How to Steam Clean a Couch in 4 Simple Steps

Cleaning Upholstery with steam cleaner

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $50-200

The couch is a central gathering place in most homes and the upholstery takes lots of wear and tear. Eventually, the couch will need to be cleaned to remove dust, stains, and overall grime. One of the best cleaning methods is steam cleaning. The high heat of the steam will kill dust mites that are feeding on dead skin cells and help remove stains and odors. Learn how to steam clean a couch in four simple steps.

How Often to Steam Clean a Couch

Spills and stains should be cleaned up as quickly as possible after they happen. And, if you have a hand-held steamer, it can be used to treat some types of stains. While couch upholstery should be vacuumed weekly to remove dust, an overall cleaning should be done seasonally or as needed if the couch gets lots of use.

Before You Begin

It is essential to know what type of upholstery fabric is on the couch before you attempt any cleaning process beyond weekly vacuuming. Beginning in 1969, furniture manufacturers added a tag about the best and safest way to clean upholstery. Search for the tag underneath the couch or cushions and follow the cleaning guidelines.

  • Code W: The fabric can be cleaned with water-based cleaning solvents.
  • Code S: The fabric requires dry cleaning or the use of a water-free solvent to remove stains and soils. The use of these chemicals requires a well-ventilated room and no open flames like fireplaces or candles.
  • Code W-S: The fabric can be cleaned with either water-based or solvent-based products.
  • Code X: When you see the "X," avoid any type of cleaning agent. These fabrics should only be cleaned by vacuuming or by a professional. Any type of home cleaning product can cause staining and shrinking.

If there is no tag, do some testing of the cleaning products and steamer in an inconspicuous area to see how the fabric reacts when treated.


  • Do not use steam cleaning for a leather or suede couch or silk upholstery, or on couch cushions that are filled with down. The moisture can cause the feathers to clump and dry unevenly.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Vacuum with upholstery brush and crevice tool
  • 1 Handheld steamer, clothes steamer, or steam cleaner
  • 1 Soft-bristled brush
  • 1 to 2 Microfiber cloths
  • 1 Small bowl
  • 1 Kitchen whisk


  • 1 Container upholstery stain remover
  • 2 Bottles dishwashing liquid


How to Steam Clean a Couch

  1. Remove Dust and Debris

    • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to capture as much dust and allergens like pet dander as possible and tools to clean the surfaces.
    • Start at the top of the couch and use the upholstery brush to vacuum down each side of the frame and both sides of every cushion.
    • Use the vacuum's crevice tool to clean seams and between cushions that are not removable.
  2. Pretreat Stains

    • If the stains are liquid and fresh, blot away as much moisture or oily residue as possible with paper towels.
    • For solids like mustard or ketchup, use the edge of a dull knife or the edge of a credit card to lift away as much of the mess as possible. Never rub the area because that only pushes the stain deeper into the fabric fibers.
    • For dried solids, use a soft-bristled brush to loosen the dried matter and vacuum it away.
    • To pretreat the stains, follow the label instructions on a commercial upholstery cleaner.
    • To make a DIY upholstery cleaner, mix one-fourth cup of dishwashing liquid and one cup of warm water in a small bowl. Use an electric mixer or a whisk to create some suds.
    • Dip a microfiber cloth into the suds and gently rub the stained area. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred.
    • Finish by dipping a clean microfiber cloth in clear water to blot away any cleaning solution. 
  3. Steam Clean the Couch

    • Follow the user's manual guide on filling the steam cleaner with water and basic usage.
    • Hold the steamer head close to the surface of the fabric.
    • Work in a grid pattern with overlapping strokes so that you won't miss any area of the couch.
    • If you have a steam carpet cleaner with a detachable head, you may be able to use the water suction function to help pull any excess water out of the couch. Test the suction in a hidden area to make sure it does not damage the fabric.


    Never over-saturate the fabric with steam. Too much moisture can cause mold and mildew to grow in the cushions which is nearly impossible to remove.

  4. Allow the Couch to Air-Dry

    • Once the couch is clean, allow it to air-dry before use. This may take up to eight hours.
    • Add a circulating fan to the room to speed drying.
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bedding and Upholstery Regulations. Department of Labor and Industry, Government of PA.