March 2, 2024

A steamy love letter (to my travel steamer)

This is the weirdest love letter I can write. It’s to my … travel steamer.

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10 reasons I love my Conair travel steamer

This is the weirdest love letter I can write. It’s to my … travel steamer. We’ve been in a committed relationship for eight years and it’s time the world knows. Here are 10 reasons I take it everywhere … how I've weaponised it against microscopic demons ... and why you'll find me steaming away in an airport bathroom.

Dual-Voltage Conair Travel Steamer
My Conair Dual-Voltage Travel Steamer

I've used my travel steamer  nearly daily for eight years and counting. Here are ten praises I sing to it while steaming....

Tip: To turn off your travel steamer, you just unplug it. The top of the steamer twists off to refill – but don’t touch it with your bare hands when it's hot (I use a towel as an "oven glove" if I'm in a hurry).

1. It's dual voltage

Dual-Voltage Conair Travel Steamer
It’s hard to read but the base says 120-240V – truly dual voltage!

I can plug my dual-voltage steamer straight into sockets in the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico (120V countries) … and do exactly the same in Thailand, the UK or Australia (220 and 230V countries). That is MAGIC. Wizardry.

Its voltage changes automatically, so you don’t have to push any buttons or switches or remember to do anything. You just plug it in. It just works (and you can’t mess it up).

As someone who has taken out an entire household of fuses in one dramatic burst (with a hair straightener that shouldn’t have left home) … this is the device for me.

2. It fits plugs in Thailand

Dual-Voltage Conair Travel Steamer
The Conair travel steamer has a “Type A” plug that works in Thailand (and all the countries listed below)

This travel steamer has two flat pins and, as such, will plug directly into Thai plugs – easy! If you want to use it in a country with different plugs (for instance, the UK or Australia), you just need a universal plug adapter – not a voltage adapter.

Where else does it work?

Conair Travel Smart by 450 Watt Dual Voltage Garment Steamer has a “Type A” plug with two flat prongs, one of which is bigger (as you can see in the photo). This will plug directly into Thai sockets, as well as sockets in (alphabetically):

BVI, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guam, Guatemala, Jamaica, Japan, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks and Caicos, the U.S., USVI, Venezuela and Vietnam.

If you want to use it elsewhere – just use the travel adapter you’d probably need anyway.

3. Its “mite-iest” feature

Dual-Voltage Conair Travel Steamer
If I don’t steam my clothes in Thailand, I get completely attacked by microscopic mites

Before we continue with the Steamy Love Note (and you think I’m insane for this obsession), know that my steamer is my weapon. I mentioned this before on my What to Wear in Thailand post, but thought I’d highlight it again.

Something in the microscopic animal world likes me and finds me tremendously snackable. Google suggests it might be mites or perhaps a dust mite allergy, but it’s particularly bad in Thailand (perhaps the climate? perhaps unfiltered water in washing machines?). If I put on a top in Thailand, no matter how freshly laundered, I get absolutely attacked up and down by mites. I can’t see them, but they leave little red marks and it’s stingy and uncomfortable.

On occasion, it happens at home, too, so it’s not just in Thailand – but it’s worse here. If this rings true for you (high-five for being tasty!), the solution is steaming. Using my travel steamer on every shirt I wear has 100% solved the mite bites. I love that the perfect fix is completely non-toxic. (As for mosquito bites, you’ll want to read this).

4. It's really lightweight

Whether you’re using a weekend duffel bag or want to go full minimalist with your carry-on, this steamer is still an easy inclusion. When empty it weighs 1.2 pounds or 500 grams (the same as a loaf of sliced bread). I like my carry-on to be light, but this earns its place and is rarely relegated to my checked luggage (because I use it in transit – more on that below).

5. It's super packable

Dual-Voltage Conair Travel Steamer
Super packable: this travel steamer is 9.5″ tall and about 4″ across the base.

As you can see, it’s around the size of a water glass or a small water bottle. To use it, you push the red button down to release the handle. I like to keep the cord bundled together with a velcro tie I bought separately. As mentioned, my steamer is eight old so you can see a bit of wear on the body. However, this steamer has been chucked, as it is – no case – into every bag I’ve used in that period. It's sturdy and always ready to roll. Emotional Support Steamer, anyone?

6. You just add water

Dual-Voltage Conair Travel Steamer
How to use your travel steamer? Just fill it up and plug it in. In about 1 minute it will start bubbling and then steam appears.

I’ve heard that some people use distilled water to keep the inside of their steamer clean. I’ve never bothered with that and here’s what it looks like inside after eight years of using tap water (almost always). Not bad.

On the odd occasion I’ve used bottled water, it’s because the tap water (A) isn’t potable and (B) is discoloured or has a sulphur smell. Your experiences in Thailand will vary depending on where you stay and the condition of its plumbing. In older places with older pipes, you might prefer to use bottled water. Another option is to grab the random glasses of water you’ve strewn around your room and use them in your steamer. Planet-Saving Steaming!

7. It steams every fabric there is

Conair travel steamer: steams all kinds of fabric including linen, cotton, rayon, silk and more
Before and after photos of very quick steaming: linen on the left and cotton on the right. I spent about 20 seconds on each top – it’s really quick.

I will unabashedly point my travel steamer at every piece of clothing I own – even the “dry clean only” ones. If you own something priceless and irreparable, maybe exercise a little more caution. I, however, approach my clothes like the Big Fat Greek Wedding dad uses Windex: “just steam it”.

While you wouldn’t pack wool or cashmere for Thailand, at home, you might find that your travel steamer is kept as busy as mine. I use it for absolutely everything: rayon, silk, cotton, Lululemon's Luon, Tencel and especially linen. (By the way, it doesn’t “spit” so you can use it on fabrics like silk without getting them wet).

It only has one temperature (“steaming”) but you could hold it further away to steam something more gently. (Whereas I shove it inside my clothes for maximum steam). As I said, mine is not a cautious approach.

8. I never iron (almost never)

Dual-Voltage Conair Travel Steamer
Before/after: silk shorts from crumpled (left) to steamed (right). This took about 90 seconds from plugging the steamer in. I’d be nervous to burn these using an iron but the steamer feels foolproof.

How crisp you do like your shirts? While this travel steamer wouldn’t replace your iron for, say, a cotton dress shirt, it covers my needs entirely. In fact, for many women’s tops, I find it’s superior to using an iron because I can get into detailed/frilly areas and not have to worry about burning delicate fabric.

Note: The Conair travel steamer comes with a "delicate fabric" plastic attachment to place on the front – I don't use it.

The extra-good news? Unless you’re on business travel to Thailand (in which case – iron), a steamer is the exact puzzle-piece missing to take you from “crumpled linen heap” to “tropical casual”.

9. It does gold-medal work

As you can see – it gets the job done. On the odd occasion that I can’t achieve “Kate Middleton pressed-to-perfection” with this travel steamer, I remind myself that in five minutes it won’t matter – sitting down, or putting a seatbelt on will, of course, add creases and who cares.

10. Quick touch-ups

Dual-Voltage Conair Travel Steamer
It’s easy to quickly touch-up your clothes with your steamer – refreshing a crumpled shirt takes less than two minutes.

I recommend wearing a majority of linen in Thailand (find out why). As such, using your travel steamer not just in the morning as you get ready – but also for quick touch-ups on crumpled linen – is ideal. Yes, you’re on vacation, but it takes two minutes and instantly brings the day’s clothes back to acceptable in time for happy hour. (Full disclosure: I use my travel steamer in airport bathrooms as well).

Other things to know

Dual-Voltage Conair Travel Steamer
It’s easy to see the water level through the plastic (or hold it up to light in a darker room)

What about the water level?

To fill it up: there’s a lid inside showing the fill level.

To check its level, as you use it: It’s pretty easy to see the water level by holding it up and looking through the plastic. If it gets down to a centimetre or half an inch, it’s time to unplug it and refill.

How much water can it hold?

About 3.5 fluid ounces or 100 ml (a little more than 1/3 cup).

Dual-Voltage Conair Travel Steamer
It doesn’t look like a lot – but I can steam at least three tops in one go, usually more, but since I want a Mite Massacre I always steam something right before I put it on.

How do you use it?

You just plug it in! If you’re using tepid tap water it takes about a minute to heat up and start producing steam (you can hear it bubbling and then it's ready). You can speed things up a little by using warmer tap water but it’s not a noticeable time-saving.

Don't check if it's steaming with your hand!

There’s a caution note on the steamer to hold it upright but the way the handle is designed it’s very easy to keep it in the right position. If you get creative with your angles you could burn yourself, so just throw your clothes on a hanger and hang it from a hook in the bathroom or the back of a door. It’s pretty comfortable to hold as you’ll be moving it around (so no muscle fatigue).

How long does it steam? How many clothes?

As a general rule, you can steam probably three items of clothing in one fill (but see my refill tip below if you’re as impatient as I am). I don’t know its maximum running time because – after running it dry to burning once – I try to err with caution and unplug when it’s about one-third full.

In my experience, it will steam at least three shirts (maybe as many as five or six). Its output will depend on how long you spend per item, so that's a rough average for doing a decent job. If you have a stiff linen shirt and you're trying to replicate an iron, it might take the entire fill.

How to turn it off?
To turn off your travel steamer, you just unplug it (and likewise plug it in to turn it on). There’s no automatic shut-off and it doesn’t have a water sensor gauge so – much like a hair-straightener – it’s up to you to remember to unplug it. I did accidentally leave it plugged in once and was alerted to the fact by a strong “hot burning metal” smell. (No damage to the steamer, though, it still works perfectly).

*Refill tip*

Disclaimer: you’re fully responsible for yourself and your use of steamers, steam and other hot things.

The top of the Conair travel steamer has a caution note that the unit gets hot while in use (both the white lid and the green body – obviously). However, you might want to either refill it in a hurry or pack it up and go without waiting (in the aforementioned airport bathroom, for instance).To do so, I use a towel as an “oven glove” to remove the lid while it’s still hot – set it aside for a minute – and then I can either (A) refill it again – being careful of steam as I fill – or (B) pack it in my bag more quickly as a lukewarm, rather than scalding hot, device.

Do you need to clean it?

After eight years, my travel steamer has some white residue inside. I bubbled through a mixture of 50/50 white vinegar and water a few times which helped but I’m not too bothered as it works perfectly. I prefer a take/take relationship rather than give/take but you might have to be more generous if your water tends to leave deposits.

Love letter: complete

10 reasons I love my Conair travel steamer

Hopefully, that's a helpful guide for anyone who loves linen and hates to be crumpled (or is, like me, a Christmas dinner to microscopic mites). If you need more help with your preparation for Thailand, see a few suggestions below. Enjoy!

P.S. You can find every tip for Thailand packing and prep in the archive, or subscribe by email and get all the details straight to your inbox. Enjoy!

Sources: Plug details