handheld steamer vs standing steamer for silk pillowcase

Handheld steamer vs standing steamer for silk pillowcase

I own a handheld steamer and a standing steamer, both of which, do not actually belong to me. How does that work? Free gifts and hand me downs! But I have been contemplating on getting a good one of my own and had to think about which to get – while steaming my silk pillowcases.

Which explains today’s title. I’ll be sharing the pros and cons of portable (handheld) and non-portable (standing) steamers. Take it as a contemplative posts of sorts. Hopefully this would help me AND some of you decide which to get, if you are unsure like I am

Is it safe to use a steamer on silk pillowcases?

Silk is a delicate fabric and steamers are the gentler and easier approach to removing wrinkles, compared to irons. In fact, I will recommend it over an iron as it is much easier to handle and less likely to damage your silk garments and pillowcases.

Most good quality silk pillowcases are made with 22mm silk, which are actually pretty durable. If you can steam a delicate 19mm silk blouse, a study 22mm silk pillowcase is definitely not an issue!

Can you iron silk pillowcases with steam?

By iron, the common assumption is to remove wrinkles. Garment steamers are able to remove wrinkles on silk as effectively as steam irons. In fact, newer garment steamers may even come with an ironing board to press down on while you iron.

handheld steamer vs standing steamer for silk pillowcase
So fancy, and so many attachements!

Benefits of using a garment steamer on silk pillowcases:

I have touched on the benefits of steaming your silk garments previously [Link here], but here’s the benefits of steaming silk pillowcases.

Steamers for silk pillowcase
My 22mm mulberry silk pillowcase

Gentle on silk, preserving the delicate fabric
Suitable even for beginners to ironing silk.

Removes wrinkles without the risk of burning the silk fabric
Steams out wrinkles and crinkles easily, unfold the silk pillowcase, steam it and all the fold creases would disappear.

Kills odour-causing bacteria and germs
Goodbye unpleasant smells that linger, nobody wants to sleep on a musty pillowcase.

Environment friendlier than dry cleaning
Steaming only requires electricity, water and heat. There is no need for any chemical agents.

Freshens items between washing or dry cleaning
Sometimes a certain silk pillowcase is kept away and unused for a period of time because it doesn’t match the bedsheets, I’m weird that way. I would give it a quick steam before using it, this reduces the need for frequent washes, extending the lifespan of your silk pillowcase. Not to mention, it is better for the environment and wallet!

What is the best steamer for silk: Handheld VS Standing Steamer

They are both good! Handheld or standing, they both serve the same purpose. The time taken to achieve the same wrinkle free result may be different though. Consider your needs and then choose a steamer that is best suited for that.

handheld steamer vs standing steamer for silk pillowcase
Handheld steamer (left) was a free gift while the standing steamer (right) belongs to my mother-in-law, trusty but it is starting to splutter!

Here’s the generic pros and cons of each:

Pros of Handheld or Portable Steamer

  • Perfect for travelling due to its lightweight and compact nature.
  • Ideal for small apartments where space is a constrain, its perfect if you are renting only a room.
  • Takes under 2 mins to heat up and start running due to the small water tank. My portable steamer only takes 30 seconds!
  • For its size, it is surprisingly powerful, removing wrinkles from silk fabric without any issue.
  • Much more affordable than a standing steamer

Cons of Handheld or Portable steamer

  • A smaller water tank means its only good for 1-2 pieces of silk garments at a go, not the most convenient if you have several silk pieces to steam; you will be constantly refilling the water tank and waiting for it to heat up.
  • Although tiny and powerful, my portable steamer is not as powerful as my standing steamer and takes a slightly longer time to steam a single garment.
  • Depending on its make and model, portable steamers with a larger water tank may be able to steam more silk pieces, but it would also be heavier when in use. You are after all, carrying both the steamer and its water tank.

Pros of Standing or Upright Steamer

  • More efficient in its performance, ideal for heavy workloads of delicate garments.
  • A larger water tank, steaming 10 pieces of clothing is a breeze, without any need to refill the water tank
  • More attachments and features than a portable steamer, the additional brushes, or accessories and steam settings offer more customised settings which improves the efficiency of the garment steamer
  • Likely to come with accessories such as attachments to create pleats, a board to lean clothes on horizontally or vertically for easier steaming
  • Usually comes with a garment pole or built in hanger, you can steam anywhere as long as the steamer is switched on!
  • Much more powerful that the handheld steamer, an even shorter time taken to steam each garment
  • The built-in hose makes it feel lighter than the handheld steamer, you are only carrying a plastic hose, not a full load of water

Cons of Standing or Upright Steamer

  • Bulky, takes up more space and it is not portable
  • A larger water tank takes a longer time to heat up as well
  • The price point is significantly higher compared to a handheld steamer

How to steam your silk pillowcase without a steamer

If you don’t own a steamer or perhaps you forgot to bring one for a trip, here are two ways you can freshen up your silk a bit.

There’s my all-time favourite, hanging your silk pillowcase up in the bathroom while you take a hot bath or shower. You can also boil a kettle of water and use the steam from it, time consuming but it works.

I am not going into the specifics today, instead we will focus more on steaming silks with garment steamers. But I have a separate and detailed post on these 2 methods above, in – how to remove wrinkles [Link]. Take a peep!

How to choose a steamer: Handheld VS Standing Steamer

What is the purpose of your steamer? Personally, I have both a standing / upright clothes steamer and a handheld / portable steamer.

In general, when I have many garments to steam, the standing clothes steamer is the clear choice.

One or two pieces of silk pieces? I find myself reaching for the handheld steamer more. It is more of a hassle to take the standing garment steamer out, fill and wait for it to heat up.

Naturally, the handheld steamer is also a clear choice when I’m travelling. Can’t imagine having to carry a standing steamer in my luggage bag!

If you are new to steaming and are unsure if you would stick to it, then I would suggest going for a higher-end handheld steamer. It is likely to perform even better than the lower-end non portable garment steamers! Case in point, read on.


handheld steamer vs standing steamer for silk pillowcase
A generic lower end, standing steamer. I honestly prefer my handheld steamer over this

I have a old compact standing steamer, that I have hardly used. It is not even as powerful as my portable handheld steamer, it splutters even after I have warmed it up for 5 minutes. I can go on with my list of complains, but the moral of the story is to spend a bit more and get a better steamer!

What steamer should I buy to steam a silk pillowcase

It is actually the same question as how to choose a steamer. Think of the purpose!

handheld steamer vs standing steamer for silk pillowcase
Think of the purpose of your steamer while you look at this zen pile of pillows in silk pillowcases

Both my handheld and standing steamers steams silk pillowcase well. The standing steam

er just takes a bit more time to set up, but it does steam the wrinkles out faster too.

Honestly if you only have two silk pillowcases and you are not too bothered about wrinkles, I would probably advise that you not buy a steamer at all! I cannot imagine owning a steamer for the sole purpose of steaming 2 silk pillowcases!

But if you are like me, in need of a new steamer then perhaps, look back at your needs and choose one that is within your budget. My standing steamer is on its last legs and I already have a portable steamer that works fine, so the answer is clear for me.

Now, only if someone could recommend a good standing steamer and save me the headache of comparing all the various models out there.