How to Steam Clean a Couch – 8 Tips to Know

Bryan Katiewick
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Cleaning a couch can be difficult. It is best to start with a clean couch, to avoid needing to soak it a second time to remove stains. Choose a time when the couch won’t be in use. If your dog or cat has free roam of your living room, a daytime clean is best. This way the couch can be covered with something for protection during the afternoon/evenings.

The Tools You’ll Need:The items you’ll need to steam clean a couch include: A steam cleaner, preferably one you can use on both your couch and carpet. (Never use your carpet cleaner to clean your couch!) This is a MUST.

A small hand held steamer is also a great tool to remove stains.

You’Ll Want a Few Old Towels

Some kind of covering for the couch to protect it while you clean.

The Method

Before you start you’ll want to cover your couch with old towels. Use a few so you can cover the whole couch.

Get your steam cleaner, and start by steam cleaning the couch directly.

While the couch is still steaming, take your small hand held steamer.

Hold the end of it directly over the stain and steam the stain.

Couch problems

If you don’t want to replace your old piece of furniture, a couch steam clean can keep it looking new. A musty or dirty couch can be refreshed by a thorough cleaning that will leave you with a sofa that smells great and has a texture to match.

Or perhaps your cushions have sunk in, leaving indentations in the seat of your couch, and you’re looking for a way to fluff up the fabric in your couch and have it looking brand new again.

There’s a number of different types of upholstery that couch owners will find in their homes. It can be a bit overwhelming when you’re looking at the various options available. Not all upholstery can be steamed; in the case of leather, it may be best to have it professionally cleaned either by a dry cleaning service or a leather-cleaning service.

However, there are a variety of upholstery materials including vinyl, leather, cotton, microfiber, velvet, wool, silk, and much more, so take a moment to figure out what you actually have before moving on to the steps outlined below to steaming clean your couch. Additionally, be sure to try to find out what type of stain or damage you’re working with when trying to figure out which product you’re going to need.

Choosing a steamer

Most home cleaning companies recommend that you use a steamer to clean your carpet. They are easier to use than cleaning machines and do a better job. For furniture, cleaning machines are still advised, but steamers are suitable as well.

Different steamers can be used for different types of cleaning. There are portable handheld steamers that can be used to clean curtains and drapes that are on a rod. A steam cleaner is the better option for cleaning covered furniture or carpeting. A great benefit of using a steam cleaner is that you do not have to leave it on the area for a long period of time. The steam will clean the sofa, chair, or carpeting, after you have moved the furniture to the location where it can be cleaned properly. This will prevent having to move the furniture, just to vacuum it, and then have to move it back after it is cleaned.

Steam cleaners can be expensive, but there are a number of ways to get affordable ones. When buying a carpet cleaner, have a vacuum cleaner to clean the furniture, and a handheld carpet cleaner to clean curtains and rugs. This will allow you to clean walls, rugs, and furniture when needed.

8 Tips for steam cleaning your couch

Pour about 1/2 cup of white vinegar into a bowl. Put the cushion face down into the vinegar and let stand for 3 to 4 hours. After the time has passed, use a natural bristled house bristle brush to scrub the area.

Remove Pet Stains

Mix 2 Tablespoons of a dish soap such as Dawn or Palmolive in a bowl. Add 4 ounces of warm water. Put the stained area of the couch into the soapy water and let stand for an hour or longer. Next take a scrub brush and scrub the area.

Deodorize a Smelly Couch

Mix 1 Tablespoon of baking soda and 1 Tablespoon of Lemon juice. Pour into a bowl and add 1 cup of warm water. Put the affected area into the bowl and allow the couch cushion to sit for several hours.

Get Rid of Red Wine Stains

Mix ¾ cup of hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup of water in a small bowl. Dip a white towel into the mixture and dab onto wine stains. Repeat until the stain is removed. For bigger stains, pour directly onto the stain, do not soak the entire surface of the couch cushion in the mixture.

Remove Crayon from the Cushion

Check for color fastness.

Any upholstered furniture will probably fade with excessive steam cleaning. Remember that steam cleaning is a superheated, high-pressure vapor that will affect the color on anything, including upholstery fabric, fiberglass, chenille or polyurethane foam.

If your couch is light colored, it is best to use a plain water cleaning solution and let the cushion air dry. It isn’t necessary to use a water-based cleaning solution.

A thick terry cloth mop that you dip in plain water is best for the cushions, with frequent rinsing to avoid leaving a residue. Let the cushions air dry.

If you are worried about a light-colored fabric, it’s a good idea to do small test spots first before putting any solution on the entire cushion.

Have a cleaning solution handy to refresh the cushion every so often, if you are worried about the fading of your fabric.

Vacuum first

Vacuum the couch thoroughly before steaming. Get the big stuff out of the way because all the dust will continue to spread around your house.

Don’t steam clean your couch too often. This will damage the fibers in your upholstery and furniture. Feel the upholstery to make sure it is a little damp and not waterlogged after steaming.

Put the couch and pillows outside of the room or in another room with a closed door. The steam can “kitchen” your house and you’ll need room to work and to remove the water.

Do not use regular soap. The purpose of using the steam cleaner is to use heat to kill bacteria and get rid of stains. You don’t really need soap at all.

Use distilled water to fill the water tank. If you use regular tap water, it will leave a mineral residue that can clog the machine.

You can use the attachments that come with the machine for this project but you can also use a scrub brush for a deep clean. The attachments will be more gentle on the fabric, so use them to brush softly.

Go slowly to get into corners and seams. Pay special attention to the seams and edges of the couch.

Pre-treat deep stains

For the most professional and lasting results, have a cleaning professional treat the most stubborn stains on your couch. Then, you can do a quick at-home job to freshen up your couch the rest of the way. Here are some tips to keep in mind for both:

For professional stain treatment, take a photo of the stain so you can clearly explain it to your cleaning pro. Ask if the professional offers any specials, like limited trial and error, and look at the company’s website and track record. Get tips on how to have the most successful cleaning by asking your professional to show you his or her work and ask about questions you have.

If you rinse stains immediately, you can get ahead of the problem. Apply a stain remover and sprinkle on a small amount of laundry detergent (diluted in water), or mixing vinegar with water and a non-abrasive detergent

Put a drop of dish soap in a spray bottle filled with water and spray on the couch spots (and upholstery in general). Give the soapy areas a good scrub with a soft brush, and wipe up the residue immediately.

Precondition the surface

Bacteria and germs feed on the protein that exists in urine and body oils. This is what commonly gives pet odors a “moldy” feeling. To get rid of the smells and to stop them from returning, you must remove the protein from your upholstery.

Use a mild detergent to scrub down the fabric, (you can also try undiluted white vinegar) and thoroughly rinse all the suds out.

Now, the final steps involve the trickiest part. You have to kill the enzymes that live inside the fabric, and the only way to do that is to make all the fibers wet with heat. While you want to avoid using harsh chemicals, (toxins, bleaches, etc) to clean your furniture, you might want to test stains beforehand, in an inconspicuous place.

Steam cleaners are the best option to get water deep inside the fabric, and more heat in one place isn’t possible without putting an iron to your couch.

Prepare the unit

Before you steam clean your couch, make sure your Steam Cleaner is at the ready. Run it for a few minutes to ensure everything is working properly, before tackling the couch. In addition, the best results are obtained when the carpet is dry. To make sure your carpet is dry, open windows for a couple of hours prior to starting your cleaning session.

Follow these helpful tips:

  • Never use combination vacuum-cleaners when cleaning furniture. The suction power of those machines is usually too strong and the delicate materials will be harmed. In some cases, the upholstery could suffer from "sucking and popping" bringing out the inner material.
  • Leave your steam cleaner's hose coiled and attached to the machine when the machine is not in use. This will prevent kinks and tangles from forming.
  • Before you begin, make sure to put on your safety gear. This is especially important for carpets, which are made with harmful dyes. Although you should read the manufacturer's instructions on how to put on the safety gear that comes with the carpet, try to cover as much of your body as possible with rubber suits. The common recommendation is to put on coveralls over your clothes, rubber gloves and protective glasses.

Begin with fabric pillows

First. If you're using a good quality fabric pillow that you've had for years, this is a good place to start. Flip the pillow over onto the couch, and run the steamer over the sides, where it meets the couch to ensure you get it everywhere. The fabric is usually quite tough, so you shouldn't have to worry about tears.

When working on a fabric couch, wet the fabric's surface and use the upholstery attachment to clean it. Move the upholstery attachment in small circles, staying close to the affected area. Do not let the attachment touch any other part of the material. Using the fabric attachment on your upholstery couch can cause rips, although they can be repaired and the fabric usually isn't damaged that much. Stretching the fabric in many different directions can help it regain its shape.

Leather

With leather couches, it's important to clean them with warm water, because any excess soap that gets on the couch could damage it. Using warm water restores the leather's natural shine. Do not use leather conditioner because it could clog up the pores. Keep conditioning to a minimum, so that the couch doesn't become overly soft and unstable.

Make sure you use plenty of warm water, along with plenty of carpet cleaner, to get all of the stain out of the couch. Blot the couch with a towel to remove dirt, so that there is just a little.

Leave the couch drying

Out for a few hours to let all the excess moisture drain out, and ensure no wetness from the cushion is left. When you pull the couch out to clean it, it would be preferable to be in a position that allows you to pull it back into position immediately … don’t leave your couch in the middle of the room for others to trip over.

Apply commercial cleaner as a last resort

If you have ever had to steam clean a couch, then you can tell that it’s not something to be desired. It’s messy, annoying, and doesn’t solve long-term problems. It’s the kind of job that only gets done when there’s no other choice!

If you absolutely must clean a sofa using steam, then make sure that you get professional advice from a diverse range of sources. A lot of people recommend using dry steam and apply a commercial cleaner as a last resort, so it’s worth considering other methods for keeping your upholstery looking great for years to come.

When cleaning a couch, there are other safe alternatives that you should consider before trying traditional steam. A lot of people recommend using dry steam and applying a commercial cleaner as a last resort, so it’s worth considering other methods for keeping your upholstery looking great for years to come.

Naturally clean finish

Steaming out your couch is an easy way to remove pet hair, dirt and other organic material. The process is similar to steam cleaning carpets in the home and can be done by anyone with even a little experience using a home steamer.

Go slowly, use water based solutions, and let the fabric dry fully before putting items on the surface.

Remember that maintaining a steam clean finish is easy and that steam cleaning at home can help to extend the life of your furnishings.

Follow our tips to get the most out of your next couch cleaning project.

Top Pick

Type: Steam cleaner with attachments

Weight: 11.2 pounds

Warranty: 1-year limited warranty

What we like: Low price, lightweight

What we don’t: Small reservoir, takes a long time to heat up

The Hoover Vacuum Steam Cleaner Hybrid not only deep cleans carpets, tile and many other surfaces inside and out, but it will also remove stains and freshen up the home.

Detailed Carpet: A fine steam mist removes allergens and odors from carpets. For best results, clean your entire carpet.

Couch: The large, rotating scrubbing area and hands-free device are excellent at cleaning even your heaviest traffic areas.

Drapery: Affordable and efficient, you can clean curtains and window treatments with ease.

Dupray Neat

You may find yourself in the market for a steam cleaner because of pet hair and a desire to maintain a beautiful home. Getting a professional-quality steam cleaner can seem overwhelming because there are so many options.

To help you figure out which one will suit you best, we have reviewed and compared several of the products available on the market. You can read our steam cleaner reviews here.

How do you know if you need a steam cleaner? Pets play a major role in choosing a steam cleaner. Cats and dogs have hair we love but you may not love the way it sticks to all of your furniture.

Steam cleaners can remove their hair quickly and efficiently. While steam cleaners are terrific for pet hair, they can be used for a wide range of cleaning options. You can use steam cleaners on carpets, rugs, upholstery, tile and grout, and some models can even be used to remove mildew stains from walls.

Whether you live in an apartment or a house, you'll find the Dupray Neatfreak Series Lightweight Steam Cleaner can be an excellent addition to your cleaning arsenal.

Buying a Dupray steam cleaner is a good idea if you have pets or small children. Seeing the small children freed from the chore of vacuuming with a light weight, comfortable handle and steam cleaner is the perfect way to see how kids can hate cleaning!

Ease of use

Cleaning couches isn’t something that happens often. Specially when it comes to steam cleaning. Make sure you ease into it slowly with the simplest process to help save yourself the extra time and energy. Different brands might have varying assembly parts and add-ons, so it’s important to consider how easily the parts can be put together and taken apart. Most steam cleaners require a hook-up to a water source and a power outlet in order to function. The more convenient the steam cleaner can be, the easier it will be to get it to run.

You need to be able to move the steamer into the room you want to clean. Some models function with fewer working parts and will be easier to move from room to room.

Ease of use is key to a high rating in customer reviews.

Instructions

Find out if your steam cleaner can be filled with water. If it can fill it with water. Fill it with water.

If it can’t fill it with water, go to purchased and attach the attachments.

Put on your gloves. This is a messy job and it is also a chemical free job.

Put the vacuum attachment on your steamer. Attach your steam cleaner to the attachment.

Vacuum the entire couch. This will get rid of the loose dirt and dust bugs on your couch.

Use the brush attachment to brush and scrub the old stains on the couch. The steamer will break up the stains and loosen the sticky material.

If your couch is white or cream colored product will need to be used on the couch. This will help to get rid of the old stains that have been done on the couch.

Fill your steamer with the cleaner. Put a towel over the couch. Have it soaking wet and when you begin to scrub the couch the moisture will be great to loosen the stains and dirt on the couch.

Begin to scrub the couch with the cleaner using the brush attachment. Make sure that you cover the entire couch.

Performance

Steam cleaners have high capacity and offer a flexible cleaning power on various items. Most of them match standard vacuum cleaners in terms of cleaning power. They are easy to carry and quick to assemble. If you need to clean a small room, then it is more convenient to have a handheld unit. Also, handheld models are able to clean in tight spaces.

The last thing to think about when getting a steam cleaner is size. You want to find one that fits in your living space. If you live in a large house, you would want a large, multi-purpose machine.

Design

Your little house guests can be a pain when they are at the front door. Maybe they even seem to know when you're having a party. Fortunately, you can solve that problem by inviting them to the front porch. I have an apartment with an open floor plan, so guests can wander around, getting underfoot, and no matter where I am in the apartment or what else I'm doing, I can keep an eye on them.

It is a simple step, but having a designated room for pets that will be off-limits for human guests helps the transition go smoother. Your guest will enjoy the company of his animals; you get a peaceful evening with your human guests and a mess-free house on party days.

Quality

Finding the right steamer and accessories can be a tough task. While there are a ton of steam cleaners out there, most are not made for upholstery.

Steam vapor is produced at 212 degrees F (99 degrees C), which is typically hot enough to most fabrics. Some may claim they can clean fabrics up to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C), but that's nowhere near hot enough for most upholstery fabric.

If you’re looking for the best steam cleaner for upholstery, then you should look into a machine that is designed for this purpose. Look at the attachment options, versatility, and price to decide.

If you’re not particular about getting the best steam cleaner for upholstery, then look for a steamer that has a high steam output. The higher the steam output, the faster your couch can be cleaned.

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Pros

{1}. Loses stains
{2}. Removes dirt and dust
{3}. Freshens fabric
{4}. Kills odors
{5}. Helps open holes in upholstery
{6}. Washes upholstery
{7}. Removes pet hair
{8}. Kills germs

Cons

There are several commercial products on the market, as well as pamphlets and information available at your local carpet cleaner. The expense depends on the size of the couch and how dirty it is. You'll typically pay a base fee plus an extra cost per pound for the dirtier sections.

Carpet cleaners will use machines that look similar to the ones used to clean office carpets. Sometimes they'll add a disinfectant or deodorizer. They can usually tell you if you'll need to launder the couch cover separately after they've done the cleaning. Many local carpet cleaner companies offer this service, but you can easily do the steaming yourself and save some money if you do.