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Steaming helps to eliminate stains and grime that can make well-used furniture appear dull and unappealing. I discuss how to steam clean a couch in a safe and effective manner.

Keep reading for 8 useful tips to guarantee success.

A steamer is an easy and Eco-friendly means for removing fabric stains that many homeowners rely on. As these machines boil water to output steam for cleaning and sanitizing things, no irritating chemicals are used.

Along with sofas, most chair, sectional, and ottoman furniture are fairly easy to refresh using this treatment, with a little hand wiping on the side. Steam not only clears encrusted dirt and greasy stains, it also sterilizes treated surfaces by eliminating allergens and most harmful germs, molds, bed bugs, and dust mites.

The hot vapors work by loosening and liquefy debris, brightening the color of fabrics as the bits are picked by the cleaning pad. Just make sure that the upholstery you plan to treat can withstand water-based cleaning.

Couch problems

Prepare for steam cleaning by reviewing the furniture care instructions for the fabric. This information is normally printed on the item’s tag as cleaning codes, which indicate the acceptable treatments for that particular mix of fabric material and construction.

  • An S cleaning code indicates that the fabric is best treated with solvent-based cleaners and not with steam.
  • If the cleaning code of the item is W, then steam should be safe to use at all times.
  • An X cleaning code indicates that water will cause permanent damage to the material and steam cannot, therefore, be applied safely.


If your couch features velvet, leather, or other delicate and non-fabric items, do check the care instructions for the recommended cleaning method as such materials are readily damaged by excess dampness. Always test a less visible spot underneath or behind the couch with a little steam before treating the rest.

Choosing a steamer

Pick a handy model. The most effective are specialized upholstery steamers that are designed for the task. Fabric steamers for freshening clothing are also useful here, followed by handheld units that handle well in tight spaces and feature fabric attachments.

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The unit should be built for handheld use or at least includes extension hoses and detachable wands and fabric cleaning heads. Some designs can be filled with cleaning solutions that are specifically formulated for the task. This can be a worthwhile feature if you wish to eliminate odors in addition to stains and grime.

Look for a fabric cleaning accessory. Many packages come with a set of accessories that include an angled nozzle with a flat head that is designed for steaming fabrics. Make sure to use the specific attachment that is recommended for treating upholstery or clothing. You should avoid bulky industrial carpet steam machines as these do not usually include such specialized attachments.

8 Tips for steam cleaning your couch

It’s best to do the job during days when windows in the immediate area can be left open. This helps to prevent steam buildup by venting off excess heat and moisture. A flow of fresh air will also let the sofa dry more thoroughly as you finish.

1. Check for colorfastness.

What is colorfastness anyway? Well, it’s the colors ability to resist running or fading, you can learn more about this on Wikipedia of course.

Gently steam and wipe a less visible area of the couch using the microfiber pad affixed to the nozzle, then inspect the treated area after 15 minutes. If nothing has become discolored or further damaged, you can continue to treat the rest of the fabric in the same manner.

2. Vacuum first.

Vacuum off any loose dust, food leftovers, pet hairs, and dander, all of which can only leave the surface even messier when wet. If there are any cushions, first vacuum each on all sides. You would not care for any leftover bits to spoil the preparation or steaming effects.

3. Pre-treat deep stains.

Try spraying a tough stain with a spot-removing upholstery cleaner to soften it up beforehand. After you have waited for some 5 minutes, blot the stained spot with an absorbent washcloth to lift the stain while absorbing off any excess cleaning solution.

Many types of gunk, including dirt, food leftovers, grease, and smaller pet messes can be steam cleaned. For oil-based stains, you could try a commercial cleaner like Oxy Clean.

4. Precondition the surface.

Use a soil emulsifier to help dislodge every bit of dirt and grit. Apply the emulsifying solution on the entire couch and any cushions, leaving things to set for a few minutes.

Why use an emulsifier?

Afterward, spray thin films of upholstery shampoo while you rub the solution deeper into the cloth. Any remaining bits should be displaced during later steaming sessions.

5. Prepare the unit.

Before using a steamer, you will normally detach its water reservoir to fill it up with water plus a little fabric cleaner as recommended. Select the proper upholstery accessory, which may be a revolving or stationary brush or a cloth pad.

Before securing the attachment, first, allow the initial bursts of steam to flow into a washbasin until any excess water has totally run off. This will leave the output vapor drier as a result. Use the flow setting recommended for treating upholstery or fabrics, so that not too much moisture will seep into and over-saturate the fabric.

6. Begin with fabric pillows.

Blast the cloth surfaces, which will become damp as the steam reaches it. Immediately drag the nozzle over the wet areas to suck up any excess moisture and cleaning solution from the surface.

Work one small part at a time, sucking up the remaining moisture much as you did with the cushions. You do not want too much leftover wetness around the parts that were swept first, which can cause the fabric to get soaked and take more time to dry as well.

7. Leave the couch drying.

Once you are done steaming, the fabric will need a little time to dry out. This will depend on how humid the steam output was as well as the current weather. You could speed up things by opening more windows while employing a stand fan, or even a blow dryer.

If discolorations remain on the furniture cloth, you will likely have to repeat the steaming process. For an extra clean-looking seat, try vacuuming the couch once it is fully dry. This step will lift up any remaining dirt that was dislodged by steaming but not lifted up by the cleaning pad.

8. Apply commercial cleaner as a last resort.

If these techniques do not work well enough, you could always try applying a heavy-duty cleaner like Resolve or Tuff Stuff. For coffee or wine stains, Wine Away is formulated to remove dark-colored stains from liquids.

First, wet the surface than spray the cleaner directly on the cloth while using the sponge to blot out any stain. Do test such solutions first on some part of the furniture that is not readily visible.

A quick video how-to:

Naturally clean finish

For refreshing delicate upholstery or sanitizing mattresses, steam cleaners are the tool of choice for modern homeowners looking for effective yet natural cleaning methods.

With these basic steps, you can deep-clean your couch and other fabric upholstery by yourself. Through constant steaming, you can extend their useful lives by keeping fabrics fresh-looking for years to come.

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