How to Steam Clean a Couch with a Clothes Steamer

Before we can learn how to steam clean a sofa with a garment steamer we have to understand the difference between a steam cleaner and a clothes steamer.

Skip to the Cleaning Steps

A Steam Cleaner is usually meant for cleaning things like floors, carpets, tiles, and, you guessed it… sofas. It’s usually more powerful and has higher steam output. It also has all the accessories you’ll need to steam clean, like scrubbing brushes, tapered nozzles, etc.

A Garment Steamer, on the other hand, is actually meant for getting wrinkles out of clothing. See our best clothes steamer review. They’re smaller and weaker and produce far less steam. In the case of handheld models, the water tanks are also significantly smaller.

The problem is:

  • Not Enough Steam
  • Water Tank Too Small
  • Fewer Brush Attachments
  • Detergents Might Ruin Your Clothes Steamer

Ok, we get it… it’s not ideal… but could it work?

Can you Clean a Couch with a Garment Steamer?

Maybe, as long as it produces enough steam. Standing clothes steamers could work since they are more powerful, but most handheld clothes steamers are too weak to thoroughly clean a couch.

You need at least 30 grams per minute of continuous steam output if you want your clothes steamer to manage the mammoth task of cleaning a full-sized sofa.

Cheaper handheld clothes steamers can produce as little as 15 g/min. That just isn’t enough! You’ll be pulling your hair out in frustration and probably make an even bigger mess of your already dirty couch!

How to Steam Clean a Couch with a Clothes Steamer

Now that you have “the right” equipment, here are the steps.

1.  Check the Fabric

I know this sounds obvious but just check if it’s safe to steam. Cotton, linen, and denim are all OK. Polyester is usually fine but Rayon is usually a no-no.  You definitely shouldn’t steam leather (real or fake) or any kind of velvet. If the cover is removable, you’re better off washing it according to the care instructions.

2. Vacuum the Couch

If you skip this step, you could be steaming otherwise dry gunk deep into the couch fabric. Make sure you vacuum every nook and cranny.

3. Spot Clean the Couch

Focussing on any stains or dirty areas, spray a detergent directly onto the couch and brush it with a soft brush or microfibre towel. You may want to gently scrub the entire couch for a more even clean.

For now, you can leave the thin, foamy layer of soapy residue on the couch. The steam will wash it out later.

4. Steam the Couch

If the temperature is adjustable, run your clothes steamer on high heat and max steam. We need real steam cleaner performance from your little clothes steamer.

Work in long, even strokes to ensure the steam penetrates the fabric evenly. The steam should loosen any dust, dirt, and stains stuck in between the fibers of the material.

Don’t try to soak the fabric 100%. Rather, we’re trying to be as effective as possible without simply drenching the couch.

Ps. You’re not actually touching the couch with the steamer unless you have an attachment that allows it.

5. Brushing While Steaming

If you were using a proper steam cleaner, you would be using a brush attachment on the front of the steam nozzle. Unfortunately, most clothes steamers don’t have attachments like these so you’ll have to help it along by brushing with your other hand while you steam.

IMPORTANT! Take turns steaming and brushing, in incongruent strokes, so as to avoid your hand getting caught in a steam burst. You may even want to place the steamer down every few strokes and switch to the brush and then back.

If the steamer head does have some sort of cover (like a removable steam mop cover or cleaning pad) you can use it to make direct contact with the couch and essentially mop the dirt up while you steam.

6. Add Detergent to the Water Tank (Optional)

This step is completely optional and could damage the steamer.

You should consider whether you want to risk sullying your clothes steamer by adding a cleaning detergent. Most manufacturers advise against it. The heating elements could react negatively and cause irreparable damage.

Some stronger cleaning detergents may also take a long time to completely wash out of your clothes steamer before you can use them on clothes again. Definitely stay away from using harsh cleaning chemicals.

If you’re not happy risking putting detergent inside your clothes steamer, let the soap from Step 3 and the steam from Step 4 do all the work. Then there’s no risk of damage to the steamer whatsoever.

7. Letting it Dry

You can place the couch in a well-ventilated area. The cushions can even be carried onto the patio to dry.

If you can’t see the couch drying fully or need to speed things up a little, you can use a hairdryer on medium heat or even place it next to a heater.

Do not melt the fabric by applying too much heat in one spot at a time.