How to Clean Upholstery with a Steam Cleaner

how to clean upholstery with a steam cleanerSteam cleaners are perfect cleaning equipment that can save you immense time and elbow grease while getting rid of grime and dust from fabric furniture. Besides pulling out embedded stains, dust, dirt, and grime, the vapor generated by the steam cleaner sanitizes the surface by eliminating allergens and killing disease-causing bacteria.

Furthermore, the high-temperature steam is effective in disintegrating and dissolving dirt and grime from delicate upholstery without relying on harsh chemicals.

By following the ideal techniques, you can steam clean your fabric furniture without the need to rope in professionals. Regardless of whether you’re moving homes, steam cleaners effectively remove the buildup of allergen-causing bacteria, stains, dust particles, and grease from various upholstery surfaces.

In this guide, we’ll dive into how to clean upholstery with a steam cleaner, saving you thousands of dollars in the long run. Let’s get started!

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll require to steam clean your upholstery.

Step-By-Step Process: How to Clean Upholstery with a Steam Cleaner

Let’s walk you through the process of how to use a steam cleaner to get rid of all types of dirt, grease, and stains from fabric furniture.

1. Prepare Your Furniture

If you’re wondering whether you need to prepare your upholstery before steam cleaning, the answer is yes! That’s because your cleaning efforts will prove futile if you haven’t softened the stain. Here’s how to prepare your furniture.

Thoroughly Vacuum Your Upholstery

It’s a crucial step for deep cleaning upholstery, so it’s time to get your vacuum cleaner and use it on every nook and cranny of your furniture. After all, your endgame is to get rid of the dust, grime, and dirt such as pet hair and food crumbs.

As you vacuum, remember to use the attachment best suited for the fabric to avoid damaging your furniture. Keep that in mind when vacuuming the back of your couch and pillows. Vacuuming is a crucial part of the process.

Therefore, skipping it or failing to do so properly means that steaming could make your furniture dirtier.

Use an Emulsifier to Pre-Treat Stains

With the dirt out of your upholstery, it’s time to soften the stain using a spot or soil emulsifier. It disintegrates the dirt that might still be on the fabric. An upholstery cleaner is the Holy Grail to getting the job done.

However, when it comes to oil-based stains, a commercial steam cleaner might be your go-to. Nevertheless, if you don’t have one, you can mix baking soda and cornstarch in water. Pure cleaning vinegar makes a great substitute.

Precondition the Fabric

Besides the spot cleaner, layer on your soil emulsifier. It’s worth noting that these come in spray bottles and should be applied generously to the stain. Additionally, shampoo stains on your upholstery become the least of your concerns.

The reason is that due to the emulsifier’s composition, it comes off easily with steam cleaning. When you begin steaming cleaning, it’s wise to make sure you use a water-based solution on your furniture. The last thing you need is a worse stain than the stubborn one you’re trying to remove.

how to clean upholstery with a steam cleaner
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2. Clean the Upholstery

Now that you’ve probably noticed immense positive changes after the preparation, it’s time to kick off the cleaning process that can be summed up in the following steps.

Select the Appropriate Steam Cleaner

It’s one of the most crucial aspects of steam cleaning upholstery. The type of steam cleaner you select will determine the outcome of the job. When dealing with upholstery, we recommend the Bissell Steam Shot. It’s one of the top fabric steamers as it’s gentle on your couch but tough on stubborn stains.

Prepare the Steam Cleaner

Before we proceed, it’s worth noting that you should steer clear of commercial carpet steam cleaners for upholstery. They are bulky, heavy, and usually lack the detachable components and wands you require to get the job done.

To kick off the preparation process, rather than fill the compartment with water to the brim, fill it three-quarters of the way. Doing so makes it a breeze to clean an area more than once as opposed to the hassle of removing excess fabric soap.

Clean the Cushions

It’s always advisable to clean your cushions or throw pillows before you proceed to the bulky parts of the furniture. At this point, you should secure the most suitable cleaning attachment for your cushions. Once you turn on the machine, spray the surface with adequate steam, ensuring you don’t get it soaked. Instead, it should be damp.

Next, run the machine opening over the surface of the cushion to draw excess water. It’s advisable to do so from the top, working your way down, and then from left to right. That ensures you don’t miss a spot. You’ll want to tackle one side of the cushion at a time, to make sure it doesn’t remain wet for long.

Clean the Rest of Your Couch

Once your pillows are spick and span, you can proceed to the rest of the upholstery. Given that you tackle one side of the cushion at a time, clean one small area of the furniture at a go. You want to avoid leaving excess water to soak into the furniture as it can leave your furniture susceptible to permanent damage. If your efforts to remove a tough stain are not fruitful, fret not, as you can go over it again until it’s gone.

Let the Upholstery Dry

Now that you’ve completed the steps of how to clean upholstery with a steam cleaner, it’s time to let your furniture dry. While you can exercise patience by allowing it to air dry naturally, you can speed up the process by using a fan, particularly if the weather isn’t great. If your couch had deep stains, you might need to repeat the process a couple more times.

3. Remove Tough Spots

Spot cleaning can be tedious and frustrating without a foolproof plan in motion, particularly when your efforts to lift tough stains prove futile. Luckily, this section will walk you through the most ideal way to get rid of stubborn stains on your couch.

how to clean upholstery with a steam cleaner

Use Soap and Water

While steam cleaning can eliminate various types of tough stains, you might not successfully lift the most stubborn ones. Therefore, the first course of action would be to mix the classic cleaning solution of water and soap, particularly mild dish detergent.

Next, dip a sponge into the container or bowl with the solution, wring out the excess water on it, and gently scrub the stain.

Use Vinegar

Let’s face it. At times, water and soap won’t do much to eliminate the stain. In this case, vinegar is your holy grail. To make use of its excellent cleaning properties, you’ll need a soft cloth rather than a sponge. After all, the goal is to avoid vigorously scrubbing to lift the stain even though you’re desperate to do so.

Using a sponge, blot the stain gently in circular motions to aid in breaking it up. If you don’t have white vinegar, vodka will get the job done just as effectively.

Use a Heavy-Duty Cleaner

When all else fails, it’s time to bring out the big guns. Heavy-duty cleaners such as Folex might be just what the doctor ordered to remove those pesky stains. However, before you jump for joy, we recommend conducting a patch test on an inconspicuous area before you begin. If all is well, you can wet the stain, spray the cleaner, blot it, and wait for the magic to happen.


Now that you know how to clean upholstery with a steam cleaner, let’s discuss a few pointers to keep in mind.

  • Exercise caution when children and pets are in your home. That’s because the dry saturated steam emanating from the machine is sweltering hot. Therefore, don’t let it face pets, children or come in direct contact with your skin.
  • Despite doing your due diligence, there’s a chance that you might be uncertain if you have the ideal steam cleaner. The solution is to test the machine on an inconspicuous area on the fabric furniture and give it 24 hours to see how it reacts. If the test patch comes out cleaner after this timeframe, then that’s your go-ahead to use it.


Cleaning upholstery with a steam cleaner is a cost-effective way of getting your furniture spick and span. Armed with insight into how the process works and the items required, it’ll save you thousands of bucks in the long run. You don’t have to rope in a professional to get the job done.

Ready for more early spring cleaning tips? Check out our review on the Best Gun Cleaner Solvents & Oils in 2021. Remember, just like the appliances in your home, without proper cleaning, your gun can also collect dust and begin to rust.

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