All about steam pressing and finishing garments

21 September 2022

Rami Shaar of the successful Washmen online laundry and drycleaning service in Abu Dhabi, UAE, believes potential (and exisiting) customers need to know the difference between ‘home’ and ‘away’ when it comes to the best finishing for their items. Here, he goes right back to basics to explain the different processes that ensure customers get the best results by utilising the talents pf professional textile care operators to ensure a perfect finish

Pressing and ironing are both strategies to remove creases and wrinkles from clothing, bed sheets, blankets, and other items. Steam pressing is the method typically used by commercial laundry and press service providers, while ironing is what most people use at home.

What do you do when you press on something? You put your hand in one place, use your weight as a force to keep it there and, after some time, remove your hand. Typically, you press on something to flatten it or force it to take on a particular form or shape.

That’s essentially how steam pressing works. Steam pressing uses moisture, heat, and pressure to remove creases. When pressing a piece of clothing using a conventional steam press, you set the head of the press on top of the garment, then let the head’s weight bear down on the fabric. This pressure from the press head, the steam, and the hot air work together to remove wrinkles and creases from the fabric.

Ironing, meanwhile, is the method most usually used domestically. The bottom of the flatiron is a hotplate, which you move around on top of the fabric. You also apply pressure on the iron to aid in flattening creases, but you mainly rely on the heat from the appliance plus the flatiron’s motion to do the work.

Between steam pressing and ironing, steam pressing is better for fabric care than ironing. The repeated motion of the flatiron on the fabric could lead to an unwanted sheen and the distortion of the fabric’s fibres. This is particularly true when ironing fabrics like silk, rayon, suits, and lined garments. Therefore, ironing could lead to the fibres settling in or taking on an unwanted shape, ultimately leading to loss of fabric integrity and eventually fabric damage.

Steam pressing is milder on the fabric than ironing. There’s no hot plate moving over the material, pulling the fibres in various directions and causing unwanted sheen and fibre weakening.

Steam pressing equipment in commercial operations

Commercial laundry service providers use many types of apparel pressing and finishing equipment. Here are three of these devices.

Steam press

The steam press has two main parts: the head and the buck. The fabric is laid out on the buck, and the head is placed over it. The head brings the appropriate amount of pressure to bear on the fabric. At the same time, steam is blown onto and through the garment on the buck. After a set amount of time, the head comes up, and the pressed fabric is removed from the buck.

In modern facilities, there could be a series of bucks corresponding to a single steam press head. The head comes down on one buck. After the requisite amount of time passes, the buck with the newly pressed garment moves on while another buck with a new garment ready for pressing takes its place.

Steam air finisher

Steam air finishers work differently from steam presses. An operator arranges the garment that needs steam pressing on the steam finisher’s pressing form. The pressing form has the general shape and size of the garment it is meant to finish; ie., a shirt finisher’s pressing form will have the shape of a sleeveless shirt.

Once the garment has been pulled onto the pressing form, padded clamps secure the clothing on the form. The ends of the sleeves are attached to clamps that will raise, lower, and stretch the sleeves as necessary. Padded clamps are also used to hold the shirt against the front of the pressing form, one on each side, and another padded clamp is pressed against the shirt’s buttoned placket to protect the buttonholes from being stretched and damaged.

Once the shirt is adequately secured on the pressing form, steam flows inside the pressing form, inflating it and the shirt on it, and steaming the shirt from the inside. The moist heat from the steam relaxes the fibres.The steam also flows through the inside of the sleeves. The operator can use a handheld steamer to steam press the breast pocket or stubborn creases.

After the flow of steam, a flow of hot air follows. This stretches the creases and removes the wrinkles from the garment.

There are different types of steam air finishers. There are universal or multiform finishers, garment-specific finishers (e.g., pants finisher, coat finisher, etc.), and garment-part-specific finishers (elbow finisher, shoulder finisher, collar finisher, lapel finisher, and so on....).

Steam tunnel finisher

Steam tunnel finishers are fully automated conveyor-belt systems that offer universal steam finishing suitable for different types of garments and fabrics. It should be particularly safe even for a 100% polyester pleated designer top. Unlike the first two devices, a steam tunnel finisher does not use pressure to ease wrinkles and creases from garments.

The tunnel system is comprised of multiple specific-purpose units. The garment first goes through the water spray unit, where it gets sprayed with a fine mist of water. It then moves into the steam unit, where it is evenly bombarded with steam jets from steam valves on the cabinet/unit walls. The steam softens and relaxes the fibers.

Next, the garment moves into the drying module, where warm air is blown into the garment from the bottom and the top and circulated inside the clothing to remove the creases and wrinkles to efficiently dry the garment.


The closest a customer can get to steam pressing and air finishing at home is with a portable or a standing garment steamer. However, household units are unlikely to provide anything near the pressing and finishing results offered by industrial units.

Therefore, people need to know if they want their clothes flawlessly steam pressed and finished, it is best to use a professional laundry and press service.

  • Rami Shaar is co-founder and CEO of Washmen, UAE’s leading online drycleaning and laundry service in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. For more details visit

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