How to Clean a Couch

Whether you've just got crumbs, or the toughest of stains, these cleaning tips will have your sofa looking as good as new.
plant in ceramic vase on wooden table with modern sofa

plant in ceramic vase on wooden table with modern sofa

plant in ceramic vase on wooden table with modern sofa at home

Photo by: Khongkitw


We all love being couch potatoes but it’s no fun to lounge on a dirty sofa. Over time, crumbs, spilled soda, pet hair, dirt, and oil from your hands and feet build up on your couch and make it look dingy. No worries. Here’s how to clean a couch so that it’s ready for you to binge watch an entire season of your favorite TV show.

1. Vacuum. Use a hand vacuum or the brush attachment on your vacuum to clean debris and dirt from the sofa surface. Be sure to clean the crevices where pet hair, food crumbs, and dirt accumulate. If the cushions are not attached, remove them and vacuum both sides. If there’s a lot of pet hair, use a lint roller to remove hair the vacuum can’t get.  

2. Clean the wood or metal areas. Wipe down the sofa feet and other non-fabric parts of the sofa with a solution of warm water and liquid dish soap.

3. Determine the type of fabric you’re dealing with. Find the tag on the couch and read the instructions for how to clean upholstery. Here are the codes found on labels:

  • WS: Use a mild detergent with a steam vacuum or a dry-cleaning detergent
  • S: Use a dry cleaner detergent only.
  • X: Use a vacuum only. No water.
  • W: You can use water to clean it.

4. Remove stains. Knowing how to clean a couch means knowing how to remove stains. You can use a commercial cleaner or you can make your own cleaners from natural ingredients you have in the kitchen. Homemade cleaners are cheaper and kinder to the Earth. Here’s how to clean a sofa, by fabric type:

  • For fabric upholstery, mix 1/4 cup vinegar, 3/4 warm water and 1 tablespoon for dish soap or Castile soap. Put in a spray bottle. Mist the soiled area. Scrub with a soft cloth until the stain lifts. Use a second cloth moistened with clean water to remove the soap. Dry with a towel.
  • For leather upholstery, mix 1/2 cup olive oil with 1/4 cup vinegar and put into a spray bottle. Spray the cleaner on the surface of the couch and buff with a soft cloth.
  • For synthetic upholstery, mix 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of warm water,and 1/2 tablespoon of liquid dish soap or castile soap in a spray bottle. Mist the soiled area and scrub with a soft cloth till the stain is gone.

5. Let the couch dry. Use a towel to soak up any excess water remaining on the sofa surface. Let the sofa air dry. If it’s humid, you may want to set up a box fan pointed at the sofa for speed drying. Water can cause cushions and fabric to mildew.

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