How to Steam Clean a Sofa: Step-by-Step Instructions

In this post, we will tell you how to choose the best steam cleaner and give plenty of useful tips on how to steam clean your couch properly.
Robert Bernal
Robert Bernal
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Robert is a professional writer who creates incredible science fiction short stories. When not writing about the alien invasions, he focuses on some more trivial topics maki read more
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William Barnett
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William is a top sales manager in one of the local furniture stores, which sells recliners among others. Like nobody else, he knows what specs to look for to fulfil each cli read more
Last updated: September 06, 2023
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In most homes, a well-used sofa can take a real battering. You may use your sofa for napping, eating snacks, reclining to watch movies or just sitting. So, it is likely that your sofa may be covered in stains, crumbs or even obnoxious odors.

This can not only make your sofa unappealing, but it can also be an embarrassment if you have guests over. After all, no one enjoys needing to apologize for the state of their furniture or worry about dirt transfer if your guest is wearing light colored clothing.

This makes it crucial that you know how to steam clean a sofa. Steam cleaning can eliminate odors and grime and even remove difficult stains, to bring new life back into your well-loved sofa. Before you worry that you’ll need to upgrade your old sofa, it is well worth considering giving steam cleaning a try. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results that you can achieve. So, here we’ll explore how to clean an upholstered sofa with a steam cleaner.

How to Сhoose the Right Steam Cleaner

While it is possible to learn how to clean a sofa without a steam cleaner, the easiest way is to use a machine. Fortunately, there is a vast choice of steam cleaners that you can purchase or hire to clean your sofa.

Obviously, your choice of machine and whether you buy or hire will impact how much does it cost to steam clean a sofa. So, you will need to consider functionality and cost.

The most effective steamers are designed specifically for this task. However, you can also use fabric steamers that are designed for freshening clothing or handheld units. If you have mobility issues, you may find using a smaller machine easier, but it is likely to take a little longer.

There are heavier, industrial style steamers, but these don’t often feature an upholstery accessory kit. They can also be more difficult to handle, so they are not usually a good option for steam cleaning your sofa.

Regardless of the type of steamer, you should choose a model that has a fabric cleaning accessory. Many of the best steamers, like the Dupray Neat are supplied with an accessory kit that includes a flat head angled nozzle which can be used for steaming fabrics. Be sure that you use this specific attachment to get the best results.

Steam Cleaning a Sofa: Useful Tips

Before you get started using a steamer, it is a good idea to take note of these tips and tricks. This will help you to get the best results, whether you have an expensive sofa or a sofa under $1000.

Vent the Area

How to Steam Clean a Sofa: Step-by-Step InstructionsThe first tip is to ensure that you steam clean on a day when you can leave the windows in the immediate area open. This will help prevent steam build up, as you can vent the excess moisture and heat. Additionally, the fresh air will help your sofa to dry more thoroughly.

Check for Dye Fastness

The color fastness of a fabric refers to its resistance to running or fading. So, it is important that you check whether your sofa is color fast. To accomplish this, gently steam a less visible area of your sofa using a microfiber pad on the nozzle. After 15 minutes, inspect the area you treated. If there is no visible damage or discoloration, you can continue to steam clean your sofa.

Thoroughly Vacuum First

How to Steam Clean a Sofa: Step-by-Step InstructionsBefore you can become familiar with how to steam clean a cloth sofa, you will need to get familiar with your vacuum cleaner. Every nook and gap in your sofa will need to be free of loose dust, pet hair, dander or food scraps. All of this debris will leave the surface far messier when it gets wet. Vacuum all sides of the cushions before moving into the creases and gaps to ensure that there are no bits to spoil the steaming effects.

Pre-Treat Stains

If you have any stains or marks on your sofa, you will need to pre-treat these before steaming. Pre-treating softens up tough stains, so they are easier to remove. Use a spot remover upholstery product and wait approximately five minutes. Then use an absorbent washcloth to blot the spot to lift the stain and absorb excess cleaning solution.

Take the Time to Prepare the Unit

How to Steam Clean a Sofa: Step-by-Step InstructionsUnless you use one regularly, a steam cleaner can be an unfamiliar piece of equipment. So, it is worth taking a little time to properly prepare the unit before you begin. You will normally need to detach the water reservoir and fill it. Then check how to secure the attachment and allow an initial burst of steam so any excess water will run off before you begin. Finally, check the flow settings. The optimal setting will vary according to the type of fabric.

Allow the Sofa to Dry Thoroughly

We’ve already touched on leaving the area ventilated, but it is also important to highlight that you will need to allow your sofa to dry thoroughly. Once the sofa is completely dry, you could vacuum again to lift any remaining dirt for a showroom finish.

Use Commercial Cleaners as a Last Resort

If you don’t achieve the desired results, you can try applying a heavy-duty commercial cleaning product. You will need to follow the product instructions carefully and it is always worth performing a patch test to ensure that the solution will not cause damage to the fabric.

How to Deep Clean Your Sofa

Now you’re feeling more confident in the preparation steps, we can delve into how to steam clean a couch or sofa. Fortunately, this can be accomplished in some easy, simple to follow steps.


How to Steam Clean a Sofa: Step-by-Step InstructionsWe’ve touched on this above, but let’s reiterate. You must vacuum your sofa before you begin. Use the carpet tool or crevice accessory to vacuum the cushions, frame, pillows and any gaps in your sofa.

Remove and Clean Slip Covers

How to Steam Clean a Sofa: Step-by-Step InstructionsIf you have one of the best slip cover sofas, you will be able to remove the slip covers and put them in the washing machine. This will allow them to be laundered as you’re steam cleaning the rest of the sofa. Follow the care instructions for your specific sofa.

Start with Your Pillows

How to Steam Clean a Sofa: Step-by-Step InstructionsIf your sofa doesn’t have slip covers, the pillows are a good place to start your steam cleaning. Blast the surfaces that will become damp when the steam reaches them. Drag the nozzle over the area to suck up the excess cleaning solution and moisture.

Work a Little Area at a Time

Work in one small area at a time. Suck up the excess moisture as you don’t want the sofa to have excessive wetness lingering and soaking the fabric. Going slowly is the key to controlling the steam amounts.

Use Even Strokes

How to Steam Clean a Sofa: Step-by-Step InstructionsYou don’t need fancy techniques to steam clean a sofa, just aim to use long, even strokes. This will allow deeper penetration and a fluffier finish.

Reposition the stuffing: As the steam penetrates the sofa, you will find the stuffing becomes more malleable. This will allow you to reposition it and fluff up any dents caused by knees, feet or heads.

Allow to Dry

Once you’ve covered the entire sofa surface and you’re happy with the cleaning, allow the sofa to dry. The drying time will depend on your sofa. If you were looking at how to steam clean a microfiber sofa, it will take less time to dry compared to a velvet sofa.

Bear in mind that steam cleaning does take a little practice and if you don’t achieve the results you expected, you can always repeat the cleaning progress. Remember that the fabric is likely to be darker when it is damp, so you may need to wait until the fabric dries, so you can check to see if the sofa is properly clean before trying again.

How to Remove Lingering Stains

How to Steam Clean a Sofa: Step-by-Step InstructionsIf you have lingering stains, you will need to take care to remove them. Many tough stains including food, urine and dirt can be removed with steam alone, but oil-based stains tend to linger and will need additional care.

The first thing to try is using soap and water. The steam cleaning may have loosened the stain, so you may be able to finish them off with this basic mixture. Simply dip a sponge in water and massage a little dish soap into the pad. Wring the sponge to eliminate the excess water and then blot the stain, so it is coated with the soapy mixture. Rinse the sponge and then blot the area with fresh water to remove the stain and soap residue.

If you don’t get the desired results with soap and water, you may be able to use vinegar as a stain remover. Soak a cloth with apple cider or white vinegar. Blot the stain, and be sure not to scrub or you could damage the fabric. Use gentle circular motions on the stain. Don’t worry about the vinegar smell as it will evaporate.

The last option is to use a heavy-duty cleaner. These products are designed for stain removal and you may be able to spray the product directly onto the fabric. You’ll need a damp cloth or sponge to blot at the stain to loosen it. Just be sure to test the product on a hidden part of the upholstery to ensure it will not damage the fabric.

Bear in mind that if the stain is particularly stubborn, you can repeat the spot cleaning until all traces of the stain are removed.

Final Thoughts

A new sofa can be a costly purchase. While you may be able to refresh your decor on a budget, if your sofa looks dirty and grubby, it will compromise the overall aesthetic. Sofas can quickly pick up dirt, food and drink stains or even other unpleasant marks, particularly if people don’t take their shoes off before putting their feet up.

Fortunately, you can breathe new life into your sofa with steam cleaning. Providing your sofa is in good structural condition and there are no rips or tears, you could restore the appeal of your sofa.

Learning how to steam clean a sofa can not only help to boost the aesthetic appeal of your home, but it can also save you money. A good cleaning could allow you to continue to enjoy your existing sofa for many years to come. You can spot treat stains and restore the fluffy feel of your sofa, so you will feel comfortable welcoming guests into your home or sit back and relax after a long day.

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