I recently traveled many thousands of miles to attend a college roommate’s wedding in Hawaii. For several reasons-the over-the-top destination, the formal toast I was slated to give, my all-but-unprecedented approval of a friend’s choice of groom-I decided to splurge on a new dress for the occasion. The simple silk sheath that I bought was perfect: For once, I would look just right.
At the reception, one of the brides relatives sidled up to me with a quizzical look and said, “Oh my, I would have lent you my steamer”. Thats the problem with travelling, your perfect dress is riddled with creases!
Before that weekend, I’d assumed clothing steamers were unwieldy, industrial items. Was I ever wrong. These days, there is a range of handheld fabric steamers on the market-and they often cost less, and take up less suitcase real estate, than traditional irons. Best of all, portable steamers free you from the space constraints of an ironing board, an advantage not just for travelers but for small-apartment dwellers like me. You need only hang the garment against a wall before getting to work.
Sold and sold. Within hours of getting home, I went online in search of a fabric steamer that could rescue me from future on-the-road fashion disasters. And if a steamer could also replace the bulky iron that I am often too lazy to yank out of my closet, all the better.
I tested six handheld fabric steamers ranging in price from $24.99 to $69. I used the steamers on various types of garments: men’s dress shirts, linen pants, cashmere sweaters, pillow shams, and a profoundly ugly silk kimono. I then handed over the steamers to my kempt-to-a-fault mother for a second, more seasoned opinion.
How Portable Is It? I took size and weight into consideration to determine whether it was practical as a travel item.
The travel clothes steamer is a simple beast. There are two types: steamers that resemble power drills and ones that look like electric teakettles. Which style is more effective? Other considerations: Is the steamer comfortable to operate for a prolonged period? Does it have an on/off button or any temperature-control options? Does it come with attachments-lint brushes, fabric combs, and the like-and are these attachments useful?
How does it perform? Most importantly – how well does the steamer work and does it remove all the creases?
How quickly does the water heat up, and how hot does the steam get? Does the steamer dribble water and/or spit out excessive steam? Any burn risk? Last but not least: Will any of these steamers ever replace the good, old-fashioned iron?