How to Steam Clean a Couch

how to steam clean a couch

Cleaning a couch can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. You can use different methods, such as chemical cleaning, foam cleaning, carbonation, and steam cleaning.

In this post, I will focus on how to steam clean a couch or sofa using a steam cleaner. Steam is highly effective in cleaning even the dirtiest sofas, including stains and odors. 

I recently picked up a navy blue couch in a thrift store that is attached to our local rubbish dump. Here’s how it looked before I started cleaning:

steam clean a sofa
The dirty couch before vacuuming and steam cleaning

Basically, people dump furniture like this in landfill. It gets pulled out, put in a big shed, and sold at very cheap prices. I was super excited when I saw couch (I love navy blue), and knew it would be the perfect test couch for this article.

So, let’s jump right in and I’ll show you the results.

Can You Steam Clean a Couch?

Before you start steam cleaning your couch, you need to check the labels or tags provided by the manufacturer. This will help you determine if your couches fabric is suitable for steam cleaning.

These codes are: 

  • W – This means that you can use water or a steam cleaner  
  • S – These types of couches can be easily damaged by water-based cleaners. Therefore, you should use a dry solvent, especially when removing stains. 
  • WS – You can use dry or wet cleaning methods on these sofas. 
  • X – Only suitable for vacuuming since they can be damaged by dry or wet solvents. 
  • O -These couches are made of organic materials meaning that you should only clean them in cold water. 

Please consult a professional cleaner before steam cleaning any couch made from delicate materials. This includes suede and velvet. 

Vacuum Your Couch

how to steam clean couch
Vacuuming the couch before steam cleaning

It is essential to vacuum your couch before steaming it. The previous owners of this couch had cats, and there was cat hair everywhere. I used the vacuum without any tools to get good suction on the surface of the fabric.

I used the crevice tool to get into the seams and corners under the cushions. The bristle brush was also helpful with the cat hair in some spots where it was stuck right in.

Make sure you use your vacuum to remove dust, pet dander, dirt, or other small pieces of debris. If you don’t start with vacuuming, those pieces of debris will make your sofa even dirtier when steaming.

When vacuuming, you should use short and slow strokes to ensure that you have covered the whole surface. Flip over cushions and seats and vacuum all crevices.

This uproot cleaning tool is also excellent for removing pet hair from couches, carpets and some types of clothing.

Pre-Treat Stubborn Stains

best way to steam clean a couch

Protein-based stains are common in upholstery. These stains are due to spilled wine, milk, urine, juice, foods, or blood spots.

You can find various stain removal products on Amazon. A good all-round stain remover that can be used on lounges, carpets and clothing is the Incredible Stain Remover.

Luckily, I couldn’t see too many stains on this sofa. There were some spots on the seat cushions, but I wanted to test it with the steamer first, before using chemicals. Here is how the couch looked after I had vacuumed it:

steam cleaning a couch
How the couch looks after vacuuming – plenty of room for improvement with the steam cleaner!

Connect Your Steam Cleaner

After vacuuming you can start the steam cleaning process. Add water to the boiler, and connect the steamer to a power outlet. Wait until the maximum pressure or boiler temperature is reached before you start steaming your couch.

If you have a steam cleaner that takes 10-15 minutes to heat up, turn it on to heat before you start vacuuming. That way it’ll be nice and hot when you are ready to use it.

If you have a steam cleaner only, attach the upholstery tool. It should look like a small part of your window squeegee, or a smaller triangle brush tool. Either way, cover this tool with the fabric bonnet, or a microfiber cloth.

I’ve demonstrated this in the image below. As I have a steam vacuum, I was planning to use the upholstery tool to extract any excess water from the couch. I decided not to, given that most of my readers probably don’t have steam vacuums.

And, as a vapor steam cleaner, the hot steam doesn’t have a lot of moisture to it, so there’s not much to water to suck back out of the couch. So, I’ll be demonstrating cleaning this couch at home with a steamer only.

steam wash couch
The triangle tool covered with a clean microfiber cloth.

If you have a steam vacuum with an upholstery attachment, you can choose to you this as well. An upholstery attachment looks like this:

how to steam clean a sofa

Start Steam Cleaning Here…

When steam cleaning a sofa, you should start with the loose cushions and the removable throw pillows. Steam on one side, then put them to aside to dry before steaming the other side.

Steam cleaning on its own may not remove all dirt and stains on first pass, so you may have go back over certain areas.

I started by using the triangle tool covered with the microfiber cloth to go over the seat cushions. It faded some of the marks on the seat, but I could still faintly see them. I went over the cushion again and used a little more elbow grease, but I wasn’t satisfied.

So I switched to the horse hair bristle brush attachment, as this is the most gentle attachment for fabrics.

Not all steamers come with a horse hair brush attachment, if your steamer doesn’t try the nylon brush instead.

For stubborn stains that steam doesn’t remove, try this oxy stain remover from Rocco & Roxie. It’s a little pricey, but you don’t need much – and it works.

Move to the larger parts

Once you are done with the smaller surfaces, you can now move to the larger parts of the couch such as the seat cushions, back cushions, arms, sides and back.

Clean it in small portions, covering all areas, and work slowly, allowing the steam to penetrate the fabric.

If Your Couch Has Some Odors

Notice some unpleasant smells coming from the sofa when cleaning? Try a home made solution of vinegar and water.

Fill a spray bottle with 1/3 white vinegar and 2/3 water. Lightly spray your couch before steam cleaning. The good thing about vinegar is that it is very effective in removing odors.

The vinegar smell will dissipate with time (and some fresh air, so open the windows).

Leave the couch to dry

Once you are done cleaning, you should leave your sofa to dry. You can use a fan or open the windows to speed up the drying process.

Here is a pic of the end result. Definitely not a couch worthy of being dumped in landfill. The whole process took a couple of hours one afternoon, that’s including the time it took to stop and take photos to show you all.

steam cleaning furniture
The final result, a tidy looking navy blue fabric couch after steam cleaning.

What is the best steam cleaner for upholstery?

how to steam a couch with a clothes steamer

A steam vacuum is the best choice for steam cleaning upholstery. You can use the high heat of steam to sanitize and the vacuum function to suck back up dirt, stains and excess water from your couch. Take a look at these steam vacuum reviews:

Steam vacuums can be quite pricey however. Many people choose a hot water upholstery cleaner instead, such as the Bissell Pro Heat Carpet and Upholstery cleaner instead.

What makes the Vapor Clean Desiderio Plus better than the Bissell Little Green Proheat? 

In terms of performance, the Vapor Clean Desiderio Plus provides a higher steam temperature of 318⁰F and a steam pressure of 75 PSI. As a result, it is more effective than the Bissell Proheat.

The Bissell Pro Heat uses hot water, not steam. Besides that, the Desiderio Plus is among the most powerful steam cleaners meaning that you can use it for residential and commercial purposes.  

When cleaning, the Bissell Little Green uses Heatwave Technology to maintain the water temperature, but it is not a steam cleaner. On the other hand, the Vapor Clean Desiderio Plus provides a continuous refill, so you don’t need to stop and wait for the steamer to cool down before refilling.  

Unlike the Bissell Little Green, the Desiderio Plus has better features such as the dual tank, wet/dry vacuuming, powerful heating element, and a long steam hose. It is also heavier since it is made of top-quality materials. Due to its unmatched quality, the Desiderio Plus comes with a 5-year warranty. It is indeed built to serve you for decades.  

What are the advantages of steam cleaning couches?

There are many benefits of steam cleaning couches which include; 

  • Effective in removing dirt and dust – One of the significant benefits of steam cleaning is that the hot steam can remove dirt and dust traces from your sofa altogether.  
  • Takes less time – Compared to cleaning your sofa manually, steam cleaning gives you excellent results within minutes. Again, you do not need to wait for days for the couch to dry. 
  • Ability to kill bacteria – When steam cleaning, you can extinguish all microorganisms such as bacteria, germs, viruses, etc. This might not be possible when using water and cleaning detergent only. 
  • Removes stains and odor – A steam cleaner will give you incredible results if your sofa has tough stains or an unpleasant smell.  

How to take care of couches and upholstery

Sofa or couches plays an essential role in our living rooms. Therefore, you need to ensure that they are always in good condition. To achieve this, you should do the following; 

  • Vacuum regularly – Vacuuming your sofa every day is a perfect way to ensure that it is always in good condition. This will also prevent the accumulation of dirt and dust, making it difficult to clean. Apart from avoiding the buildup of dirt, vacuuming also helps control dust mites and other microorganisms from infesting your sofa. Some of these microorganisms may cause damage to the couch or allergic reactions in your family. 
  • Treat the material – Once in a while, you should treat the fabric using a suitable fabric conditioner. You should choose a conditioning agent according to the type of materials. You may also use a fabric protector spray to prevent stains or watermarks.
  • Throw blanket or Couch Cover – A throw blanket or couch cover over your sofa can help trap dirt, pet hair, and debris from embedding into the fabric. This makes your work easier since you only need to clean the cover instead of the sofa. The Ameritex Waterproof Dog Bed Cover Pet Blanket for Furniture is among the best-selling models.  
  • Stains protector- If you have kids who are likely to spill fluids or food on the couch, you should always have a good stain cleaner like the Extra Strength Fabric Protector Spray 32 oz. This product can repel liquids, and it is also among the most effective in preventing stains. 
  • Slipcover- Even if you use an old sofa, using a slipcover will enhance its appearance. These covers are also affordable and easy to customize according to the design of your sofa. The Easy-Going Sofa Slipcover Reversible Sofa Cover Water-resistant Couch Cover is among the best on the market. 

How to Clean Your Couch Without a Steam Cleaner

You can use different methods to clean your upholstery apart from steam cleaning. These methods include; 

Spot Cleaning: Using a cleaning shampoo is one of the simplest methods to clean your sofa. Follow these steps when cleaning; 

  • Mix the right amounts of the cleaning shampoo or detergent with water 
  • Dip a clean cloth in the mixture and then use it to wipe the sofa. 

Foam cleaning: When using this method, you just need to wipe the couch using a foam solution. It is one of the most effective methods of removing tough stains. However, this method can cause damage to the material since it exposes the couch to a lot of moisture. 

Dry cleaning: This method is almost the same as foam cleaning, but it is safer since you don’t need to use water. Instead, just sprinkle a cleaning powder on the surface to remove stains. After that, you need to use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of the powder.  

Frequently Asked Questions 

how to steam a couch

Is steam cleaning good for couches? 

Yes, steam cleaners are highly effective in removing tough dirt, odors, and stains from the surface. However, check the tags to ensure that the materials are suitable for steam cleaning.

What is the best steam cleaner for couches and upholstery?

If you are searching for the best steam cleaner for couches, the Vapor Clean Desiderio Plus will give you the best value for your money. Compared to other models, it is the most powerful. Again, it has more advanced features meaning that you can use it even for commercial cleaning tasks.

How often should you steam clean a couch? 

If you have pets or kids who play a lot on your couch, you should steam clean it frequently to ensure that it is in good condition. However, you should steam clean it once or twice per year if it is not too dirty.  

How long does a coach take to dry after steam cleaning? 

Most couches will require 5-6 hours to dry, depending on the material and the weather.

How do I choose the best steam cleaner for couches and upholstery? 

When searching for the best steam cleaner for couches, the first thing you need to check is the following; 

  • Flexibility – One of the most important things you should consider is the flexibility of the steamer. It should allow you to navigate even the inaccessible parts of the couch. You should also check the length of the cord to ensure that it is flexible enough for navigating even the tight spaces. 
  • Run-time – The run-time refers to the number of hours or minutes you can use the steamer continuously without refilling. This is typically determined by the water tank capacity. Therefore, you should ensure that the tank can accommodate enough water for cleaning your sofa. The best ones should have a 25-35 ounce water tank. 
  • Portability – You don’t need a cumbersome machine for cleaning couches. It should have a lightweight and compact design since, at times, you may need to use it for long hours. 
  • Accessories – Ensure that the unit comes with all the necessary attachments suitable for different upholstery materials.  

Final Verdict 

Steam cleaning is the most effective way of cleaning your couches and upholstery. Since it uses steam instead of water, it doesn’t cause damage to your sofa. Apart from that, you can easily reach all the parts of your couch, including tight spaces.

Now that you know how to steam clean a couch, it’s time to get started! Follow the steps I have outlined, and you’ll get excellent results. 


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