South and Hickory Facade

Steam or Iron Your Clothes? What to Do When.

A handheld steamer and an iron


October 2022


South and Hickory Place provides on-site laundry facilities for our residents. So, all you need to look your best is an iron… and maybe a steamer? You may have noticed that garment steamers seem to be getting more popular. So much so that you may be wondering if you need one. Isn’t an iron good enough? And if you had both, which one do you use in different situations. There are times when one is clearly better than the other. If you have both, or are thinking of getting one of each, here’s an overview of when each does its job exceptionally well.

Simply put, the decision comes down to fabrics and creases…

Steamer Time

  • Lightweight fabrics like silk, lace, and cashmere.
  • Fabrics that can be crushed, like wool, velvet or corduroy.
  • Hanging items like curtains, bed skirts, jackets, and blazers.

A steamer is gentler on clothes and won’t burn, crush fabrics, or lead to unintended creases. In addition, steam is hot enough to kill most germs, so a steamer can also be used to disinfect things like a stuffed animals.

For best results, fill your steamer’s tank up with bottled distilled water, which won’t cause mineral buildup that can block the steam nozzles.

When Irons Can’t be Beat

  • Heavier fabrics like cotton and denim.
  • Easily wrinkled fabrics like linen.
  • Garments where you want a crisp edge, like dress shirt collars or pleats.

While most irons will produce steam, they work by pressing out wrinkles using heat and weight. It’s the weight of an iron that makes them perfect for creating pleats in dress pants or skirts and crisp collars on dress shirts. Unlike steamers, you can also use spray starch while ironing to help stiffen fabrics and give extra crisp pleats.

Be sure to iron only clean clothes. The heat from an iron can actually cause dirt or stains to become permanently set in fabrics. It’s also helpful to iron dark or delicate clothes inside out to prevent that shiny finish that high heat can cause.