How to Clean a Couch

Evelyn Long

Aug 31, 2022


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Few things are more frustrating than dusting off your couch only to find that it’s still covered with dirty spots. If you want a sanitary and visually appealing living space, you need to learn how to clean a couch the right way. Follow this guide to make your couch look good as new, no matter its age or fabric.

How to Clean a Fabric Sofa

Fabric sofas are easier to clean than leather sofas, so let’s start there. First, let’s go over a tried-and-true cleaning hack to get rid of stains: the vinegar and baking soda method. Just follow these steps to remove dirt and stains with ease:

  1. Add a few drops of vinegar to a half cup of water.
  2. Put the solution in a spray bottle.
  3. Spray the problematic area with the solution until wet. You don’t have to drench it.
  4. Sprinkle baking soda over the area and let it soak for 20+ minutes.
  5. Brush or vacuum the baking soda off the couch after the soaking period.
  6. Blot the area with a paper towel to remove the last bits of residue.
  7. Let the spot air-dry.

This method will work on minor messes like oil and grease stains, but serious upholstery damage requires a more extensive cleaning procedure. Start by checking the couch’s tag for its cleaning code and the manufacturer’s recommended solutions. A fabric sofa falls under one of three codes:

  • W: only use water-based cleaners on the upholstery.
  • S: only use solvent cleaners.
  • S/W: solvents and water-based cleaners are both safe.

You must follow the code and the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the couch gets cleaned properly. Using the wrong solutions could cause permanent damage.

Cleaning Products

No matter your couch’s code and the recommended solutions, the procedure will require some combination of the following products:

  • Dry brush
  • Drying towel
  • Handheld vacuum
  • Steamer
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Water

Once you have the necessary supplies, follow the water-safe and solvent-safe guides below for how to clean a couch to bring your sofa back to life.

Guide for Water-Safe Couches

The best cleaning procedure for water-safe sofas is a vacuum cleaning followed by steaming. This guide will take you through the process. 

  1. Vacuum first. It’s always a good idea to vacuum an area before doing a deep cleaning. This step will remove all the surface debris and make the steamer’s job easier.
  1. Provide strong air circulation. Open the windows and turn on a fan to create a strong cross breeze and prevent moisture from accumulating.
  1. Do a spot test. Your sofa might be water-safe, but that doesn’t mean it’s heat-safe. Test the steamer on a tiny spot to make sure the sofa can handle the heat.
  1. Start steam cleaning. Once you confirm the couch is heat-safe, you’re free to steam clean the entire upholstery. Take your time and make sure you get between the cushions!
  1. Let the sofa air dry. Keep the windows open and let the sofa air dry before sitting on it. This process might take an entire day, so be patient.
  1. Vacuum again. After the sofa has dried, vacuum it one more time to remove any last debris that got loosened while steaming.

This simple procedure will restore your water-safe fabric couch and rejuvenate your living space. Just make sure you check the code and manufacturer’s instructions before doing anything else.

Guide for Solvent-Safe Couches

This guide is strictly for solvent-safe couches that can handle chemical cleaners. Follow these steps and you’ll have a clean couch in no time:

  1. Brush out loose particles. Use a dry brush to loosen the stains and bring debris to the surface.
  1. Vacuum the sofa. Run the vacuum over the sofa to remove the loosened debris and isolate the stains.
  1. Apply the baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda over the surface OR apply a 50/50 mixture of water and baking soda. In either case, let the solution soak for 20 minutes.
  1. Remove the baking soda. Vacuum up the baking soda or wipe it away once it has absorbed the stains.
  1. Spot-clean with the suggested solution. Start spot-cleaning the couch with the manufacturer’s recommended chemical solution. Do a spot test if you’re not sure about the solution.
  1. Wipe down the sofa. Wipe down the surface with a soft drying towel and gently brush off any remaining baking soda or chemical solution. You don’t have to dry it completely – just enough so that the couch can air dry.
  1. Let the sofa air dry. Let the upholstery air dry before sitting on it.

Even if the stains are deep, don’t go overboard on the baking soda and chemical solution. Start with a moderate amount and add more as needed. Follow these steps and you will have a fresh-looking couch the next day!

How to Clean a Leather Sofa

Leather couches can last forever with the proper care, but the cleaning procedure is a bit more complex than fabric sofas. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Leather cleaner and conditioner 
  • Mild dish soap
  • Baking soda
  • Microfiber cloths

Leather has a high standard for treatment, so try to purchase the best leather cleaner and conditioner available. Once you have the products, follow these steps to learn how to clean a leather couch.

  1. Vacuum and dust first. Start by vacuuming and dusting the couch. This step will get a majority of the loose debris, as leather couches don’t absorb dirt like fabric couches do.
  1. Spot-clean the stains. Dip a microfiber cloth in a mixture of water and dish soap, then wring it out so it becomes damp, not wet. Spot-clean each individual stain as gently as you can. If you run into any stubborn stains, just sprinkle a little baking soda and let it soak.
  1. Thoroughly dry the sofa. Water weakens leather, so you need to thoroughly dry the sofa after completing step 2. 
  1. Apply the leather cleaner. Spray the leather cleaner onto a microfiber cloth (not on the sofa) and perform light strokes around the whole surface. Work from top to bottom to ensure you apply an even coating.
  1. Apply the leather conditioner. Wipe off any excess cleaner and apply the leather conditioner with the same gentle technique. 
  1. Let the sofa air dry. Once you’ve applied the conditioner, let the sofa air dry so the product can soak in and work its magic. 

The effects of this procedure will surprise you every time. Leather might be a sensitive material, but it also responds extraordinarily well to the right cleaning solutions.

Keep Your Seating Arrangements Fresh

We spend many hours relaxing on our favorite couches, so it’s only right that we give them a special amount of care and attention. Keep your seating arrangements fresh with these cleaning procedures so you can keep on relaxing!

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