A clean fabric sofa with throw pillows and a blanket arranged neatly on one end

How to Clean a Sofa or Couch

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Protect your investment in your sofa by learning how to clean it properly to remove odors, common sofa stains like food, ink, and pet accidents, and even how to wash or shampoo your sofa to deep clean it.

With regular attention and a few common household ingredients like detergent and baking soda, you can keep your sofa looking new for years.

Before You Begin

Not every sofa fabric is washable. To find out whether yours is, remove the cushions and look for a label on the seating area, or unzip the cushion covers and look for a label there. The American Home Furnishings Association developed the following codes on the label to help consumers understand the best method to clean upholstery.

W – Use a “water-based cleaner,” such as laundry detergent or dish soap combined with water. You can also use a commercial non-solvent upholstery shampoo.

S – Use a water-free, chemical-based solvent or dry-cleaning product. Cleaning with a water-based solution may cause spots or damage the fabric.

WS – Use either a water-based cleaner or a solvent-based cleaner.

X – Do not use any form of cleaner. Vacuum or brush only. Consult a professional upholstery cleaning service or dry cleaner about stains.

Equipment and materials

  • Vacuum with attachments
  • Baking soda (bicarbonate)
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths
  • Water
  • Mild liquid dish soap
  • Isopropyl alcohol (optional)
  • White vinegar (optional)
  • Oxygen bleach (optional)
  • Enzyme-based laundry detergent (optional)

Steps to Clean a Sofa or Couch

Step 1: Deodorize and vacuum

Remove all throw pillows and cushions from the sofa. Sprinkle the entire sofa and all cushions with baking soda. Use your hand to pat the powder into the fabric so it bonds with moisture and odor-causing substances. Wait 15 minutes, then vacuum with the upholstery attachment.

Use your vacuums crevice tool around the base of the seating platform to remove crumbs, pet hair, and other debris. Switch to the vacuum’s upholstery attachment and go over your sofa’s seating platform, arms, sides, and back. Continue using the upholstery attachment to vacuum all surfaces of the cushions.

Step 2: Get rid of sofa stains

Do not saturate the fabric or cushions when you’re cleaning sofa stains. Too much moisture turns to mold and mildew in your sofa, which is very difficult to remove. So, wring out your cleaning cloths until they’re only lightly damp and blot the treated areas with a dry towel after removing stains. You can point a fan at the cushion to speed up drying, but do not use a blow-dryer or other heated method since this can damage your sofa’s fabrics.

  • Food and Grease Stains: Mix 2 cups of warm water with 1 teaspoon of a liquid dish detergent unit a froth forms. Dampen the corner of a clean microfiber cloth with the suds and dab at the stain. Do not rub or saturate the cushion. Rotate the cloth as needed so you’re always working with a clean spot as you lift the stain. Once the stain is gone, wipe the upholstery with a fresh damp cloth, then blot dry.
  • Ink stains: Use plain isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and a white cloth to remove ink stains from sofa fabrics. Dab the area to transfer the ink from your sofa to the material. Do NOT rub. As the stain lifts, switch to a new area of your cloth and continue until the ink is gone. Once the area is clean, go over it with a fresh damp cloth and blot it dry.
  • Urine stains: Blot fresh urine before treating the stain and odor with equal parts of distilled white vinegar and warm water dabbed onto the spot. Wait 5 minutes, then pat the area dry with a fresh towel. The vinegar neutralizes the odor and disinfects the area.
  • Poop or vomit stains: If the mess is recent, use a paper plate to scrape up as much of the solid matter as possible and discard it in the trash. Then, stir 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of oxygen bleach, and 1 teaspoon of liquid dish detergent into 2 cups of warm water. Use this to dab the stain, switching to fresh rags as needed. Once the stain is gone, go over the area with a new cloth lightly dampened with rubbing alcohol to kill germs. Let this air dry.

Step 3: Wash cushion covers

If your manufacturer’s label allows it, you can remove the cushion covers and launder them in your washing machine or by hand in the sink or bathtub.

  • Pretreat any stains before washing the sofa cushion covers.
  • Wash only two at a time to avoid friction, which can damage your upholstery.
  • Select the gentle cycle and cold water setting for the wash and rinse, and use an enzyme-based detergent specifically designed for cold water cleaning.
  • Air dry the covers to avoid shrinkage and put them back on the sofa cushions when they’re dry.

How to Shampoo a Sofa

To shampoo your sofa, work slowly, in overlapping sections, using an enzyme-based upholstery shampoo and as little water as possible. Do not press the upholstery attachment into the fabric too hard, or you may damage the sofa and your machine.

Once you’ve cleaned an area, use the extraction tool to remove as much water as possible, then go over the surface again at a right angle. Use clean, dry towels to blot the sofa, then use a fan to help it finish drying.

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