Step-by-Step Guide: Steam Cleaning Your Upholstered Furniture Like a Pro

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Updated on:

November 9, 2023

Steam Cleaning Furniture: Tips, Techniques, and Top Products for a Fresh Home

As more and more people want to avoid using harsh chemicals when cleaning various surfaces, steam cleaners have emerged as the ideal machine to promote a clean and sanitized environment. Steam cleaning removes stubborn tough stains, dirt, grease and more while also sanitizing surfaces by removing allergens and pathogens.

One of the most useful applications of steam cleaning units is to clean upholstery, fabric furniture and mattresses. A smaller units like the steam cleaners Fortador Volt Mini or Fortador Volt Electra, which is easy to use and transport, is the ideal commercial cleaning machine or steam cleaner for home use.

Although a steam cleaner for furniture may seem like a miracle machine in many ways, you’ll get better and more complete results if you take time and pay attention to details before and during upholstery cleaning. Take a look at these 12 tips to make your furniture look brand new once again.

Key Takeaways:

  • Prepare by vacuuming and pre-treating stains on furniture before steam cleaning.
  • Use the right steam cleaner and attachments for thorough upholstery cleaning.
  • Steam clean mattresses by brushing, treating odors, and using appropriate attachments.

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Table of Contents (Show)

Table of Contents (Hide)


Preparing for Cleaning

  1. Inspection
  2. Brushing
  3. Stains pretreatment
  4. Preconditioning
  5. Equipment prepping


  1. Attachments
  2. Cushions
  3. Furniture
  4. Stains


  1. Prepping
  2. Cleaning

Furniture protection

  1. Application of protection coating

12 tips to steam clean a furniture
How to steam clean furniture step by step

1. How to Prepare Furniture or Couch for Cleaning

When using a steamer furniture unit, you may be tempted to fill it with water, turn it on and start cleaning immediately. Don’t do it! Spending a few minutes, while steamer is heating,  preparing the surface of your couch, sofa, chair, ottoman, or other piece of upholstered furniture is well worth the effort.

1.1 Inspect and Examine Labels

cleaning tags and labels on furniture
Material description and cleaning tags on furniture

Always begin your task by inspecting the piece you will clean for any problem spots that will need extra attention. Microfiber and leather surfaces may need different cleaning methods depending on their level of soiling. However, the most important thing to pay attention to is the letter on the furniture label, which will indicate what substance may be used to clean the piece. You’ll see one of the following symbols to avoid damage of delicate upholstery:

  • W – Clean with water only
  • S – Solvent-based cleaner only
  • WS – Water or solvent-based cleaner
  • X – Vacuum only

When better call a PRO

Professional help may be required when cleaning furniture in the following cases:

  • Delicate or antique furniture: For valuable or delicate furniture pieces, professional assistance ensures safe and damage-free cleaning.
  • Stubborn stains or odors: When facing tough stains or persistent odors that household methods can't eliminate, professionals have specialized techniques and products for effective removal.
  • Extensive damage: If furniture has significant damage like deep scratches, structural issues, or water damage, professional restoration services are needed for proper repair and restoration.

1.2 Brush and Vacuum the Surface with Vacuum Cleaner

vacuuming of furniture is prelimenary step
Vacuuming of couch

You won’t be able to thoroughly clean any upholstered surface if food crumbs or other debris remain as these particles can make your sofa even dirtier when steam cleaning it. Brush off what you can see on the surface, and then select the proper attachment to vacuum it.

Remove the cushions first and vacuum all sides before moving into every crack and crevice of your chair or couch. Take your time doing the job so you will remove as much pet hair, dust, allergens, food, dirt and whatever else may have accumulated.

Don’t forget to vacuum the back and sides of your furniture.

1.3 Pre-Treat Stains with Scrubbing

scrubbing of stains

Take care when performing this task as you don’t want one part of your upholstery to be lighter than the rest. Read the manufacturer’s recommendations, if possible, before you start, and always try cleaning a stain first in an inconspicuous place. Common stains from urine, feces, dirt and food can be removed by steam cleaning alone.

However, if you have an oil-based stain, you need to pre-treat it and let it sit for a while, generally three to five minutes, so it can begin to work. Home treatments are the first line of defense and include white vinegar and rubbing alcohol to release the tough stain. If those don’t work, try a mixture of baking soda, cornstarch and warm water. Refrain from scrubbing too hard, so you don’t damage the material.

When you have let the upholstery cleaner sit for a few minutes, you can blot the area with a soft cloth, which helps pull out the stain, as well as allow the area to dry more quickly. If these solutions don’t work, you can try blotting the area with a mixture of OxyClean and water or see how much steam cleaning will remove the stains.

1.4 Precondition the Fabric with Cleaner

pretreatment for furniture cleaning
Pre Treatment is important

Prior to steam cleaning, you should precondition the fabric, so it doesn’t harden following cleaning. Spraying a soil emulsifier over the upholstery will help lift ground-in dirt. Make sure that you have let it sit long enough so that it seeps into the fabric. If you wish, you can also spray on a thin layer of shampoo or upholstery cleaner. Both the emulsifier and the shampoo will come off the fabric when you use your steam cleaner with suction for the couch cleaning

1.5 Choosing the Right Steam Cleaner for Upholstery

1.5.1 How Does a Steam Cleaner Work?

A steam cleaner uses high-temperature steam to clean and sanitize surfaces. The steam is generated by heating water in a boiler tank, which creates pressure that forces the steam through a nozzle or attachment.

As the steam is released onto the surface, it loosens dirt and grime, and the high temperature helps kill bacteria and other germs. The pressure of the steam also helps to dislodge and remove tough stains and debris.

Fortador steam cleaners have additional features, such as brushes or scrubbers, to help with more stubborn messes.

commercial steam cleaner for furniture
Fortador Volt Electra Commercial Steam Cleaner

Choosing the right commercial steam cleaner for home use will make your job more successful. If it’s too big, you’ll have trouble maneuvering it into tight spaces. If it’s too small, you may not get the power you need to clean your upholstery thoroughly.

That’s why the heavy duty Fortador Volt Electra is ideal for cleaning upholstered furniture. It’s small enough to maneuver into small areas while also powerful enough to give you the cleaning power you need to get the job done right. Our new portable steam cleaner Fortador Volt Mini is another great option for multi purpose steamer

upholstery steam cleaners

1.5.2 Vacuum steam cleaner for couch and carpet Fortador Volt Electra

Perfect solution for furniture cleaning company like a main cleaning equipment for offices, homes and apartments.

The Fortador VOLT ELECTRA is a powerful electric steam cleaner with vacuum capabilities. It is designed for various applications, including private garages, car workshops, auto-detailing factories, cleaning companies, and hotels. Here are some key features and specifications of the Fortador VOLT ELECTRA:

  • Maximum pressure: Up to 12 BAR or 175 PSI, which surpasses the results of leading diesel combustion machines.
  • Recommended for: Private garages, car workshops, and auto-detailing factories.
  • Dual functionality: The device offers both steam cleaning and sanitization with dry steam and extraction with a built-in professional wet/dry vacuum from Ghibli & Wierbel.
  • Touchscreen display: Equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen display that shows current fluid levels, pressure in the boiler, serial number, and more.
  • Voltage options: Available in 240V (USA) and 220V or 380V (EU) configurations.
  • Compact and lightweight: Weighs 99 lbs or 45 kg, making it easy to maneuver and transport.
  • Noise level: Operates at 60 dB, ensuring a relatively quiet cleaning process.
  • Construction: Features a modern design with corrosion-resistant aluminum housing for durability.
  • Additional accessories: Includes accessories such as steam hoses, dual hoses, tank for detergent, and more.
  • Warranty: Offers up to 3 years of warranty coverage.

The Fortador VOLT ELECTRA is known for its high pressure, versatility, and efficient steam cleaning capabilities. It is suitable for a range of cleaning applications, including carpets, upholstery, industrial equipment, and more.

Learn more about choosing best vacuum cleaner in this guide.

1.5.3 Portable steam cleaner for upholstery Fortador Volt Mini,

Ideal tool for homeowners and rental properties maintenance teams.

Fortador Volt Mini, which is a portable steam cleaner designed for office and residential use. It is ideal for cleaning and disinfection service providers, home owners, individual detailers, and low traffic car washes.

The Fortador Volt Mini offers several features and specifications:

  • Hot Water Injection
  • 7 Bar | 100 PSI Steam Pressure
  • Available in USA-120V or EU-220V options
  • 110g/minute steam production

The steam cleaner is lightweight, weighing only 16.5 lbs, making it highly portable and easy to transport. It has a quick heating time, taking only five minutes to produce steam. The boiler is made of high-strength AISI 304 stainless steel, ensuring durability.

The Fortador Volt Mini comes with various accessories, including a 15-foot steam hose, which is longer than most other commercial-grade steam cleaners. It also includes microfiber cloths, scrubbing pads, and a steam mop for different cleaning tasks. The steam cleaner can be used on carpets, upholstery, various flooring surfaces, and hard surfaces.

One of the advantages of the Fortador Volt Mini is its environmentally friendly nature. It requires little to no additional detergents or agents for sanitizing and deodorizing surfaces. It can kill and remove more than 99% of bacteria, viruses, germs, and other pathogens. Additionally, the Volt Mini produces no diesel fumes, making it suitable for indoor use.

1.5.4 Extra Tips for Steam Cleaning Furniture

One of the big benefits of sofa steam cleaning is that you don’t have to use any chemicals to get a good cleaning. Many units will work well just with water, but if you prefer or have a heavily soiled surface, you can use a cleaning solution diluted with water to clean your upholstery. Consult Fortador’s manual on how much cleaning solution you should use as you don’t want to use too much as it will be expelled onto the fabric, and you may have difficulty removing it.

It’s better to take several passes to clean the surface than to have residue remain on your upholstery. Also, check your manual to see what type of attachment to use on your upholstery. Finally, fill your tank with water, turn on your unit and let it heat sufficiently before you begin cleaning as you don’t want excessive water to remain on surfaces that would increase drying time.

Check our Article How to use Portable Steam Cleaner for home cleaning

2. Properly Using a Furniture Steamer

Using a steam cleaner for couches in the proper manner will give you sparkling clean furniture pieces instead of one that has streaks and stubborn stains that just won’t leave. Make sure you take the proper steps to produce the best results using your upholstery steam cleaner.

2.1 Use the Right Attachments for Different Applications

steam cleaner attachments

The Volt Electra comes with various attachments for steam cleaning. Refer to your manual to ensure that you are using the correct one for the type of fabric or other surfaces you are cleaning. Using an incorrect steam cleaner for sofa attachment can damage your furniture.

2.2 Start with the Cushions

steam cleaning of couch

As you have already removed the cushions, clean these first. Using the steamer, spray one side of the cushion with steam and then drag the opening of the machine over the upholstery. If you are cleaning all sides of the cushion, make sure that the bottom dries before you clean the opposite side.

Don’t be tempted to hold the steamer over particularly dirty areas for any length of time. It’s better to make several passes so as not to saturate the fabric with water.

2.3 Steam Clean the Rest of the Couch or Chair

Move onto the larger parts after you have finished the cushions. Work on small sections of fabric and move on quickly. Remember that you can always go over areas with stubborn dirt, as there is no need to wait for those sections to dry. Clean the frame of your sofa or chair last.

The final step in chemical free cleaning your piece of furniture is to let it dry. The length of time needed depends on the weather, humidity, the time of days and whether you can get air circulating on your newly cleaned furniture. Open a window or turn on a fan to blow directly on your couch or chair.

2.4 Treating Stubborn Tough Stains

stains removal from couch
Stains removal from couch

Sometimes, stubborn stains will not come off with steam alone, but you can remove them with a little extra effort. Begin with the easiest option, namely dish soap and water. Dip a sponge into the solution and rub to make it soapy, but make sure you don’t rub too hard as you don’t want to damage the fabric. Rinse the sponge and blot the area with clean water. Repeat as necessary.

If soap and warm water don’t work, move on using white or apple cider vinegar. Soak a clean white cloth and then blot the stain. You can use vodka and baking soda if you don’t have vinegar. Rub gently in a circular motion, again taking care not to do so too vigorously. Leave the solution on the area for several hours and then vacuum it. The smell will subside once it’s vacuumed.

Tough stains that remain may need commercial cleaners, but you should only use these as a last resort. Make sure the cleaner is suitable for the type of fabric and test it on an inconspicuous part of your furniture. Spray the upholstery cleaner directly on the stain and use a wet cloth to blot the stain. Again, you may have to perform this action several times for particularly stubborn stains until you can remove them completely.

3. Steam Cleaning Mattresses

Most people try to do their best to keep mattresses clean and fresh smelling after purchase, but sometimes life happens, and something gets spilled on the surface. Accidents aren’t the only thing that can stain your mattress, so can sweat, while dirt can also provide a home to dust mites. Mattresses can withstand a lot of water, as moisture will cause mold to grow.

That’s why steam cleaning is ideal. Here are tips for cleaning mattresses with a steam cleaner.

3.1 Preparing the Mattress for steam cleaning

pretreatment of mattress stains
Brush cleaning of mattress with upholstery cleaner

Again, proper preparation will make for a more thorough cleaning job. If your mattress smells bad, sprinkle baking soda over the entire surface and let it sit for a couple of hours to draw out odors. The baking soda will not only refresh the mattress but your bedroom too. You’ll remove the baking soda when you perform a thorough vacuuming of the surface.

As with upholstered furniture, you need to vacuum the surface thoroughly. Pay attention to all cracks, crevices and seams, making sure that you remove any crumbs, dirt and other debris that may have accumulated.

Check our complet guide for mattress cleaning from stains

3.2 Steaming the Mattress

Hold the steamer an inch to two inches above the mattress and apply the steam starting at the top. Work your way across, similarly cleaning in small sections to as with upholstery. Move slowly, but keep the steam light and use an upholstery attachment, if possible, as this device will help absorb extra moisture. Once the top is clean, move to the sides.

It’s important not to forget about the sides as this is the area where bedbugs and dust mites tend to live. If you have trouble with bed bugs, steam cleaning is an effective way to eliminate these pests. Flip double-sided mattresses over to clean the second surface, but make sure that the first surface is dry before proceeding so you don’t get it dirty.

Once you have finished steaming the mattress, give it several hours to dry before placing it back on the frame and making the bed with sheets and blankets. Although steam cleaning doesn’t take as long to dry as other cleaning methods, we recommend that you do the task in the morning, so it thoroughly dries by the time you want to use your bed.

4. Protecting Your Steam Cleaned Surfaces

Steaming is the premier method for cleaning soft furnishings and other surfaces. However, some are more prone to staining than others. Microfiber fabric, in particular, loves to hold stains for all sorts of spills. You can make your work easier the next time your steam clean by applying a protective coating.

4.1 Apply Fortador Interior Guard to protect

fortador cermic coating for interior

Once your furniture or mattress has dried, apply a thin coating of Fortador Interior Guard on the surface. This Kevlar coating product will protect your surfaces from the sun’s UV rays and stains for up to 24 months. Fortador is your one-stop-shop for steam cleaner for furniture units, accessories and protective products. There’s no need to go anywhere else!

5. Summary

Steam cleaning is the best method for home cleaning and organizing furniture cleaning services as a business. You can check our guides about endless uses of steamers for multiple applications, like:

- grout cleaning

- commercial carpet cleaning

About the Authors

Sabrina Tretyakova
In the world of cleanliness and hygiene, Sabrina Tretyakova stands as a beacon of expertise and dedication. As an ISSA-certified cleaning technician, Sabrina brings a wealth of knowledge and three years of unwavering commitment to her profession. Having served a staggering 1,200 clients
Olga Drążewska
With a decade of experience in export operations and logistics, I bring a wealth of expertise to the field. I've navigated the complexities of logistics with precision, ensuring smooth operations and seamless exports. Cleaning expert.

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