In recent years, steam cleaners have gained a lot of popularity. You can find them in many shapes and sizes, and people use them for cleaning various surfaces, including clothes. For most, steamers have proven to be an excellent alternative for dry cleaning, which has become quite expensive.

But can steamers really clean clothes? And are they as effective in removing stains and sanitizing clothes as regular washing or dry cleaning? Read on to find out as we do a deep dive into everything you need to know about steaming your clothes.

Steam Cleaners Explained

Before we get into the specifics of steam cleaning, let’s discuss how steamers work in the first place. As their name suggests, they are powered by water (usually distilled water) which is turned into steam via pressure and heat. Each steamer has a front opening through which the steam is released.

When you apply the steam to different surfaces, its pressure can clean and purify them. In addition, it can help remove wrinkles and make the fabric appear tidier overall.

But Can Steamers Clean Clothes?

Yes, without a doubt. A steam cleaner can indeed clean clothes. This fact is especially true for garments that you cannot wash often (or at all), such as clothing made of linen or silk. It is also suitable for all pieces of clothing that you would usually take to a dry cleaner.

Steam cleaning can help remove tough stains, bacteria, and allergens from clothes. In addition, it makes them look fresh and wrinkle-free, even if you’ve never actually washed them with water.

What Exactly Does Steaming Do to Clothes?

Since the process uses heat, pressure, and steam, you can compare steaming clothes to ironing them. However, there are a few key differences.

For one, the steam coming out of an iron isn’t as powerful as that of a steamer. As a result, irons cannot clean clothes, while steamers can indeed remove bacteria and even foul odors.

Moreover, steamers cannot easily burn clothes or cause any similar damage, as they are never actually in direct contact with the clothes. The same cannot be said for irons, which are notorious for leaving all types of burn marks on garments.

Finally, steamers are indeed suitable for all materials, no matter how delicate they might be. On the other hand, you can only use irons on sturdier materials that can sustain direct contact with heat.

Does Steaming Clothes Really Remove Stains?

Steaming your clothes can definitely help remove stains. The heat from the steam helps loosen the fibers in the material, which automatically makes it easier to remove most everyday stains from clothes.

However, there is a catch. Namely, steam cleaners can only remove stains that are at least relatively new. In other words, if you’ve left a stain to sit for a few days, you’ll most likely need something stronger to get it out completely. But if the stain is new, the steamer will do more than nicely.

To remove a stain, simply hold the head of the steamer close to the affected area for a few seconds. How long you will need to hold it depends on the type of stain and the material you are working with. Typically, about 20 to 30 seconds should do the trick.

In case the stain you want to remove is on wool or silk, you will have to be extra careful. These materials cannot sustain high heat for too long. Thus, you will have to steam them over a longer period and take frequent breaks so you don’t cause any additional damage.

Can Steamers Remove Odors From Clothing?

As we’ve already briefly mentioned above, steamers can also get rid of odors from clothing. The process is similar to that of removing stains, as the loosening of the fibers in the material helps release any lingering smells.

Furthermore, a lot of odors are actually emitted by bacteria and other types of microorganisms that cling to clothes. Thus, steamers can also make your clothes smell better by eliminating these germs with the help of heat and pressure.

So, if your clothing is clean but has an unpleasant smell you’d like to get rid of, using a steamer is the way to go. You’ll easily freshen up garments and postpone your visit to a dry cleaning service, while saving some money in the process.

Can You Sanitize Clothes by Steaming Them?

Yes — steaming can help kill off germs and allergens that accumulate on clothing. In fact, some steam cleaners are so powerful that they can eliminate listeria, E. coli, and even salmonella from different surfaces.

Thus, even if your clothes are clean, it cannot hurt to go over them with your garment steam cleaner. By doing so, you will remove any potential microorganisms still lingering on the fabric and ensure that the clothes you wear are truly safe for you.

Another Benefit of Steaming Your Clothes

While it is true that no piece of clothing can last forever, there are certain processes that can help extend the shelf life of most materials. You’ve guessed it — steaming is one such process.

Using your washer and dryer can often prove to be far too harsh, especially for delicate fabrics. The same goes for taking your clothes to the dry cleaner. Namely, most companies use harsh chemicals to replace water, which can lead to damage with regular cleanings.

So, to make sure that your clothes last longer and don’t shrink, try to substitute washing or dry cleaning with steaming as much as possible. It is yet another way to save money and preserve the clothing you love at the same time.

What Materials Are Suitable for Steaming?

Like we mentioned before, steaming is suitable for most materials. However, it works best for delicate fabrics such as wool, silk, linen, cotton, and most synthetic materials.

Aside from cleaning these fabrics, you can also use steamers to remove any wrinkles. In fact, you can eliminate the need for an iron almost completely by getting a small garment steamer.

The only clothing items you still might want to iron are dress shirts and slacks, simply because steamers usually cannot give you that crisp smoothness such formal attire requires. But if you don’t wear these types of clothes on a regular basis, a steamer will satisfy all your ironing needs.

Can Steamers Damage Clothing?

It goes without saying that heat and pressure can damage certain materials. However, most clothes steamers do not exceed 150-200°F at their highest setting, which is considered safe for the majority of regular fabrics. For comparison, most dryers heat up to around 150°F.

Still, you should be especially careful with wool and silk, as gentle materials are usually more heat sensitive. When steaming them, try to do it over long stretches of time, letting the fabric cool down in between sessions. That way, it won’t overheat and suffer any damage.

And finally, try not to hold the steamer too close to the material you are cleaning. Keeping a distance of an inch or two can make all the difference and ensure that your clothes last a long time.

Final Thoughts on Steam Cleaning Clothes

All in all, it is definitely possible to clean clothes using a steamer. The combination of heat and high pressure can remove stains, bacteria, and odors alike, leaving your clothes in pristine condition after. Steaming is an excellent solution for garments that cannot sustain regular washing or need to be dry cleaned.

As with all gadgets that use heat, you should be careful not to damage or burn your clothes when steaming them. That is especially true for wool, silk, and cashmere, as they are incredibly gentle and soft. Handle such materials with special care, and you will be able to steam them seamlessly anytime you want.

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