How To Clean Upholstery With A Steam Cleaner

By Gladys K. Connelly Updated December 20, 2020

A guideline on inexpensive ways to clean your couch with a steam cleaner

How To Clean Upholstery With A Steam Cleaner

In this article, I’ll be taking you through exactly how to clean a couch using a steam cleaner in 2021.

So if you’d like to learn the cost-effective way to make your upholstery cleaner and newer, stick around.

Now, are you ready to unravel the steps, tips, and equipment to make this possible?

Let’s get started already.

What you’ll need

Steps to steam clean an upholstery

I’ve found that steam cleaners can be miracle workers when it comes to removing stains.

The reason being you can use them to clean your furniture, all types of them. So yeah, your delicate upholstery is also included in that list.

Overall, they’re suitable for removing all types of stains, from grease to dirt, and so on.

Now let’s see how to get to it then.

1.Preparing the furniture

In case you might be asking yourself why you have to get upholstery ready before cleaning.
Here’s why: It turns out there’s only so much your steam cleaner can do if you haven’t already softened the stain.
Well then, how do you go about preparing your furniture?


Vacuum the upholstery thoroughly

You simply can’t skip this step when it comes to deep cleaning any furniture. So yeah, get your vacuum cleaner out and use it over every nook and cranny of your couch.
To be clear: what you want to do is remove all the dust and dirt like food crumbs, pet hair, and the likes.
By the way, don’t forget to use the attachment that suits the part you’re cleaning. It’s no secret that using the wrong type has been known to damage furnishings.
So take note when vacuuming different parts like your pillows, and behind the couch. Here’s the reason you have to be so thorough with your vacuuming.
By not doing this first or adequately, the trash left behind can make your furniture dirtier after steam cleaning.


Make sure you pre-treat the stains with an emulsifier

Got all the crumbs out of your upholstery yet? Great, let’s move on.
Remember what I said about softening the stain first? Well, you’ll need a spot upholstery cleaner for this part.
Put another way: you need something to soften the stain. An upholstery cleaner is indeed essential to break up the dirt that might still be on your couch.
But when you’re dealing with an oil-based stain, you might need a commercial cleaner.
What does this mean for you if you don’t have one?
If you don’t have a product like Oxy clean, you can use a mix of vinegar and alcohol. Apart from that mix, cornstarch and baking soda with just a little water make a good substitute.


Preconditioning the fabric

In addition to the spot cleaner, you can add on an extra layer of soil emulsifier. Note that these often come in spray bottles and should be applied generously to your stain.
But wait, it gets better. You don’t have to worry about the shampoo staining your fabric furniture.
That’s right!
Due to the emulsifier’s nature, it’s bound to come off when you steam clean. Speaking of steam cleaning, you’ll want to note something before the start.
It’s a good idea to ensure you can use water-based cleaning methods on your furniture. You don’t want to end up with a worse stain than the one that’s already driving you crazy.

2.Cleaning your upholstery

So far, so good, right?
Have you noticed any changes in your couch yet?
I’ll proceed to the next and primary step then.


How to choose the best steam cleaner for the job

First, let’s start with the most crucial aspect of the job and how you can do it properly. It’s important to note that many types of steam cleaners match different materials.
I would recommend the Bissell steam cleaner pro if you’re dealing with upholstery. To put it simply, it’s one of the great fabric steamers because it is gentle on your couch but tough on stains.


Preparing The Steam Cleaning Machine

Before we move on, I should mention that you should avoid carpet steam cleaners. This is because they are large and often don’t have the detachable wands and parts you need.
Next, we talk about how to prepare your steam cleaning machine.
So yeah, depending on the instructions on the machine you’ve chosen, add your water and cleaner.
Instead of filling the compartment up to the brim, add only a moderate amount. It’s easier for you to clean an area more than once than having to remove excess soap.


Cleaning the cushions

I prefer to clean my cushions before moving on to other bulky parts of the furniture, and you should too.
Right around now, you should secure the most appropriate attachment for cleaning your cushions. After turning the machine on, spray the surface with enough steam.
Take note that you want it damp and not soaked.
Now run the opening of the machine over the pillow, sucking up the excess water.
I like to go from top to bottom, then from left to right to ensure I don’t leave any part out. You see, you’ll also want to do one side of the pillow at a time, so it doesn’t stay wet too long.


Cleaning the rest of the couch

After you’re done with the cushions, you can now move on to the rest of the furnishing. Like I said earlier about doing one side of the pillow at a time, try to do a small area at a time.
Why? You might ask.
The same reason as before, you don’t want it to soak up too much water. And you want to avoid that at all costs because it can lead to permanent damage.
All good, right? Wait, you’re having trouble getting out a tough stain?
Not to worry, just go over the spot again.


Letting the upholstery dry

Now that you’ve completed the other steps in how to clean upholstery, it’s time to let your furniture dry.
On one hand, you can simply let it air dry. But if you find that the weather is lacking humidity, then you can use a fan to speed it up.
If your couch was deeply stained, you might have to clean it using your upholstery steam cleaner again.

3.Removing tough spots

In my own experience, I’ve found that spot cleaning can be tedious work if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Overall, it can be pretty frustrating when you fail to get the stain out.
But in this section, I’ll share with you the best way to remove stains that are destroying your couch.


Using soap and water

Although steam cleaning can get out a lot of tough stains, you’ll find that some are just plain stubborn.
The first thing you want to try is the good old fashion cleaning solution of soap and water.
You might be asking yourself what the best option is in terms of soap. Well, any dish detergent should do just fine.
Start by mixing these two ingredients in a bowl. Then the next thing to do would be to dip your sponge in the bowl of soapy water.
By now, you should know that excess water on your couch is a bad thing. So ensure you rig out the excess water before gently scrubbing at the stain.


Using vinegar

Indeed, soap and water might not do justice to the stain. Nevertheless, you don’t have to worry.
It is well known that vinegar has some excellent cleaning properties.
To demonstrate, it’s effectiveness, you’ll need a soft cloth rather than a sponge if you’re working with vinegar.
Simply because you’re desperate to get a stain out, doesn’t mean you should rub vigorously. Never rub!
Instead, simply circularly blot the stain to help break it up.
Don’t have any vinegar?
That’s fine.
Just like vinegar, vodka is good at helping you remove tough stains.


Using heavy-duty cleaner

So, you’ve tried all the other methods, but that pesky stain is still mocking you.
Well, it’s time to bring in the big guns. And let me be clear about something first, using a heavy-duty cleaner doesn’t mean the stain will disappear.
You might have to go over the stain again if it’s that stubborn.
Yes, when it comes to heavy-duty commercial cleaners, Folex and Resolve are famous for their effectiveness.
Still, you’ll need to test the cleaner on a small portion of your couch before getting started.
After wetting the area, you intend to clean, spray the cleaner on the stain and blot it up.
I’ll repeat it for emphasis, never try to rub the stain off.

Tips and Warnings

Now, I may have done my part in outlining the steps for cleaning and removing stains.

But here some extra tips and warnings for you to take note of:

  • You must take precautions when there are children in the house. This is because the dry saturated steam coming out of the machine is often very hot. You should avoid letting it face children, pets, or even your skin directly.
  • Even after trying to carry out your research to the best of your abilities. It’s still possible that you might wind up unsure about if you have the right steam cleaner. The solution to this scenario? The first test out the steam cleaner on a hardly noticeable part of the couch, then wait 24 hours. Here’s the kicker: If the area comes out cleaner, then go ahead and use it.



I understand that this step by step guide might have left you with some follow up questions.
Here’s the solution to some common ones you might have:

Is it okay to use only water in steam cleaning my upholstery? Will it still be clean without using a cleaner?

Yes, you might get it clean to a certain degree. But the purpose of the cleaner is just that, to clean. So while you might choose to use just water if your upholstery isn’t really dirty. I highly recommend using a cleaner if you want a deep clean.

Can I use my steam cleaner on my cushions and pillows?

Down cushions and pillows are often made from a softer and more delicate material. So, don’t risk it. It’s a good idea to check the tag on the cushion for the best washing instructions.

I have a microfiber couch, can I still use a steam cleaner on it?

Keep in mind that under step two of steam cleaning your upholstery. The first thing I mentioned is choosing the right type of steam cleaner. You see, microfiber couches are particularly sensitive, so while you can still go ahead with steam cleaning. Nevertheless, contacting your manufacturer first would be the much safer and wiser action.

How often should I steam clean my couch?

To be clear: There’s no straight forward answer to this. It depends on the type of furniture you’re using. Still, it’s best not to let the intervals be longer than a year for the best results.

Now I’d like to hear from you…

I hope you found the detailed steps and tips about how to clean upholstery with a steam cleaner quite helpful.

I’d like to know if I answered your question on down cushions and using steam cleaners? or do you have any concerns I have not covered?

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

About the Author

Gladys K. Connelly

As a HouseKeeping Technical Writer, Gladys actively enjoys writing guides and tips about housekeeping for Thehousewire's audience. She's a housekeeping specialist with just shy of 9 years' experience to boast. That, combined with seven years prior experience in teaching, helps her create content that is both captivating and insightful.

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