Laundry Room: Should you use an iron or a steamer?

Let’s talk about that pile of clean, wrinkled clothes sitting next to your ironing board. It started out as just a couple shirts, right? It happens to the best of us, before we know it we have a week’s worth of ironing to do. We’ll get to it soon, we tell ourselves. In the meantime, the pile grows, and we end up doing the ironing on an as-needed basis, becoming on-demand de-wrinklers.

So when you get around to taking care of that pile, what’s your tool of choice? Do you automatically go for the iron or do you favor the clothes steamer? Many people have both an iron and steamer in their laundry arsenal. For some, it’s a matter of which is going to do the best job, for others it’s simply about which is more accessible and less cumbersome at the time.

For instance, the iron stores easily but requires additional equipment—the dreaded ironing board. No, the bed and floor are not suitable for ironing (and please, never iron something while you’re wearing it…you know you’ve thought about it). Some steamers can be bulky, but they usually have a handy rack for hanging clothes while you’re steaming. The disadvantage here is the temptation to turn it into a second closet for your wrinkled clothes. However, a side-benefit to a steamer is it can also be used for some household chores, like cleaning windows and sanitizing mattresses.

There are advantages to both tools, and using the right one for this chore will help you get through it with efficiency. Here’s how to decide when an iron is up to the job and when it’s time to call in the steamer.


This is your workhorse, taking on durable fabrics with ease. And if you have garments that need a crisp look or defined pleats, then the iron is your go-to tool. The heat combined with pressure will crease those trousers and skirts like no other. An iron is also a good choice for removing wrinkles from your everyday wear, but there are some fabrics that are easily damaged by irons. Always check your garment’s labels first.


Often seen as a complement to the iron, the steamer may be used on a variety of fabrics, especially those too delicate for irons. Steamers are also ideal for large items that don't fit on an ironing board or are difficult to iron, such as curtains, wedding gowns or garments with tricky ruffles. However, steamers should not be used on fabrics that can be damaged or stained by water. Always check your garment’s labels first.

Good luck with your pile of wrinkles. Grab your iron or steamer, listen to some music, get an audiobook, turn on the TV… whatever it takes to make this task more enjoyable. Or, if you keep avoiding it, maybe someone else will do it for you.