True Quality CleaningStraight talk about caring for fine garments & household textiles from an expert who calls it like it is. In plain English.

The myth of pressing a garment with steam

Sunbeam steam ironThe internet is awash with articles promoting the savings that can be achieved by pressing a garment with a hand steamer (keep your entire wardrobe neat, professional and perfectly pressed) or by hanging a garment in a steamy bathroom (just hang your clothes in the bathroom while you shower ... and you will have freshly pressed clothing).

Perfectly pressed? Freshly pressed?


Yes, I know, you've been using a hand steamer and/or hanging garments in a steamy bathroom for years. And you believe it works.

Don't think so.

Exhibit 1 in debunking the steam pressing myth is a youtube video of a "garment care professional" attempting to steam press a wool trouser with a hand steamer.

After viewing the video, please answer this question: Do you see a "perfectly pressed" or "freshly pressed" trouser?

I don't. I see a trouser that's so puckered it's unwearable. Fact is, the more it's steamed, the worse it looks.

So what's the takeaway from this video? Consider these 5 points:

  • Steaming is not pressing. You might be able to remove some of the more obvious wrinkles with steam (such as wrinkles in the crotch of a trouser or slacks), but you can't press a garment with steam alone.
  • Proper pressing involves a combination of five elements: the skill of the presser, steam, vacuum (suction), a professional hand-iron and specialized, contoured equipment. You may have steam and the hand-iron, but you don't have the skill, vacuum or specialized contoured equipment.
  • Perhaps the most critical element in proper pressing involves the stretching and shrinking of a garment's fabric using steam and vacuum. Steam is used to relax the fibers and vacuum is used to immediately extract all the moisture from the fabric.

    If you don't extract the moisture you're left with a puckered mess (remember the lady in the video!).
  • Garments are not flat. They are comprised of many shapes and curves. Your "pressing surface" (a hanging garment) is flat. Trying to press shapes and curves on a flat surface without the aid of a professional hand-iron and specialized, contoured equipment is near impossible.
  • An important ingredient in the construction of a well-made garment (perhaps as important as the quality of the fabric and the quality of the workmanship) is the shaping and molding of the fabric imparted by the manufacturer or custom tailor. Poor steaming can wreck a well-made garment.

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