Cleaning 101: How to Clean a Sofa

Cleaning 101: How to Clean a Sofa

Cleaning 101: How to Clean a Sofa

Keep your couch looking brand new with these tips.


Daily care and at-home cleaners can keep your sofa looking beautiful for years. In the case of a spill, stain, or general wear and tear, follow our tips on how to clean a couch.


Step 1: Decode Manufacturer’s Instructions
When learning how to clean a couch, the first thing you must do is look at the instructions provided by the manufacturer. This information can be found on the tag of the couch, where you will find cleaning directions or a letter code. The letter codes inform you which cleaning methods can be used safely on your couch.


W: Only water-based detergents are allowed.
S: Only dry, solvent-based cleaners may be used.
S/W: Both water-based or dry, solvent-based cleaners are allowed.
X: Only vacuuming is allowed; further cleaning will have to be done by professionals who specialize in how to clean a couch with this description.


Step 2: Prep Your Couch
Before going all in, make sure to prep your couch for an initial cleaning phase that will remove any loose crumbs or dirt. Vacuum debris and dirt from the surface and crevices with a hand vacuum or brush attachment. Then use a lint roller to gather up any pet hair or fuzz that the vacuum may have missed. If your couch has removable cushion covers, unzip them and remove them from the cushion - leave the white batting on, though. Then turn them inside out and wash them in the washing machine. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions - many require the gentle cycle and warm water.


Step 3: Face the Stains
Now that your couch is free of any surface debris, it is time to tackle any spots. Using the referenced cleaner from the couch label, follow these next steps to feel assured when facing any stain.


Immediate Stains
Grab a clean, absorbent, light-colored cloth and blot (don’t rub) at an immediate spill. Blot from the outside inward to prevent a ring from forming. Then, with a clean, damp cloth (with no soap), blot the stain again to remove remaining soap. Finally, use a new microfiber cloth to blot it dry.


Aging Stains
If you are going to treat a stain with a cleaning agent, test it ahead of time in a small, hidden area. If your couch can be cleaned with water, use an upholstery steamer to break up any dirt or stains that the vacuum did not grab. If you don’t have an upholstery steamer, grab your iron and put it on the "steam" setting. Proceed to wave it back and forth across any trouble spots. If steam proves to be unsuccessful, try blotting at the stain with a damp cloth and a small amount of dish soap. Make sure to wipe away any excess water with a clean towel, and let the material air dry to fully see if the stain has been dealt with. If the stain persists, try going at it with a tougher cleaner. If a dry solvent is required, pour the cleaner on a white cloth and blot at the stain. A little goes a long way, so don’t be tempted to use a large amount of any harsh cleaner. Sometimes, the trick is just to repeat the step a few times before the stain disappears.



A trick for cleaning grease stains is to sprinkle a bit of baking soda on the area, let it absorb the oil for 30 minutes, and then vacuum up the remaining powder.


Preventative Care

Simple care between full cleanings can prevent dirt and stains from settling into the upholstery, extending the life of your couch.

  • If possible, rotate the cushions and pillows once a month for even wear.

  • Plump the cushions regularly by hitting the sides and dropping them onto a clean surface to keep them in their original shape.

  • Avoid placing your couch in direct sunlight.

  • For fabric upholstery, vacuum debris and dirt from the surface as well as in the crevices with a hand vacuum or brush attachment weekly.

  • Leather furniture should be dusted weekly with a soft cloth and treated with a conditioner every 6-12 months to keep it smooth and lustrous.


Slip Covers

At the end of the day, slipcovers are the easiest way to keep your couch clean by protecting it from dirt and spills. They come in a variety of colors and designs, and most are machine washable. Brush or vacuum your slipcovers at least once a month, and follow the cleaning instructions provided.