Steam cleaners are useful for hundreds of cleaning applications. If you need to clean delicate upholstery, fabric furniture, or sanitize a mattress, your steam cleaner can be the most useful cleaning tool you’ll ever use. Steam cleaning not only removes embedded stains, grease, and dirt, it also sanitizes all surfaces, removes allergens, and kills bacteria, mold, viruses, dust mites, bedbugs, and most pathogens. By following a few simple steps, you can steam clean your upholstery at home yourself.
Preparing the Upholstery
1.Vacuum the upholstery. The first step you need to take to clean your upholstery is to vacuum any dirt, dust, trash, allergens, pet hair, and dander that may be on the fabric. Some of these things can make your couch even dirtier if they get wet during the cleaning process. Take your time, making sure you get in every crack and inside every crevice. If the furniture has any pillows, remove them and vacuum off each side of them. Also make sure you vacuum the back of the furniture as well. You don’t want any left over trash or crumbs to mess up the preparation or cleaning process of the materials.
Make sure you use the attachment on the vacuum cleaner that fits the type of upholstery that you are cleaning. You want to ensure that you don’t damage or stain the fabric with the wrong attachment.
2.Pre-treat the stains. If there are any apparent stains on the upholstery, spray them with spot upholstery cleaner. Let the cleaner set so it can break up the stain. Depending on what cleaner you use, the amount of time to leave the cleaner will vary, but it should be around 3-5 minutes. Once you’ve waited enough time, blot the area with a soft cloth, pulling out the stain and drying up the cleaner.
A lot of stains, such as food, dirt, pee, and poop, can be cleaned from the steam alone. If you have a stain that is oil based, you might need a commercial cleaner such as Oxy Clean to get out the stain. You can also try mixing vinegar and rubbing alcohol or cornstarch and baking soda with water to treat the area.
3.Precondition the fabric. One of the main reasons to steam clean your furniture is to get out all the ground in dirt, dust, and grit. There are products called soil emulsifiers that will help loosen all of the elements that have been ground into the fabric. Spray it on all of the upholstery on the piece of furniture and the pillows. Let that sit a few minutes. Then, spray a thin layer of upholstery shampoo on the fabric as well. Brush the fabric all over, making sure to rub the shampoo into the fabric.
Don’t worry about getting the emulsifier and shampoo off the fabric. It will come out when you steam clean it.
Before you steam clean your upholstery, make sure the fabric can handle water based cleaning methods. You can find this information on the tag of your furniture. It should list the kind of cleaning method acceptable for that particular material. If you see an X on the tag, it means that water will permanently damage the fabric, which means you cannot steam clean it.
Cleaning the Upholstery
1.Pick the right steam cleaner. There are many kinds of steam cleaners. They are typically divided by the kinds of materials that they can steam clean. The best steam cleaners for upholstery are upholstery steam cleaners, fabric steam cleaners, and handheld steam cleaners. The upholstery steam cleaner is made specifically for the job, fabric steam cleaners are made to clean fabric, and handheld cleaners are great for small, tight surfaces. The cleaners should either be handheld or have detachable wands or hoses. Pick which one you think will work better on your particular surface.
You want to avoid that large carpet steam cleaners. Those are too bulky and don’t typically have fabric cleaning attachments. They will not work at all on your upholstery.
If you don’t want to buy a steam cleaner of your own, you can rent one from many department, hardware, and grocery stores.
2.Prepare the steam cleaning machine. To use a steam cleaner, you need to add water and cleaner to the machine. This will vary depending on the machine you have, so follow the directions based on the model that you have. Generally, you will remove a container from the steam cleaner and fill it with warm water and upholstery cleaner. Make sure you don’t fill it too full. It can cause too much water and steam to be released on your fabrics, which will over saturate them. You will also need to add the correct attachment for upholstery. This may be a stationary brush, revolving brush, or a cloth, depending on the model you have.
Avoid mixing too much soap into the water. It is much easier to wash an area a few times than it is to have to wash excess soap out of the fabric.
3.Start with the cushions. If the piece of furniture that you are steam cleaning has removable pillows, such as a couch or chair, start cleaning them. Plug up the machine and turn it on. Take the handheld steam cleaner or the hose and attachment and spray the surface with the steam. There should be a button that releases the steam onto the fabric. This will wet the fabric once the steam hits it. Promptly drag the opening of the machine over the damp areas, sucking up the excess water and cleaner from the surface of the fabric. Repeat over the surface of the pillow.
You may only need to steam clean the sides of the pillow that are exposed. If you do steam clean all side, only do one side of a pillow at a time. You don’t want the pillow to lay on a wet side because it will take much longer to dry and could hurt the fabric.
4.Steam clean the rest. The upholstery on the rest of your furniture needs to be cleaned last. Clean the fabric a small section at a time, removing the water the same way as you did on the pillows. You don’t want to try to add steam to a huge area at the same time. This will let the water set in the first area, which will absorb too much of the water while you apply steam to the rest of the piece. This will cause the water to soak into the material and cause it to take a much longer time to dry. Repeat until the entire surface is clean.
If there is a particularly dirty spot, you can go back over it once you have cleaned it once. You don’t have to wait for it to dry.
5Let your furniture dry. Once you have steam cleaned all of the fabric, your furniture will need some time to dry. The amount of time will vary based on how humid the steam you used was and the weather on the day you clean the furniture. You can speed up the drying process by using a fan, opening a window, using a blow dryer. It will eventually dry.
If you still see some discoloration on the fabric, you may need to clean it again. This is more likely if the upholstery was extremely soiled when you started.
Removing Lingering Stains
1.Clean the stain with water and soap. Steam cleaning gets out a lot of different stains. If you still have lingering stains once the steam cleaning has been done, there are a few ways you can tackle them. Start first with the easiest option, which is soap and water. Take a sponge and dip it in water. Put some dish detergent on the sponge and massage it into the pad. Wring the excess water from the sponge. Blot the stain with the sponge, coating the stain in the soapy mixture. Next, clean the soap out of the sponge and put fresh water in the sponge. Take the sponge and blot the soapy area to remove the soap and the stain from the surface.
Make sure you don’t scrub the stain too hard with the sponge. You don’t want to rip apart the fabric of the upholstery with the excessive force of the rubbing.
2.Use vinegar. Instead of soap and water, you can try to use vinegar to remove the stains. Take white or apple cider vinegar and soak a cloth. Blot the stain on the upholstery with the fabric, saturating the fabric with the vinegar. Make sure you don’t scrub too hard on the fabric so you don’t make the stain set in more or harm the fabric. You can gently rub the stain with the cloth in a circular manner to help remove the stain particles with the cloth.
If you don’t have vinegar, you can also use vodka. The smell of either will evaporate once the fabric dries.
3.Use heavy duty cleaner. If none of the other methods of stain cleaning work, you may need to try a heavy duty commercial cleaner such as Tuff Stuff, Resolve, or Folex. Take a cloth or sponge and wet it. Spray the cleaner directly on the fabric and use the cloth to blot the stain. You can also gently rub the spot with circular motions to help loosen the stain.
Make sure you test the cleaner on a part of the upholstery that isn’t normally visible. You want to make sure the cleaner won’t hurt the fabric.
If you have a wine or coffee stain, try Wine Away. It is made to specifically treat dark liquid stains.
If the stain is still being stubborn, you may have to go through another round of cleaning until the stain is completely removed.
Preparing for Upholstering
1.Choose a quality piece of furniture. Reupholstering a piece of furniture is an extensive and time-intensive process. If you attempt to do so on a piece of furniture that is poor quality, you’ll experience two things: increased difficulty with the process, and an increased likelihood that the furniture won’t last long (making your time/money investment pointless). Start out on the right foot by selecting furniture that is high quality with an ugly ‘skin’.
2.Get plenty of quality upholstering fabric. Although you can technically reupholster furniture with any kind of fabric, most fabrics won’t be thick and sturdy enough to last for many years. Look for special upholstering fabric, which is thicker and made to stand against wear-and-tear better than other types of fabric. Keep in mind that the type of furniture you use will depend on the placement of the piece; you can get away with using regular fabric on a piece of furniture that won’t be frequently used, but you’ll definitely need upholstering fabric for pieces that are used often (like a couch).
3.Get all your tools ready. There aren’t any special tools required in reupholstering furniture, but you will need some for the job. Get these in advance to make work easier. You will need:
4.Prepare extra/optional supplies. You may not need the following supplies depending on your specific project, but they may come in handy for certain reupholstering projects. Scan through the list and see if any might be applicable for the piece of furniture you’re working on:
Reupholstering Your Furniture
1.Remove the current fabric from your furniture. Work slowly and meticulously to remove the fabric from your furniture by pulling out all the staples/tacks/screws that are holding it in place. Use your flat-head screwdriver or butter knife to carefully pull out every staple. Do not cut any of the fabric to remove it, as you will be using the pre-existing fabric as your pattern for the new upholstering fabric.
2.Clean the furniture. Removing the old fabric often exposes the dirty underside of your used furniture; it is best to clean up any messes or dirty areas prior to adding new furniture over the top. For couches, vacuum out the inside of the frame, and spray fabric cleaner onto the cushions and foam to freshen them up. Use a bit of wood oil or cleaner to prepare the wood parts of your furniture, and seal it if necessary.
3.Measure and cut your new fabric. Lay out all the fabric you removed from you furniture, making sure that you know which piece goes where (or where it went originally). Layer your new upholstery fabric out, and trace the old fabric shapes onto the new. This will serve as your pattern, and allow you to cut out all the necessary pieces for your project. Once you’ve gotten all the pieces measured/traced, you can very carefully cut out each section, making sure that you mark or keep track of where on the furniture it will be put.
4.Sew the fabric where necessary. Not all of the fabric you upholster will require sewing, in fact typically only cushion and arm covers or pieces of fabric with corners will require any sewing. Use the original fabric as your pattern, and mimic the same sewing pattern with your new fabric. Use a thread that will match the fabric, or use a clear plastic thread.
5.Staple your new fabric to the furniture. Work one section at a time, lining up your new fabric with its corresponding location on the furniture. Use your staple gun with staples of the appropriate length to attach the fabric securely to the furniture. Make sure there are no gaps, and fold/tuck the edges of each piece of fabric to give it a smooth finish.
6.Add any finishing touches. When all the fabric has been re-attached to your furniture, you should sew on any piping, buttons, or attach the feet/legs to the bottom of your furniture. This is your chance to make any last-minute changes or to add design details that might not have been on the original piece of furniture. If you decide you’re completely finished, give your piece of furniture a once-over to verify that there are no loose threads so-to-speak, and that it’s ready to be placed as a permanent fixture in your home.