The most hard-working item in my wardrobe is not a handbag, nor my winter boots, nor even my favourite jeans. The thing that really delivers bang for buck on a regular basis is my handheld steamer, a device which has long been part of a fashion editor’s toolkit for de-creasing clothes quickly on photo shoots.
Now this industry staple looks set to go mainstream, following a rise in sales of handheld steamers. Over the past week alone, John Lewis has seen a 15 per cent spike – if they continue to grow at this rate, the tool looks set to be 2023’s answer to the air fryer.
This has been a long time coming. I’m wedded to mine. It comes with me everywhere, from beach holidays to city breaks – it’s made me the most popular person at an out-of-town wedding, stressed bridesmaids passing it around like a bag of jelly sweets. While my partner spends Sunday evenings ironing his shirts for the week ahead, I am usually steaming mine in a fraction of the time. Our long-running iron versus steamer debate remains one of those topics on which there will always be a divide.
I’m among the majority though: with the average Briton spending over an hour a week ironing, according to a 2017 YouGov poll, it is the nation’s most hated household chore.
Stockholm-based Steamery is the ‘It’ brand, with its Instagram-friendly pastel colours and sleek designs, which start at £60. It sold 11,500 steamers in the UK last year, an increase of 30 per cent on 2021. Its newest Cirrus 3 model (£150, steamery.co.uk) is described as an ‘iron steamer’, a valiant attempt to meet the demands of households like my own.
“For the last couple of years we have been growing steadily in the UK and it’s now one of our biggest markets, says Frej Lewenhaupt, CEO at Steamery. “We see an increased demand for clothing care products, and we feel very optimistic about the coming year for us in the UK.”
But handheld steamers don’t have to be expensive. Sustainable fashion writer Hannah Rochell swears by her £25 Homeasy HE-53, an Amazon bestseller with a 4.2-star rating and over 300 reviews. “I’ve tried a few in my time, and I’ve found that the cheaper ones tend to work better than the luxury ones,” she says. “I don’t actually own an iron anymore, we just use the steamer. The only thing I sometimes cheat on is using hair straighteners for cuffs and collars.”
It’s an inspired idea - but that’s not where the benefits of steamers end. It’s also an efficient means of cleaning clothes, disinfecting and deodorising without the need to use the washing machine or a dry-cleaner - this is kinder to the environment and helps make clothes last longer. “I’m a real advocate for washing clothes less often,” says Rochell. “I get a lot more wear out of each item before it gets washed as a result.”
This rise in demand for handheld steamers is part of a growing trend for garment care, amplified by the pandemic when lockdowns put a fresh focus on the activities within our homes. Brands such as The Laundress and The Clothes Doctor have made fabric detergent a luxury product. For £46, you can even buy detergent scented with your favourite Le Labo fragrance.
De-bobblers have become de rigueur for knitwear lovers (Steamery makes those too), while Sheep Inc includes a pilling comb with each of its Merino wool jumpers. Even home appliance stalwart Bosch is innovating in garment care with its £200 FreshUp device, which promises to remove odours from clothes without the use of chemicals.
“We all need to reconsider how we consume fashion, and we want to highlight the importance of taking care of what you already own and finding ways to make your clothes last longer,” says Lewenhaupt.
It’s satisfying too. There are so many effective new ways to care for the clothes we love - if you ask me, it’s time the iron fell out of fashion.
Steamers the Telegraph fashion team use:
E8 handheld clothes steamer, £38.22, Morplan (morplan.com)
Access travel steamer, £69.99, Tefal (tefal.co.uk)
Homeasy HE-53, £25, Amazon (amazon.co.uk)
Crease Release fabric spray, £9, The Lab Co. (thelabco.com)
Finishing Spray, £14, Kair (kair.care)