I love a cream colored sofa. They are light, chic, beachy, and when I see a family with small kids or pets with a clean, cream colored sofa I think to myself, “wow, they really have it together.” A beautiful cream sofa felt both aspirational and unattainable to me as a mom with two small (messy) boys.
You see, I am a woman who wants to be a chill, effortless mom and hostess but deep deep down cringes with every spill and stain. I wasn’t sure that I could handle the stress of keeping a cream colored sofa clean… That was before I learned about upholstery steam cleaners.
Upholstery steam cleaners are a GIFT to pet parents, small child parents, or just regular adult people who sometimes spill food on their sofas while watching TV. In a matter of minutes, deep, dark stains can be lifted from upholstery with the power of steam.
If you have upholstered sofas, dining chairs, drapery, mattresses, or car upholstery that needs cleaning or spot treating on a regular basis then it’s time for you to invest in an upholstery steam cleaner. In this post I am sharing five of the best upholstery steam cleaners on the market.
Best Cordless: Bissell Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush
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This machine is great for handling concentrated stains. Pet accidents, child accidents, food spills, crayon marks, and more. This steam cleaner works best on stains set on a flat surface (e.g. carpet or a seat cushion). Simply place the Bissell SpotBot on the stain, choose a clean setting, and walk away for 6 minutes while the machine does the cleaning for you.
For fresh or lighter stains you can choose a quick clean setting. For older, more set in stains there is a deep clean option. This steam cleaner is relatively lightweight at less than 13 pounds, making it easy to carry around the house as needed.
I like that there is also a hose cleaning attachment so you can clean vertical surfaces like the backrest or back cushions on a sofa or chair. Ultimately what I like best about this cleaner is how effective it is at removing stains. With little to no effort, you can remove stains from any upholstered or carpeted item in your home.
- Best for hands free spot cleaning
- Self cleaning hose
- Quick clean and deep clean settings
- Hose attachment has a narrow cleaning path
- Main machine cleans only one 5-6 inch spot at a time
- Hose attachment will become brittle after heavy use
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 9 x 17 x 13.5 inches
- Weight: 12.5 pounds
- Capacity: 30.6 ounces
- Cord Length: 16 Feet
- Surfaces: Upholstery, carpet, stairs
The Hoover CleanSlate Plus is the lowest cost steam cleaner that will effectively remove stains from your sofa. This machine is very lightweight at only 9 pounds making it super convenient to carry from room to room.
I love that the hose is self cleaning. This feature will minimize bad odors and bacteria from building up inside the hose between uses. With that said, one of the main complaints in customer reviews is that Hoover does not sell a replacement hose. Steam cleaner hoses tend to wear out more quickly than the machine itself so it’s nice to have the option to replace it in the future if needed.
There aren’t any frills or fancy attachments but I don’t think those are necessary here. If you want a machine that is simple to use and effective at removing stains for a budget-friendly price, then this is the steam cleaner for you.
- Budget-friendly and effective
- Lightweight for easy portability
- 5 foot self cleaning hose
- Minimal attachments
- Can’t buy replacement hoses if leaks or damage occurs
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 9.72 x 13.94 x 15.04 inches
- Weight: 9 pounds
- Capacity: 51 ounces (clean and dirty water)
- Cord Length: 14 feet
- Surfaces: Carpet, upholstery
Best Cordless: Bissell 2837 Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush
We all know that the sooner we tackle a stain, the more likely we are to successfully remove it. But if we have to dig through a cluttered closet or garage to find the right cleaning tool, then we are less likely to tackle a fresh stain right then and there.
This is where the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser shines. It’s a cordless, compact machine that is easy to grab and use as soon as a stain occurs. At only 4.4 pounds, this handheld upholstery steamer is light enough for kids to use (and maybe even clean up after their own spills…).
Not only is this stain eraser great for lifting kid and pet stains, the bristles in the brush attachment also effectively remove pet hair from upholstered surfaces as you clean.
The only tradeoff for the cordless, lightweight features of this machine is a narrow 3 inch cleaning path and a shorter runtime. Battery will last about 20 minutes so this is not the solution for larger steam cleaning projects.
- Cordless (rechargeable lithium ion battery)
- Small capacity
- Short runtime
- Must use with Bissell Oxy cleaning solution
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 16.46 x 5.67 x 8.5 inches
- Weight: 4.4 pounds
- Capacity: 8 ounces
- Cord Length: Cordless
- Run Time: 20 minutes
- Surfaces: Carpet, upholstery
The Bissell Little Green Upholstery Cleaner is less than 10 pounds and is easy to store. The narrow brush nozzle is only 3 inches so this isn’t a machine you will grab for large surface area projects. It’s best when used to clean tight crevices like the corners of a sofa or the upholstery in a car.
Overall, this little machine is powerful enough to clean things like seat cushions, sofa cushions, and small area rugs with ease.
- Self cleaning hose
- Lightweight and portable
- Narrow 3 inch cleaning path is good for reaching into small corners and crevices
- Not good for cleaning large areas
- Only one attachment
- Brush head requires detailed cleaning to minimize odors
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 8.25 x 17.25 x 12.5 inches
- Weight: 9.65 Pounds
- Capacity: 48 ounces
- Cord Length: 15 feet
- Surfaces: Upholstery, carpet
Best for Pet Owners: Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner, 2X Suction Power, Lightweight Dual Action Pet Tool
The Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner is one of the strongest when it comes to suction among these upholstery steam cleaners. Customers love that it arrives fully assembled and ready to use right out of the box. Plus the hose attachment on this machine is sturdier and longer lasting than many Bissell competitor machines.
This upholstery steamer works best on recent pet stains but will do a great job at lifting older, more set stains as well. With that said, it’s still a good idea to pre-treat older stains prior to cleaning with the Rug Doctor Pet Portable Upholstery Spot Cleaner.
Reviewers suggest cleaning the area once with an upholstery or carpet cleaning solution, then refilling the machine with hot water and steaming the area one more time. Doing this will help remove residual cleaning solution from the upholstered surface. It will also leave your furniture or carpet feeling softer and less stiff from the cleaning solution.
- Sturdy hose attachment lasts longer than Bissell competitor machines
- Dual action brush head picks up pet hair and cleans up accidents and spills
- Easy to roll from room to room with extendable handle and wheels
- Heavier and bulkier than competitor machines
- Water canisters do not sit flat for refilling with cleaning solution or water
- Handle is awkward for using to clean floor pans in a car
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 16.02 x 10.94 x 15.63 inches
- Weight: 18.86 pounds
- Capacity: 64 ounces
- Cord Length: 15 feet
- Surfaces: Upholstery, carpet
Helpful Considerations Before Purchasing
Before you make your final purchase decision it’s important to consider your needs and weigh them against product features.
Handheld upholstery steam cleaners are great for spot cleaning carpets and upholstery. Upright upholstery steam cleaners are better for carpeted flooring or large rugs where you’re cleaning a large surface area.
You want to make sure your upholstery steam cleaner has separate compartments for clean and dirty water. Most will allow you to add a cleaning solution for a more powerful result, but you can always start by steam cleaning with plain water for lighter stains or regular cleaning.
Different steam cleaners are manufactured for different surfaces. Some steamers are meant to release wrinkles and smells from clothing or drapery. Others are designed to primarily clean tile or glass surfaces but come with upholstery attachments. Upholstery steam cleaners (like the ones on this list) are meant to spot clean rugs, carpeting, and upholstered furniture or car interiors.
If you do plan on steam cleaning your upholstered sofas and chairs, take a minute to first check for a care tag. If you can locate it, many upholstered furniture care tags will include a letter code for how to treat stains:
- W: Only water-based cleaning agents should be used.
- S: Only solvent-based cleaning agents should be used.
- S/W: Both water- and solvent-based cleaning agents are safe to use.
- X: Never use water- or solvent-based cleaning agents. Only clean by vacuuming or light brushing.
Understanding the care requirements of your upholstery and other surfaces in your home will help you make a more informed purchase decision.
If you live in a house with lots of stairs then portability might be a priority for you. Check the weight and size of the upholstery steam cleaner prior to purchasing. Options that can be rolled throughout your house on wheels (like the Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner) might also work well.
The tradeoff for a lightweight more portable machine is capacity. Smaller capacity means more frequent refills of the water/solution tank during or between jobs, which can be inconvenient and time-consuming.
Capacity and Runtime
Speaking of capacity, most upholstery steam cleaners are corded which means they plug in and don’t lose power like a cordless battery powered steamer will. Because of this, the “runtime” is usually going to depend on the capacity of your upholstery steam cleaner.
Determine what type of steam cleaning jobs you need to tackle. One small job at a time? Or a full house steam clean a few times a year? Knowing how you like to clean can help you determine what capacity would be most convenient for you.
Upholstery steam cleaners typically come with at least one hose and brush head attachment. Others come with multiple attachments for various cleaning jobs. It’s important to know whether or not attachments are easily replaceable before making a purchase.
Upholstery steam cleaner hoses tend to wear down far more quickly than the machine itself so replacements will likely be necessary at some point down the road.
Product Comparison Chart
Best Practices for Using an Upholstery Steam Cleaner
Before adding any steam or moisture, it’s always a good idea to vacuum the surface and remove loose, dry debris first. Adding steam on top of dirt or other debris will create a bigger mess to clean.
If the stain is wet, start by scraping off what you can. Then soak up excess moisture by pressing it with a cleaning rag or towel first.
For older stains it’s a good idea to apply a pre-treatment prior to steam cleaning. Let the pre-treatment activate on the stain for 10-15 minutes (following manufacturer instructions).
Now apply steam and vacuum excess moisture using your upholstery steam cleaner. Run the brush attachment over the stain slowly and repeatedly until the stain has lifted.
I like to do a second pass over treated areas with my upholstery steam cleaner and water (no commercial cleaning solution). Doing this will remove any residue left behind from the cleaning solution. It will also leave the fibers of your upholstered furniture or carpet feeling softer and less stiff.
Note: It might go without saying, but always test a small area in an inconspicuous location before steam cleaning your favorite furniture or rugs.
What surfaces can a steam cleaner be used on?
Upholstery steam cleaners (like the ones listed in this article) are best used to clean and remove stains from upholstered furniture, carpets, drapery, and car upholstery.
Garment steamers are best used on clothing to remove wrinkles and release some smells. These are not used for stain removal.
Lastly, there are high temperature steam cleaners that are manufactured to clean hard, sealed surfaces. Think ceramic tile, grout, granite countertops, windows and mirrors, appliances, and more. These high temperature steam cleaners can remove heavy grime and even kill bugs on upholstered furniture or mattresses.
Do upholstery steam cleaners require chemicals to clean?
Considering the fact that water is technically a chemical… the short answer to this question is yes. However, when it comes to more complex chemical cleaning solutions you have a choice. Using commercial cleaning solutions will render more dramatic, impressive, and successful results. But of course, you do not HAVE to use cleaning solutions with an upholstery steam cleaner.
An approach I like to use when removing stains is to first go over stains with an Oxy fabric cleaning solution in my upholstery steamer. Then I do a second pass with just water to remove any residual cleaning solution. This two step process leaves me with softer fabric/carpet and a cleaner result without any residue.
Should I fill my steam cleaner with hot or cold water?
Read the instruction manual for your upholstery steam cleaning machine to confirm. Most machines recommend using lukewarm or cool water.
Can a steam cleaner kill bed bugs?
Yes. A steam cleaner that can reach very high temperatures (like the McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner) will kill bed bugs. None of the upholstery steamers on this list advertise the ability to reach the temperatures required to do this.
How long should upholstery be steam cleaned in one spot?
It usually isn’t a good idea to let upholstery steam cleaner hose heads sit in the same spot for a long time. Typically you’re going to want to keep it moving slowly and steadily – much like an iron. Other steam spot cleaners like the Bissell SpotBot are a “set it and forget it” design. You can set the machine over the top of a specific stain and let it run automatically for 5-6 minutes before removing it.