Do Clothes Steamers Work on all Materials? (Without Causing Any Damage)

Your clothes are creased again and you’re tired of it. We get it, we’ve been there before. The thing is, how can you get these annoying lines and creases out? Well, the good news is that a clothes steamer is just what you need here, but can you use it on all materials?

Clothes steamers do no work on suede, velvet, wax jackets, or any clothing that contains plastic. For suede and velvet, the material can become irreparably damaged when in contact with moisture and, for the other two, there is the risk of melting. 

Ready to learn which materials can be steamed and which can’t? This is the guide for you, so buckle up, get the board ready, and let’s get those clothes looking good again. 

Steaming Linen

Linen is tough, and you have to admire that. Clothes, sheets, tablecloths, it can do it all. The best part? It’s more absorbent and quicker to dry than cotton. It’s breathable and cool in the summer for those hot and sweaty days, but it keeps you cosy and warm during the winter. 

But even gods have their flaws, and linen is pretty susceptible to creases that are hard to remove thanks to the naturally stiff and dry nature of the material. The good news? You can definitely steam linen. 


Generally speaking, you’re going to need a good and hot burst of steam to really work through those creases but you’ll get them out. Some linens will be easier to get smoother, it all depends on the thickness of the material. A good steaming session will get the job done in the end.

Steaming Cotton 

We all love the soft touch of cotton against our skin. It is incredibly breathable, durable, and the results always look fantastic. It’s a natural fibre, which often makes it kinder on the skin as well as resilient. However, it can be quite prone to creasing and it happens easily. 

If you’ve got stiff cotton, you will find that this creases more than your standard types. But, great for you, steaming is on the table. However, for the best results, you might want to use an ironing mat or a flexible board so that you can get that lovely pressed finish. 

Lighter cotton, such as Jersey, can be steamed using a vertical steamer. If you have stiff cotton materials, think dress shirts, you’re going to need a hot ironing plate – and you can find some really good ones for the job in our clothes steamer guide here. 

Steaming Wool

This lovely natural material was made for keeping you warm, and you’ll spend the whole winter feeling nice and toasty when wrapped up in this. Generally speaking, it is a really straightforward material to steam as well – and we all appreciate an easy steaming session. 

You do have to be careful with more delicate material, such as suit trousers, as they can’t withstand intense steaming. You’ll need a fabric guard to stop the wool from becoming shiny, otherwise, you’ll end up blinding everyone at the next office meeting. 

For wool suit trousers, you’re going to want to hang them up and get to work with a vertical clothes steamer. It won’t cause any shine, the steam is gentle, and your suit trousers will look fantastic when you are done. 

Steaming Silk 

Silk has always felt like the very definition of luxury. From the delicate way in which it is made, to the soft touch on your skin, it is one of the nicest materials to wear. However, if you are planning on steaming this fabric, you are going to need to be a little more careful


If you are using a clothes steamer that has a heated metal plate, you must ensure that you use a delicate fabric guard in order to keep the material safe and prevent it from being exposed to too much heat. This way, you end up with clothes that are (hehehe) silky smooth.

Steaming Synthetics 

Synthetic materials are good in that they tend to last a long time and are easier to dye, and they are also more resistant to stains as well as waterproof. Since they tend to be used for sports and outdoor activities, this can also mean that they end up a lot muckier. 

Before you stand over the washing pile and weep (we’ve been there too), you can rest easy knowing that you can steam synthetics – removing stains and creases like the pro that you are. The vertical steamer is my favourite with synthetics, it’s a fast and effective method. 

If you’re searching for a crisp finish on the collars and cuffs, you’re going to want to take advantage of the heated plates to really work out any marks and lines that have been left behind. You’ll also find it’s pretty good at removing odours from playing sports. 

Steaming Wedding Dresses

Sometimes, creases can’t be helped before the big day. Thankfully, your wedding won’t be ruined because it is fairly easy to remove creases from a wedding dress. One thing you do need to be aware of is the fact that wedding dresses often contain multiple materials

You’ll need to make sure that your steamer doesn’t drip, and a delicate fabric guard is an absolute must if you don’t want to have to go and buy a whole new dress. A vertical steamer can also make for a good quick fix while retaining that much-needed gentle touch. 

Take a look at the best clothes steamers we have found when reviewing all the top models. 

Which Materials Cannot be Steamed? 

While steaming is a highly effective method, not all materials can have this treatment. Suede and velvet do not do well when they come into contact with moisture, and steaming can be quite excessive in this regard. 

Wax jackets and anything with plastic in it can’t be steamed either, as this can cause melting (and some seriously nasty odours as a result). You should also be careful with Nylon, which can be sprayed if needed but should avoid steam as much as possible. 

Does the Type of Clothes Steamer Matter?

As we have mentioned briefly in the previous sections, the type of clothes steamer you use can make a difference when you are working through that laundry pile. 

Vertical. This is one of the most popular types of clothes steamer, and it allows you to hang your clothes up for easy cleaning and even coverage. The vast majority don’t have heated plates either, which means they rely solely on steam. 

This is what makes them ideal for delicate materials since it is almost impossible to damage them using steam. In addition to removing creases, a vertical steam cleaner can also deodorise, which makes it a rather versatile piece of kit to have (if a little bulky). 

Handheld. The cheaper handheld steamers do as good a job as they can, but they are also prone to spitting or dripping water. The handheld steam cleaners that have pumps tend to be the better choice because they are more powerful and don’t spit. 

The pump versions also tend to have a heated plate, which makes them more versatile when you want to give clothing a crisp finish. Many also come with a fabric guard so that you can use them on a wide range of materials. 

High-Pressure. These are incredibly POWERFUL, the size of regular iron, and pump out a lot of steam for those really stubborn creases and lines. They get incredibly hot, which is why you need to be mindful when using them on delicate fabrics and ensure you use the protective guard. 

Read Here: Can My Garment Steamer Replace My Iron

Final Thoughts 

So many clothes, so little time, but now you know which materials you can and cannot use with your garment steamer – as well as which materials need a little more love and care. With this guide, your clothes will look good but you’re also reducing the risk of damage to them. 

If you found this helpful, why not check out the rest of our guides on how to care for your clothes and use home appliances? Written for you by the experts, we take you through everything you need to know about clothing, carpets, stain removal, and so much more. 

Last Updated on August 13, 2021 by Gemma Tyler

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