Steam cleaners utilize pressurized steam from heated water to clean both soft and hard surfaces. This method requires zero cleaning solutions and chemicals, making it a preferred cleaning procedure for many health-conscious users, as well as those with sensitivities or allergies. Steam cleaning lifts away dirt and grime from upholstery and other materials while killing germs, bacteria, and pathogens, leaving behind freshened and deodorized surfaces. In addition to cleaning upholstery, steam cleaners also function well for sanitizing sealed floors, windows, tile, and other indoor and outdoor applications. Read on to learn about the best upholstery steam cleaner for your home.
- BEST OVERALL: LIGHT ‘N’ EASY Multi-Functional steam mop Steamer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Bissell Steam Shot 39N7V
- BEST FOR CAR UPHOLSTERY: AutoRight C900054.M Wagner Spraytech SteamMachine
- BEST FOR VERSATILITY: Bissell PowerFresh Lift-Off Pet Steam Mop, Steamer
- BEST CANISTER MODEL: McCulloch MC1375 Canister Steam Cleaner
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner Multipurpose Heavy Duty
- BEST FOR SPOT CLEANING: Steamfast SF-210 Steam Cleaner with 6 Accessories
- BEST ACCESSORIES: COSTWAY Multipurpose Steam Cleaner, 19 Accessories
- BEST HANDHELD: PurSteam World’s Best Steamers Handheld Cleaner
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Upholstery Steam Cleaner
Before purchasing an upholstery steam cleaner, it’s essential to consider what your needs are. Manufacturers offer a wide array of types, sizes, water tank capacities, attachments, and accessories, each with their own benefits and optimal uses. Ahead, learn about the features that may influence your selection process as you search for the best upholstery steam cleaner to suit your purposes.
Steam cleaners that work well for upholstery materials are versatile and capable of taking on many other cleaning tasks around the house. Depending on the type, steam cleaners tackle dirt, grime, and messes on both soft and hard surfaces, indoors and outdoors. Here’s an overview of the types of steam cleaners available on the market, along with information about how they function for cleaning upholstery.
- Handheld steam cleaners make upholstery cleaning easy as users simply hold the steamer units adjacent to the upholstered furniture and move them along the surface.
- Vacuum-type steam cleaners facilitate the cleaning of floors and carpets, but many of them feature reconfiguration capability, breaking down into handheld units that work well for upholstery. Users move the handheld units along the surface of upholstery fabric for cleaning.
- Vapor steam cleaners utilize steam from water heated to at least 240 to 260 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in a low-moisture vapor that leaves minimal residual dampness. Vapor steam cleaners utilize higher temperatures than many other steam cleaners do.
- Cylinder steam cleaners (also known as canister steam cleaners) feature steam hoses attached to the rolling cylinders or canisters that hold large-capacity water tanks for extended steam-cleaning time. Attachments for the steam hoses facilitate upholstery cleaning as users move them along the surface.
- Garment steam cleaners feature handheld nozzles on the ends of steam hoses that attach to water tanks. The steam loosens and lifts dirt, deodorizes, and freshens upholstery fabrics on furniture as well as clothing.
Size and Weight
Consider how you plan on using your steam cleaner to determine the ideal size and weight. Larger and heavier models offer the capacity for heavy-duty cleaning and extensive cleaning sessions, while small and lightweight units offer the advantages of portability and convenience for quick cleanups.
For example, canister models are considerably larger and weigh more than handheld steam cleaners, but they offer the advantage of large-capacity water tanks that deliver continuous steam for anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes. On the other hand, a small handheld steamer weighs much less than a canister or vacuum type, but it holds less water and produces steam for only a few minutes before it requires refilling.
Corded vs. Cordless
Most steam cleaners operate on corded electrical power from standard household outlets. After the electrical power source heats the water in the cleaner’s water tank to above 212 degrees Fahrenheit, creating steam, the pressurized steam is forced through a hose or a nozzle, delivering powerful cleaning action to household surfaces.
Some steam cleaners include extra-long power cords for enhanced maneuverability, allowing users to access hard-to-reach places throughout the home for cleaning and sanitizing.
While not as common as corded models, cordless steam cleaners operate on rechargeable batteries, typically 18-volt lithium-ion, to offer extra convenience and portability.
Power and Runtime
Battery runtime is not an issue for most steam cleaners, as corded electricity is the predominant power source. For those few cordless steam cleaners on the market, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries provide power. A fully charged battery delivers approximately 20 minutes of cordless runtime for a steam cleaner.
For corded, electric steam cleaners, the runtime is associated with the volume of water held in their tanks. Larger water tanks in canister models may produce steam for up to 90 minutes of continuous cleaning. Alternatively, the small water tanks in lightweight, handheld steam cleaners produce enough steam for approximately 8 to 10 minutes of runtime. Of course, the tanks may be refilled as often as necessary for continuous cleaning.
Heating time is another feature to consider. Related to the volume capacity of the water tanks and the power of the heating elements, heating times vary from approximately 30 seconds to 12 minutes. A faster heating time means that the water converts to steam more quickly, allowing the user to jump right into the task at hand.
In the process of selecting the best steam cleaner for upholstery, shoppers may also want to consider their needs for a steamer that is capable of accomplishing other cleaning tasks. Many steam cleaners offer versatility via low, medium, and high steam pressure settings. Users can adjust the settings to facilitate cleaning various surfaces and accomplishing either light freshening jobs or the tough removal of stuck-on dirt, grime, and stains.
Cleaning upholstery requires low to medium steam pressure, depending on the type of fabric and the degree of soil. Delicate upholstery fabric should be steam-cleaned on the lowest steam setting. Thicker, more durable fabric can tolerate a medium steam setting, especially if tough stains and stuck-on messes present cleaning challenges. Manufacturers of some steam cleaners recommend their use on leather upholstery, but users should check manufacturers’ information before using steam cleaners on leather furniture.
Alternatively, users can adjust the steam pressure settings to medium or high for cleaning hard surfaces. High-pressure steam works well on tile, grout, granite, stainless steel, and sealed flooring. Keep in mind that using a high-pressure setting will cause the steam to run out more quickly, resulting in the need to refill the water tank.
Every steam cleaner contains a water tank with a heating element that heats the water above 212 degrees Fahrenheit to produce steam. Handheld units include tanks that generally hold about 6 to 8 ounces of water for steam production. These are lightweight and easy to handle, but they produce steam for only about 8 to 10 minutes before the small water tanks run dry. Handheld steam cleaners are ideal for quick touch-ups and brief everyday cleaning chores.
On the other hand, users sometimes need to tackle cleaning jobs that require extended steam- producing runtimes. For these tasks, larger steam cleaners with increased water-tank capacities fill the bill.
Canister or cylinder steam cleaners feature larger water tanks that usually hold about 40 to 54 ounces of water. Heating the larger volumes of water to build up steam, these types of steam cleaners can deliver up to 90 minutes of continuous steam for extended cleaning sessions.
When steam-cleaning upholstery, users must maneuver the steam-releasing units over and under the curved surfaces of furniture and into cracks and crevices. For this reason, steam cleaners with long power cords as well as extension hoses with easy to hold nozzles make the job easier. Maneuverability is a particularly valuable feature for reaching into a vehicle to clean car interiors, which are susceptible to accumulating dirt and debris.
Some steam cleaners offer power cords up to 18 feet long and steam hoses up to 8 feet long. With these features, users can direct the steam to hard-to-reach places for accurate targeting of dirt and grime.
A canister or a cylinder steam cleaner with a long extension hose allows users to reach into nooks and crannies. Alternatively, a lightweight handheld steamer with a long power cord provides up-close and targeted cleaning power.
Many steam cleaners include attachments to facilitate cleaning a variety of objects and materials. Some common attachments include steam hoses, straight nozzles, angled nozzles, metal brushes, nylon brushes, window squeegees, mop pads, and scrapers.
For steam-cleaning upholstery, nylon brushes, steam hoses, and angled nozzles work particularly well, allowing users to maneuver the steam over, under, and around curved surfaces.
Shoppers looking for steam cleaners that can accomplish a range of cleaning jobs beyond sanitizing upholstery should take note of what attachments, if any, are included with each available steam cleaner.
Our Top Picks
The following products are some of the best on the market for steam-cleaning upholstered furniture. Chosen for their design, water tank capacities, power options, accessories, and versatility, these steam cleaners are capable of keeping upholstered furniture fresh and clean.
Health-minded users who avoid cleaning with harsh chemicals will appreciate that this versatile steam cleaner is capable of tackling stains, odors, grime, and messes on a wide variety of surfaces, including upholstery, with nothing more than plain tap water.
Use this multifunction steam cleaner as a floor mop, then quickly modify it into a handheld steamer with the hose and brush attachments for cleaning fabric and leather upholstery as well as clothing. Remove the hose, and the handheld unit sprays steam directly onto surfaces for cleansing and sanitizing.
For safety and peace of mind, steam escapes only when the user activates the smart switch and touch sensor, which both function to prevent accidental steam release.
In its fully assembled floor-mop configuration, the Light ‘n’ Easy steam cleaner measures 46.4 inches tall by 11.8 inches wide and 6.8 deep, and it weighs 6.3 pounds.
For a budget-friendly price, this handheld steamer from Bissell cleans multiple surfaces in the home, including upholstery. An easy-to-press trigger activates the release of high-pressure steam capable of eliminating 99 percent of household germs and bacteria. Additionally, the action of high-pressure steam delivers 100 percent chemical-free cleaning, keeping surfaces safe for pets and children.
A 6.6-ounce water tank provides ample capacity to accomplish small cleaning jobs before refilling. The water heats up in only 30 seconds, allowing users to jump right into everyday cleaning chores. This diminutive handheld steam cleaner measures 5 inches by 9.5 inches by 8.5 inches and weighs only 3.83 pounds. An included accessory kit features a nozzle, a flat scraping tool, a grout brush, an angle concentrator, and three color-coded brushes.
Get more enjoyment out of driving by keeping the car’s interior clean and free of unpleasant odors with the AutoRight steamer from Wagner Spraytech. This steam-cleaning machine is well suited for sanitizing car upholstery, floor mats, dashboards, and other surfaces.
Featuring a canister design, this steamer includes an 8-foot steam hose for accessing those hard-to-reach places, as well as 11 attachments, including multiple nozzles and brushes. A built-in carrying handle facilitates portability for the 9.75-pound unit.
The water tank holds up to 40 ounces of distilled water (not regular tap water). A 1500-watt heating element heats the water to 290 degrees Fahrenheit for a maximum steam pressure of 55 pounds per square inch (psi). When starting with a full water tank, this machine can provide users with 35 to 45 minutes of continuous steam cleaning.
This steam-cleaning unit from Bissell is designed with versatility in mind. In its fully assembled form, it functions as a heavy-duty floor mop. Alternatively, users can detach the canister and deploy it along with the extension hose and attachments for steam-cleaning upholstery, pet beds, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, and a variety of other surfaces.
An included tool bag holds a set of 13 accessories for a broad array of cleaning applications. The included fabric steamer attachment works especially well with the handheld portion of this steam cleaner for cleansing, deodorizing, and sanitizing upholstery.
Water in the 12-ounce tank heats up in a mere 30 seconds, producing steam that kills up to 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria. The 25-foot power cord facilitates steam cleaning even the most hard-to-reach places. This steam mop measures 13.2 inches by 11.4 inches by 44.7 inches and weighs 10.6 pounds.
Thanks to its canister design, this steamer houses a large-capacity water tank that delivers up to 90 minutes of continuous steam-cleaning power. The tank holds 48 ounces of regular tap water, and it heats to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit in under 12 minutes.
The on-demand, variable steam-flow system allows users to dial in an exact steam flow from low pressure up to 58 pounds per square inch (psi). Accessing hard-to-reach spaces is easy thanks to an 18-foot power cord and a 10-foot steam hose.
With 20 included accessories, this unit can take on a multitude of housecleaning tasks. In addition to refreshing upholstery, this steamer works on ceramic tile, sealed flooring, grout, and more. It measures 15.55 inches by 12.13 inches by 10.5 inches and weighs 10.78 pounds.
When it comes to taking on big cleaning jobs, this large-capacity steam cleaner should do the trick. Thanks to the combination of a portable, cube-shaped unit containing an impressive 54-ounce water tank, 16-foot power cord, and 6.5-foot steam hose, the Dupray steamer is capable of delivering 50 minutes of continuous steam with ample maneuverability to reach furniture and surfaces throughout the home. The wheels on this steam cleaner allow for smooth rolling from room to room, and a retractable handle makes carrying this 9-pound unit a breeze.
Water in the tank heats to 275 degrees Fahrenheit in only 7 minutes, producing steam that kills 99.9 percent of bacteria, viruses, and pathogens in upholstery, bedding, and other household surfaces.
When those everyday oops moments occur, this convenient steam cleaner makes short work of sanitizing household surfaces, including upholstery. The 6-ounce water tank heats up in just 3 minutes, producing 8 minutes of pressurized steam for removing 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria.
Despite its small size—it weighs just 2.6 pounds—this handheld cleaner is surprisingly versatile. Use one of the six included attachments for cleaning upholstered furniture as well as a wide array of hard surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms. A 12.5-foot power cord allows for easy maneuverability, while the 28-inch extension hose offers even greater capacity for reaching out-of-the-way surfaces and overlooked crevices.
This portable and compact steam cleaner measures only 8.25 inches by 5.5 inches by 10.5 inches, making it an excellent choice for those who are short on storage space.
This multipurpose steam cleaner includes 19 attachments which make it capable of taking on a variety of cleaning tasks around the home. When it comes to cleaning upholstery, the steam jet nozzle and nylon brushes are especially helpful. Functional accessories such as a mophead, brass utility brushes, a scrubbing pad, and a squeegee facilitate cleaning and sanitizing not only upholstery, but also sealed floors, bathroom tile, kitchen appliances, and children’s toys. The 16-foot power cord and 79-inch steam hose, as well as the wheels, a rolling caster, and ergonomically designed curved handle, offer ample maneuverability for reaching numerous surfaces in the home.
In addition to removing dirt, grime, spills, and messes, this steam cleaner sanitizes household surfaces. Unseen and undesirable intruders such as germs, bacteria, viruses, mold spores, and bedbugs are no match for the 226-degree Fahrenheit pressurized steam.
The Costway steam cleaner holds 52 ounces of water in its tank, heating it to produce steam in under 10 minutes. It delivers 45 minutes of continuous steam-cleaning time. The unit measures 17 inches by 11 inches by 14 inches and weighs 10.8 pounds.
Weighing in at just 2.2 pounds, this portable steam cleaner provides convenient and chemical-free cleaning for a variety of household surfaces both indoors and out. The 9.8-foot power cord allows users to maneuver throughout the home with ease.
This versatile unit includes nine accessories for handling a range of cleaning tasks. In particular, the included extension hose, a nylon brush, an ironing brush, and an angled nozzle provide efficient cleaning action for upholstery. Additional accessories facilitate targeted cleaning of ceramic tile, granite tile, washable wallpaper, and more. The water heats up to 289.4 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of minutes, producing pressurized steam for cleaning mattresses, bedding, furniture, and draperies. Its convenient size and handheld design also make it an optimal choice for cleaning up spills and pet accidents. Use it on hard surfaces in bathrooms and kitchens to eliminate hard water deposits or to sanitize food-preparation areas.
FAQs About Your New Upholstery Steam Cleaner
With a steam cleaner, you can clean upholstery without strong detergents, cleaning solutions, or chemicals. Using small handheld steamers or larger units with extension hoses and nozzles, you can cleanse and deodorize even the most hard-to-reach nooks and crannies of upholstered furniture and car interiors. For a healthier home environment, steam-cleaning the upholstery delivers peace of mind by removing germs, mold, bacteria, and bedbugs. The answers to the following frequently asked questions may assist you as you begin to use your new upholstery steam cleaner.
Q. What surfaces can a steam cleaner be used on?
Steam cleaners can be used on both hard and soft household surfaces, including upholstery, clothing, sealed flooring, ceramic tile, grout, stainless steel, and more.
Q. Do upholstery steam cleaners utilize chemicals?
No. The primary reason for using steam cleaners is that the cleaning action comes from pressurized steam created by heated water, which contains zero cleaning solutions or chemicals.
Q. Should hot or cold water be put in a steam cleaner?
Pour cold water into the tank of the steam cleaner. The heating element will heat the water to produce steam.
Q. Does steam-cleaning kill bugs?
Yes. Steam-cleaning kills bedbugs on the surface of mattresses and bedding as well as those embedded ¾-inch deep into the fabric surfaces.
Q. How long should upholstery be steam-cleaned?
Hold the steamer nozzle on the upholstered surface to release the steam, but keep it moving. Don’t hold the nozzle in one place so long that the upholstery becomes damp.