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Steaming vs. ironing: What’s the difference?

In the perpetual battle against wrinkles, two methods stand out: steaming and ironing. While both options promise wrinkle-free results, their approaches and benefits differ.


Benefits of steaming

Steaming offers many benefits beyond just wrinkle removal. Let's delve into the advantages of steaming and why it's becoming the go-to choice for many.


1. The steam refreshes and sanitizes


Steaming doesn’t just remove wrinkles and creases – the steam also refreshes the garment by killing bacteria and reducing unwanted odors. Unlike ironing, which only adds heat to the surface, steaming penetrates deeper into the fabric, making it an effective method for maintaining freshness between washes.


2. Gentle on your clothing


While a traditional iron uses a scorching hot surface to press and flatten the textile fibers, a steamer lifts the fibers and allows them to regain their natural shape. This also means a lower risk of accidentally burning or damaging your clothes, particularly those made of delicate materials like silk.


3. No ironing board needed


When you're in a rush and need to quickly refresh your outfit, steaming proves to be a time-saving solution with minimal preparations. Simply place your garment on a hanger, and within around 20 seconds, the steam is ready to work its magic. When steaming your curtains, you can even leave them hanging on the rod. No need to waste precious time wrestling with a bulky ironing board.


4. A travel-friendly method


Most handheld steamers are compact and portable, which makes them easy to tuck away and take with you. Handheld steamers are lightweight and can easily fit in your suitcase for trips, ensuring that you always have wrinkle-free clothes wherever you go – just make sure your destination matches the power voltage of your steamer.


5. Ideal for textured garments  


Because the steam relaxes the fibers instead of pressing them down, steaming is also particularly great for textured garments. While a conventional iron may flatten or alter the texture of fabrics like corduroy, velvet, or embellished items, steaming will remove wrinkles without compromising their unique shape and character.



Benefits of ironing

While steaming has numerous advantages, the traditional iron still deserves a place in the world of garment care. If you’re after that perfectly pressed look, the iron may be the right tool for you.


1. Create a perfectly pressed look


Ironing, with its hot metal surface in direct contact with the fabric, provides precise control over the creases and seams of your garments, enabling you to achieve a polished, professional finish. The heated ironing plate ensures crisp lines with ease and allows you to add pressure to flatten the fabric to your liking.


2. Ideal for bedding and durable fabrics


For particularly stubborn wrinkles or heavy fabrics, an iron can provide the extra heat and pressure needed to smooth out creases effectively. Home textiles like sheets, pillowcases, and tablecloths are often made to withstand frequent washing and exposure to high heat. So, while a steamer may also be sufficient for these items, if you want to achieve a perfectly pressed result, a traditional iron is your best option.


3. Create intentional creases


The heated metal plate in direct contact with the fabric can also work to your advantage when you want to create defined details on your garments. For instance, if you want pressed cuffs or a long crease in the front of your pants for a classic, tailored look.


So, which should I choose?


Ironing and steaming each offer unique benefits, and the choice between the two ultimately depends on your preferences, garment materials, and time constraints. Whether you prefer the precision of traditional ironing or the convenience of steaming, both methods ensure that your clothes look smooth and wrinkle-free. If you want the benefits of both appliances, there’s also the Cirrus 3 Iron Steamer which is a handheld steamer with a heated front plate.

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