If you've been in the singing industry long enough, you've probably heard people talking about these 'steamers'. Steamers are a singer's best friend when it comes to warming up before a performance. If you're considering getting a steamer but don't know where to start, here is my recommendation for the best vocal steamer.
The Vicks Personal Steamer is a portable and affordable vocal steamer for singers that does its job well. This steamer costs around $40 and is easy to use, requiring a small amount of tap water. Steam is produced automatically until the water runs dry, which you can breathe in using the face mask.
You can find more reasons why I prefer the Vicks Personal Steamer below, as well as some things to consider before purchase. If you want a cheaper alternative or are looking for a few more convenient features (like no cleaning!), you can find a few more recommendations further down in the article.
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Best Vocal Steamer: Vicks Personal Steamer
There are many vocal steamers on the market at the moment, but the best I have come across is the Personal Steamer by Vicks. This steamer is the best for its price and for what you get. Below are some of the key features that I like about it.
Steam is Adjustable and Regulated
As I have mentioned in previous articles, an alternative to using a steamer is to breath in the steam from hot water in a cup. However, one of the risks of doing this is that the steam can burn your nostrils if it's too hot.
The Vicks Personal Steamer has automatic temperature regulation that will gently boil the water. The steam then mixes with cooler air in the open cavity of the steamer. This significantly reduces the chances of burning your nose.
In addition to this, there is a steam flow adjustment. By toggling this back and forth, you can limit how much steam passes through from the water chamber. This helps regulate the temperature of the steam.
Compatible with Tap Water
Some expensive brands insist on using distilled water in their steamers to prolong it's life. While this seems like a good idea, I prefer the ability to use tap water for convenience. It's freely available at every venue and you can even use the water from your drink bottle. Buying distilled water can also become costly over time.
Automatically Switches Off
I like that you don't have to think about this steamer. Fill the water chamber, turn it on and the steamer does the rest. It will continuously heat the water to keep a constant supply of steam and then turn itself off when the water runs out.
Fits in a Hand Bag
Dimensions: 9.37" x 17.4" x 9.37"
Weight: 1.1 lbs
The Vicks Personal Steamer certainly isn't pocket-sized, but it will fit in a decent sized hand bag or shoulder bag. And weighing no more than a tub of butter, it's not going to be dragging your shoulder down. The only thing I would recommend is finding a drawstring bag or something similar to keep it in so the cord doesn't get tangled with your other belongings.
Making use of the face mask shape of this steamer will allow you to direct all steam to your nose and mouth. This means your vocal cords will hydrate quicker than breathing in the steam from the open air (such as with a cup of hot water).
If you have a blocked nose, you can also use this steamer to clear your nose or sinuses. Being a Vicks brand, you can buy menthol scent pads (Amazon.com), which fit in a slot under the mask. I wouldn't recommend this when steaming your vocal cords for singing, but it can come in handy when you're sick.
Note: Using oils in the water instead of scent pads can void your warranty because this can damage the heating element.
Some Downsides to Consider
Every product has its downsides, and this steamer is no exception. Below are some points you may want to consider before purchasing.
- It has a cord. This means you will need to have access to a powerpoint during use and there is extra bulk to carry in your bag.
- Cleaning can be annoying. Being electric, this steamer cannot be used in the dishwasher. It also needs to be descaled every now and then due to using tap water (depending on how often it is used).
- Can't be moved during use. Ideally this should be used on flat surface to avoid spilling hot water and due to the cord.
- Longer to heat than expensive steamers. This steamer can take up to five minutes to produce steam.
If these downsides have you thinking the Vicks Personal Steamer isn't for you, below are some other options I would recommend.
A Cheaper Vicks Alternative: Vicks Portable Inhaler
The Vicks Portable Inhaler is around one third of the price of the Vicks Personal Steamer. If you're looking for something cheaper that still does the job, this is a great alternative.
This simple steamer is even smaller and lighter than the Personal Steamer above, making it incredibly portable. Below are the measurements so you can compare.
Dimensions: 3.13" x 10.75" x 5.25"
Weight: 6.35 oz
One big difference between these two steamers is that the Portable Inhaler is not electric. It does not use batteries and does not have a cord. As an added benefit, this means you can put it straight in the dishwasher to clean it.
To use this steamer, you simply add hot water to the water chamber, reattach the top and then breathe in the steam. This seems more simplistic, but here are a few downsides to this steamer that you should consider.
Some Downsides to Consider
- There is no fitted mask. This works more like an open-air steamer as the top will not fit snug against your face. Therefore you won't hydrate as quickly as with the Personal Steamer.
- No heating element. You need to find right water temperature that will produce steam but not burn your nose. This is usually just under boiling point. Having no heating element also means you need access to hot water, something that may not be possible backstage.
- No steam adjustment. Although you can cover a hole to increase the steam, there is very little control over how much steam is released from the water chamber.
- Water cools down quickly. Depending on the room temperature, your water may cool down quite quickly, giving you less that the recommended 10-15 minutes of steaming.
Sometimes it's worth spending a little bit extra to not have to worry about hot water.
Despite these downsides, the price of the Portable Inhaler is quite appealing. The reason I recommend this steamer over the simple 'cup and mask' steamers is that they are very similar in price. At least with this steamer you have the added option of using Vicks Scent Pads to clear a blocked nose (if you can't use certain oils).
A Fancy Option: Mypurmist Steam Inhaler
If you're wanting something a little bit fancier, you could look at the Mypurmist Steam Inhaler. This steamer has a number of added benefits over the Vicks Personal Steamer that you may be interested in, but just know that there is a price jump.
Here are some of the benefits that Mypurmist has added to get an edge over their competitors:
Dimensions: 4.7" x 7.9" x 11.2"
Weight: 2.76 lbs
- Warms up very quickly for near-instant steam.
- Cordless and rechargeable (there is also a cord option if you prefer).
- Optional scent pads available (included in the bundle).
- No maintenance required (ie cleaning) due to the use of sterile water.
- Temperature control allows you to choose any temperature between 100-115 degrees (F).
Mypurmist has also been used by singers such as Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. However, with every high-end product comes added expense. Because this steamer uses sterile water only (otherwise you risk voiding your warranty), you will need to buy their sterile water refills. These cost around $2 per refill.
Everyone has their own idea of what they need in a steamer, so ultimately it is up to you. These are my recommended products, which I hope has taken some of the guesswork out of your decision. Happy steaming!