the fabric from the bottom edge and hold the pleat straight. Run the steamer over the pleat to keep the crease.

Steamer Head Touching the Garments

It is ok for the head of your steamer to touch the fabric of your garments. The closer you hold the head of the steamer to your clothing, the better result you will achieve.

Some companies are promoting that their steamers cannot burn your fabrics or garments. Philips state that their steamers are safe for all fabrics and will not damage clothing. In general, we have found that steam can be used on any fabric that is washed with water. Do not use the steamer on fabrics such as suede and leather. This will permanently damage your clothing.

Cuffs and Collars Support

Cuffs and collars are best steamed using a steamer pad for support behind the cuff or collar. Some steamers also come with accessories to assist with steaming cuffs, collars and pockets, such as the PurSteam Elite Garment Steamer. These handy tools make steaming even easier!

Use the Brush for Thicker garments

Another attachment most steamers come with is the fabric brush. The fabric brush is great for use on thicker fabrics such as jackets, jumpers, coats and jeans or fabrics that are more inclined to pill. The idea is that the brush concentrates the steam as you move it over the fabric and the brush also removes fluff from the garment as you steam. Do not use the fabric brush on delicate fabrics such as satin, silk or chiffon which may pull.

How to steam delicate fabrics and embroidery

If you are worried about the wrinkles in delicate fabrics and embroidery, then you can remove these wrinkles by just pressing the plate or head of your steamer against the clothes. This is the best way to remove the wrinkles from your embroidery. As always, use the lowest steam setting to begin with.

Are there any fabrics which you can’t use steam on?

Yes! Fabrics such as leather, vinyl and suede should not be steamed. Steam will permanently damage these fabrics.

After Steaming

Wait for your steamer to cool completely before opening the water tank to empty the water. You should NEVER open the water tank when the steamer is hot. Steam may shoot out and cause serious burns.

Some steamers come with valves on the bottom of the water tank to drain the water. This is an innovative idea and a much safer method of draining water from your garment steamer. Drain all the water from your steamer after use and discard.

If the water chamber disconnects from your steamer, leave this upside down to drain completely and dry. Water that is left in the bottom of the steamer may cause mold or build up in the bottom of your steamer. This can also cause your steamer to emit an unpleasant odor when steaming. If this happens, see our guide on cleaning your garment steamer for a cost effective vinegar mix that will help fix this problem.

We also recommend disconnecting the hose from the steamer and drain any water that may be caught up in the hose.

Your steamer really shouldn’t require a lot of maintenance. Using distilled water will help to keep your steamer working effectively for years to come.


Clothing steamers are easy to use and some consumers are choosing garment steamers to replace their clothing irons altogether. Garments steamers are great for many types of clothing, including cotton, polyester, denim, nylon, microfiber, chiffon, satin and silk.

Be sure to check your fabric care labels before steaming. We highly recommend the use of a steaming glove or mitt to protect your hands, as steam will burn. Steaming effectively takes practice, however, persist with it and you’ll be flying through your wardrobe in no time! Not to mention the other great uses for your steamer, such as refreshing curtains and drapes, bed linen and fabric covered furniture. Happy steaming!

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