What’s The Difference Between a STEAMER an IRON and a VALET?
Maybe you are asking why you should even care about this topic. After all, isn’t this blog about fashion? And isn’t this a homemaking topic?
But I want you to stop for a second and think about it: you spend time, money, and resources to find clothing that works for your body and not against it. That’s a lot of effort for clothing to only last us for one season due to not caring for them properly. We need our clothes to last for a much longer time.
Also, if you’re going to spend money on great clothes, don’t you want them to look great on you? If you’ve taken the time to go through my course and figure out exactly which styles and fits you should wear, you definitely don’t want a bunch of wrinkles killing your look, pleats pleating in the wrong spot, or gathers gathering where they shouldn’t be.
Perhaps you haven’t even heard of a valet, or you don’t really know what a steamer is. In this post, I want to demystify these options for you and help you figure out which one is the best option for you. So let’s get started.
What Is a Steamer?
A steamer is simply an object that holds water in the base. That water is heated to create steam, which you use to get the wrinkles out of clothing. The steamer is held around 3-5 inches away from the fabric.
There are larger steamers which are perfect for items like suits or even draperies. These models stand on a base and have a hose attachment that you use to pass close to the fabric. They are also used in department stores to make clothes hang better on the rack. The smaller, handheld devices are more suited to a household and are perfect for most of your daily clothing needs. There are also travel steamers, which are perfect for both traveling and home.
What I Love About Steamers
I personally love steamers and think they rock. Why? Because you don’t need all of the space or paraphernalia that you do with an iron. Just think about how much room the ironing board takes up. It’s inconvenient to have to pull it out every time you need it, but who wants to stare at an ironing board every day?
With an iron, you have to deal with the entire garment every time. Even if there’s only a small wrinkle, you wrinkle the rest by spreading it across the ironing board. With a steamer, you can literally just steam the places that actually need it. No need to steam the entire garment if there’s just a wrinkle on the front or on one sleeve.
The Issues I Have with Steamers
I do love using a steamer, but it isn’t the answer to everything. For one thing, a steamer isn’t as kind to some fabrics as it is to others. Wool doesn’t take to steaming and can shrink. Clothing that has been through any kind of chemical treatment in order to detail it, such as adding rhinestones or pleating, should not be steamed.
If you look at the care tag on your garment and it says, “avoid hot water”, then definitely avoid steaming it because steam is hot water. When in doubt about a piece of clothing, try a small area that is hidden to see if the steam is safe for that garment.
The other negative about a steamer is that the wrinkles aren’t removed long-term. Think about a pair of linen pants; you can get the wrinkles out early in the morning but it won’t last as long as if you pressed them with an iron.
What Fabric Is Perfect for Steamers?
For clothing that is of the permanent press variety or something that has creases made into them, the steamer is going to be a great resource for those. Anything that is delicate is perfect for a steamer: silk, thinner types of polyester, t-shirts with any kind of screen printing on them, ruffles or highly detailed fabric, and anything with a heavy knit.
Do you have that one heavy knit sweater that gets wrinkled? Or a high-knit jacket made of a heavy jersey?
Steamers are great for these items, because let’s be honest, who irons their sweaters? I know, we just let them sit in the closet and wish we could do something to make it wearable again. A steamer will make that sweater one of your favorite pieces of clothing again.
Let’s Talk Irons. Seriously.
While I love steamers, they are relatively new to the fashion industry, only coming onto the scene around 15 years ago. But irons? They’ve been around forever. Like literally.
The reason an iron works so well is the same reason we love to cook with cast iron pans: the heating is consistent and universal. It spreads to the edges so you get constant, consistent heat. The large metal plate spreads the heat perfectly over the space you are pressing, so you never have hot areas and cold areas.
Why Irons Are the Bomb
Unlike steamers, irons have multiple settings. This allows you to use the same appliance for many differing types of fabrics. Got a delicate blouse? Use the lowest delicate setting. Have a heavy cotton button-down? Turn that iron up on high and watch those deep wrinkles disappear.
Whereas steam relaxes the fabric causing it to lay nicer, an iron presses the wrinkles out completely. That means that the wrinkles stay out longer. The heat of the iron actually changes the shape of the fabric, which a steamer can’t do.
The thing I really love about irons though is their ability to make a crease. I love a good crease in m shirts and my pants, especially the lighter summer pants. The iron uses the metal plate technology of plate-fabric-plate to change the shape of the fabric and give you a sharp crease that will last.
Wait…Is the Iron the Bomb?
Okay, the iron has a lot going for it, but let’s talk about the downsides.
First off, the thing is heavy. I mean you’re dealing with a 5-7 lb object every time you need to press your clothes. And we already talked about all the extra stuff you need in order to iron.
Ironing also just takes longer. Once you get the board set up, the iron filled with water, wait for the water to heat, and then you finally get started…but wait, don’t forget, you have to iron the entire garment in order to have consistency in the fabric.
What Kinds of Clothes Should I Be Ironing?
We can’t dismiss the iron yet though. If you have anything made of heavy cotton such as jeans, heavy jackets, oxford shirts…anything made of 98-100% cotton…you need to iron those items.
You need an iron to get those sharp creases we talked about. No steamer will crease a pair of jeans the way an iron will. Yes, you may need to plug your ears while you’re opening the ironing board, because HELLO, fingernails on a chalkboard.
One more thing about irons and fabrics- if you are ironing something delicate and it seems like it’s taking forever on the lowest setting, don’t turn it up. I, yes I, Kelly, have actually melted clothes by getting impatient with the low setting. I obviously need some kind of Ironing 101 class or something. Moving on….
My New Obsession – the Valet
I only heard about valets a month or so ago from one of my students. And listen to me, this thing is amazing.
If I were a professional, I would totally use this every day to have that crisp, freshly laundered look. It is a process that you have to do, but that means that every morning, your clothes would be ready to put on because you had already gone through that process. No ironing or steaming while you were trying to get out the door in the morning!
What is a valet? Well, it is kind of like an iron and a steamer put together. It stands up on a base and has the water in the bottom with the hose attachment. But it also has what I call a backer-board.
So you can hang your shirt there, pull the board down, and use the hose up against the clothing item to press it against the board. This thing is so easy to use! It has everything I love about the iron, like the consistency in the fabric, combined with the ease of use of the steamer.
I have to be honest with you, because if I’m not honest, then why am I here? The valet is really expensive. It’s right around $120. Which in the world of ironing is ridiculous. I mean, have you priced irons lately? You can get a good iron for $20-30. And a steamer is right around the same price.
But again, if I was a professional that needed that pressed and fresh look on a daily basis, this would be a no brainer for me. As it is, my sort of business casual look doesn’t require it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want one! I think it would be awesome to not have to lug out the ironing board for a few shirts I have that require the iron.
The valet is the Rolls Royce of ironing, but if you need amazing looking garments on a daily basis, or you just hate ironing as much as I do…go for the valet.
My picks, in order of preference, are: