How To Steam Clean a Couch: A Professional’s ‘Secret’ Guide to Reviving Your Old Couch

how to steam clean a couch

A clean couch is essential for creating a cozy and inviting home. Over time, dirt, and grime build-up can dull the appearance of even the best-looking upholstery. Instead of investing in a new couch, consider using a steam cleaner to bring it back to life. Steam cleaning can seem daunting at first, but with the right guidance, it can be a simple and effective process. 

Here, we provide a step-by-step guide to help you maintain your fabric and microfiber couches. With this information, you'll be able to keep your couch looking and feeling like new for years to come. Remember, your couch is an important part of your home, and it's worth taking the time to care for it properly. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a first-time cleaner, our guide will make steam cleaning your couch a breeze.

Why Steam Cleaning is an Effective Method for Couches?

Steam cleaning is highly effective for couches due to its ability to penetrate deep into upholstery fibers, eliminating dirt, allergens, and stubborn stains. The high temperature of the steam not only cleans the surface but also kills bacteria and dust mites,  promoting a healthier living environment.  

Unlike traditional methods that may only clean the surface, steam cleaning provides a thorough and hygienic solution, leaving couches looking and smelling fresh. Additionally, steam cleaning requires minimum use of chemicals, making it an eco-friendly option that is gentle on both the fabric and the environment. Its versatility makes it suitable for various upholstery materials, ensuring comprehensive and long-lasting cleanliness for your couch.

Preparing the Upholstery for Steam Cleaning

Inspect Labels

Before you dive into cleaning your furniture, make sure to give it a good inspection first. Different surfaces like microfiber and leather may call for different furniture cleaning approaches based on how dirty they are.

But the most crucial thing to keep an eye out for is the label on your piece of furniture. It'll have a letter that tells you what type of cleaner you can use without damaging the delicate upholstery.

Here's a quick rundown of the symbols you might see:

  • W: Clean with water only
  • S: A solvent-based cleaner is preferred
  • WS: Either water or solvent-based cleaner will cut it
  • X: Just give it a good vacuum and you’re good to go


Alright, let's get started with cleaning your upholstery! The first step is to give it a good sweep with a foxtail brush to get rid of any large debris. Then, use the vacuum to get rid of any dirt, dust, and other pesky particles that might be hanging around. If these get wet during the cleaning process, they’ll end up making your couch worse than before. So, step 1 is to get rid of these.

Take your time and make sure you get into every nook and cranny. If your furniture has pillows, remove them and give each side a good vacuum. And don't forget the back of the furniture - we want to make sure every last sizable crumb and piece of dirt is gone before we start the real cleaning process. Can’t get rid of the stuck-on crumbs? No worries! Give them a gentle rub with a damp cloth, and they should come loose in no time. Once loose, just pick them up. You can use the same procedure before you head on to steam clean your car interior too. Removing these chunks will make steaming hassle-free and more efficient.

Tip: Different types of upholstery call for different types of vacuum attachments. You must not risk damaging or staining the fabric with the wrong attachment. So, make sure to use the right one.

Pre-Treat The Stains

Now your couch is almost prepped to face the steam. If your favorite couch is stained with urine or pet stains, those can be addressed with a  steamer. However, for oil-based stains or other non-organic spills, some extra attention is required. Pre-treatment is necessary before proceeding with the steaming process. 

  • Let’s start with the simpler tasks. Begin by giving them a quick spray with a spot upholstery cleaner.
  • Allow  the cleaner to work its magic for 3-5 minutes, depending on the cleaner you use, to effectively break up the stain depending on the cleaner you use
  • Then, take a soft cloth and gently blot the area. This step will help in pulling out the stain and drying up the cleaner.

Tip: Market upholstery cleaners can get a bit pricey but don’t worry, you can attempt to make an alternative solution. Fill up your spray bottle with warm water, add a teaspoon of dish soap, shake it well, and then spray it on the stain. Let it sit for at least an hour and it'll be ready for the couch steam cleaner.

Treat Old or Set-In Stains

When it comes to stubborn stains that you now seemingly embrace as part of your couch texture,  regular dish soap won’t suffice. This set-in stain requires special attention.

There are two options you can consider.

  • Save yourself the trouble and purchase a commercial cleaner solution like OxyClean to remove the stain.
  • However, if you prefer a DIY approach, then mix cornstarch and baking soda with water, store it in a spray bottle, and apply it to the stain.
  • Dampen the area,  blot the excess with a clean cloth, and allow the solution to sit for slightly more than 1 hour. 
  • Afterward, wipe the stain and bring out the steamer for a thorough cleaning.

Pre-Condition The Fabric

When we sit on the sofa, the weight of our bodies and our small movements embed the dirt into the fabric, making it difficult to clean.  There are special products called soil emulsifiers – specialized products designed to effectively help loosen all the deep-seated dirt, dust, and grit within the upholstery that's been ground deep into the fabric. Treating your couch with an emulsifier significantly enhances the effectiveness of the steam cleaner.

  • Simply spray the emulsifier on all the upholstery and pillows, allowing it to sit for a few minutes.
  • Follow up with a thin layer of upholstery shampoo.
  • Brush the fabric thoroughly, ensuring the shampoo is worked in, and there’s no need to rinse it off - it will be removed during the steam cleaning process.

Tip: While you’re at it, don’t forget to send the covers and blankets through a wash cycle.

Choosing A Good Steam Cleaner

Now that you’ve got your fabric ready for cleaning, finding a steam cleaner shouldn’t be difficult. If you know what to look for, it’ll be done in a snap. When it comes to steam cleaning your couch, it is essential to select a cleaner specifically designed for upholstery or fabric. Alternatively, consider an even more effective option, such as a handheld steam cleaner capable of reaching all the tight spots

We understand the temptation to buy one of those bulky carpet steam cleaners. However, unfortunately, they won't be able to provide your couch the deep clean it deserves. Instead, opt for a compact and portable steam cleaner for the couch equipped with an upholstery attachment and hose. This will enable you to effortlessly clean every corner of your couch, including those hard-to-reach areas under the cushions.

Prepare the Machine

Alright, let's prepare our steam cleaner to use! The initial step involves adding water and a cleaner to the machine. The process may vary slightly depending on the model you have so be sure to check the instructions that accompany it.

  • Typically, you will remove a container from the steam cleaner and fill it with a mixture of warm water and upholstery cleaner. You have the option to either use a professional cleaning solution or create your DIY steam cleaner for your couch. In either case, be sure to use a funnel to pour in the liquids to prevent any mess.
  • Ensure you avoid overfilling it - excessive water and steam can result in your fabrics becoming excessively wet. 
  • Additionally, remember to attach the appropriate tool for upholstery cleaning, whether it’s a brush,  cloth, or another accessory –   this choice depends on your specific model

Essential Steps for Steam Cleaning Your Couch

On to the big question, “How and where do I start?” Well here’s where to begin

Start with the Cushions

Always begin by addressing the cushions first to ensure any dirt or grime doesn't transfer to your freshly cleaned couch. Start by concentrating on the exposed sides. Utilize the handheld steam cleaner to blast one side of the cushion with steam and then move the suction nozzle over it to extract dirt and water. One side at a time is the preferred approach, as you don't want to leave a damp cushion lying on the couch — it'll take forever to dry and could damage the fabric.

Steam Clean the Rest of the Sofa 

Once the cushions are clean and dry, it’s time to move on to the main part of the process – yup, cleaning the couch itself. Now it’s very important that you don’t just rush through the motions of this next step. A good steam clean takes time. Take your time, move slowly, and let the steam do its job of pulling out stains & dirt.

  • Now it can seem convenient to tackle a large area at once and get done with the couch cleaning quickly, but, if you were to steam a large area in one go, the water would settle on the couch frame. 
  • Before you know it, it will set in and you won’t be able to suction it out with the cleaner.
  • Hence, stick to small areas and take them one by one. Begin at the top of our sofa and gradually work your way down to the bottom.
  • Repeat this process until the couch is entirely spotless.

Allow it to Air Dry

Time to give your furniture some breathing room! After thorough steam cleaning, it's important to let your furniture dry completely. How long this takes will depend on the humidity of the steam you used and the current weather conditions, but no need to worry - you can speed up the process by turning on a fan, opening a window,  or even giving it a blast with a blow dryer. With a little patience,  your furniture will be dry and refreshed in no time!


Q1. Is Buying A Steam Cleaner Worth It?

Absolutely! If you're someone who loves to keep your home spotless, and cozy, and likes to go on cleaning sprees every other week, then investing in a steam cleaner is worth it. With a steam cleaner, you hаve the роwer to deep clean your carpets, upholstery, and hard floors, but it's important to consider the time and effort it takes to properly use it. 

Q2. Is there an alternative? 

Luckily, yes.

Q3. What Are The Alternatives?

 If cleaning is an activity that takes place once in a while for you, going out and buying a steam cleaner yourself just might not be the right decision to make. Considering the hassle and time it takes to find the right machine to prepare the upholstery,  missing tough stains, and concocting a plethora of DIY solutions like a wizard, steam cleaning can be a long and tiring process.

You should consider hiring a professional cleaning service. It’ll save you time, and energy, and provide you with a better cleaning experience. With professional cleaners, you don't have to worry about finding the right cleaning solution or the right attachments. They bring their own equipment and supplies, and they hаve the expertise to tackle even the toughest stains. Plus, you can sit back, relax, and let the pros handle the cleaning for you.

In conclusion, our guide on how to steam clean a couch, we've highlighted the importance of choosing the right method for your unique situation. While DIY steam cleaning may seem tempting, the intricacies of equipment selection and stain removal can make it a challenging process. Consider the alternative – hiring a professional service like PristineGreen Upholstery and Carpet Cleaning. With their expertise,  specialized equipment, and commitment to delivering superior results, you can transform your old couch with ease. Take the hassle out of upholstery cleaning, and experience the difference that professional care can make. 

Contact PristineGreen today for a revitalized and impeccably clean couch!

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