Carpets and upholstery are both made of fabric. Therefore, it seems logical to assume that you can use your carpet cleaner on your upholstery. But can you?

The simple answer is usually, “yes” you can. Most carpet cleaner manufacturers supply their units with attachments designed specifically for things like your couch or drapes.

However, you still need to exercise caution. Carpets and upholstery are not the same, so carpet cleaners may not be appropriate in all situations. 

Carpets are usually made of a mixture of three synthetic materials: nylon, polyester and polypropylene. All of these are derivatives of crude oil. Upholstery cleaning, on the other hand, is sometimes made of these materials, and sometimes others (such as cotton or silk).

Because of this, carpet cleaner manufacturers always provide instructions for which materials you can use their devices on, and which you can’t. Some may offer different settings designed for specific materials, applying varying levels of heat and pressure, depending on the application.

How to use a carpet cleaner on upholstery

Carpet cleaners are large devices that look a bit like conventional vacuums. While they work great on floors, lifting them up and moving them across your drapes or the couch isn’t practical.

Fortunately, most manufacturers supply their cleaners with upholstery attachments – something we make good use of at Couch Masters. You typically fit these attachments on the end of hoses that connect to the main unit. They tend to be quite small and easily maneuverable, allowing you to move them across your couch or up and down your drapes, ottomans or anything else you need to clean.

Preparing your upholstery

Before using a carpet cleaner on your upholstery, you’ll need to prepare it first. Start by removing any crumbs or debris on the surface. Existing large particles will prevent the cleaning solution from penetrating the fabric as well, leading to poor results.

Next, vacuum the upholstery from top to bottom. Start with the backing cushions and then move onto the armrests and the main seating cushions. If your cushions are removable, you can take them out and vacuum the back to remove more dust. You can also vacuum any upholstery that wraps around the rear of the sofa.

Find the right cleaning solution

The majority of commercial carpet cleaning solutions are water-based. These are generally safe and compatible with any upholstery with W or WS on the label.

Before you clean your upholstery, check the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. Some will explicitly tell you not to use a carpet cleaner on certain types of upholstery, in which case, you will need to dry clean them.

Using a carpet cleaner on your couch

Once you have the right solution for your application, you’re ready to begin cleaning.

If you’re cleaning the couch, start by filling the carpet cleaner’s tank with the recommended combination of water and cleaning solution. Then extend the upholstery attachment and place it out in front of you on the couch material you want to clean. Then pull it towards your body in a smooth action. Repeat this all over the couch several times until you have cleaned all of the surfaces. It should look visibly brighter afterwards.

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