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How to Clean
a Couch

March 21, 2024

Who remembers those uncomfortable, noisy, plastic furniture covers grandma used to protect her couch and chairs? While they’re not a bad idea to keep your furniture looking new, they aren’t useful for how we live today. We want our furniture, especially couches, to be comfortable, functional, and look great when we have guests.

But let’s face it, couches take a lot of abuse. They can be a trampoline for kids, nap central for people and pets, and a makeshift dining room table. That means couches need to be cleaned more than most other pieces of furniture. Lucky for you, we’re experts in specialty cleaning, so we’re uniquely qualified to teach you how to clean a couch!

Regular cleaning will help you avoid those tedious deep cleanings when your couch gets too dirty.

  • About every week or two, remove the cushions, give them a good vacuuming, and spot-treat any stains.
  • Use the fabric or brush attachment to vacuum any crumbs, dirt, and dust on the arms, back, and where the cushions go.
  • Get into the nooks and crannies with your vacuum’s crevice tool.
  • Spot treat any stains on the couch.
  • Replace the cushions when all the upholstery is dry.

We get it if couch cleaning isn’t a top priority on your regular cleaning checklist. Now that you know, we’re sure you’ll be keeping all your upholstery cleaner more often. Now, let’s learn how to clean a sofa with safe, non-toxic cleaning ingredients.

First Things First—Check the Label

Whether your couch is made with cotton fabric, suede, or leather, the first step is to check the care label. Today’s upholstery is made from fabrics requiring special laundering methods; some are dry clean, and some can’t be wet at all. Before cleaning your couch, do yourself a favor and decipher the label code first:

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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.

The best way to clean a couch with a WS code is with homemade cleaning solutions. These DIY couch cleaners are safer, as effective, and typically less expensive than many commercial upholstery cleaners. If you are cleaning a white sofa, check out our field-tested guide to bring back the brilliance and protect the color.

Gather Your Sofa Cleaning Gear

Learning how to clean a couch with The Maids® means ditching the harsh upholstery cleaners. There are plenty of mild, natural cleaning solutions for safe and effective sofa cleaning. Depending on the type of upholstery you’re cleaning, you can safely use these everyday household products:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Olive oil
  • Linseed oil

Once you know which homemade couch cleaner is recommended for your upholstery, you’ll need a few essential tools to get the couch clean again:

  • Vacuum cleaner with crevice and brush attachments
  • Nylon scrub brush
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Empty spray bottle

Check your couch’s cleaning label, gather your supplies and tools, and let’s learn the best way to clean a couch! To protect your carpet or hardwood floors, consider laying bath towels down to catch spills and debris.

How to Clean Sofas and Couches Like a Pro

If your couch’s cushion covers are removable for machine washing, you’re already ahead of the game. Remove the couch cushions, turn them inside-out, and wash them on a gentle cycle with cold water (unless the manufacturer’s care label says differently). You’ve checked the care label and gathered your tools and cleaning solutions. Now it’s time to transform your couch with proven cleaning methods for nearly every type of upholstery.

How to Clean Couch and Sofa Stains

Giving your couch the deepest cleaning includes removing stains. Try some homemade stain removers—just make sure to spot-check first!

  • For fabric upholstery, mix 1/4 cup vinegar, 3/4 cup water, and 1 tbsp of dish soap in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the stained area and gently scrub with a microfiber cloth until the stain lifts.
  • For synthetic materials, decrease the soap to 1/2 tbsp.
  • A mixture of 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup vinegar works great for leather upholstery.
  • For suede, mix equal parts of water and rubbing alcohol and dab up stubborn stains.

How to Clean a Fabric Couch

  • Use a stiff, dry brush to loosen dried stains to remove debris from the corners and sides.
  • Brush the couch and cushions to help bring dust and dirt to the fabric’s surface, but don’t brush too hard, or you’ll damage the fabric.
  • Use the vacuum cleaner brush attachment and crevice tool to get into all the nooks and crannies.
  • Vacuum both sides of the cushions, the front of the couch, the arms, and the top of the back.
  • Remove pet hair with a pet hair vacuum attachment or lint roller to get what the brush and vacuum missed.
  • Sprinkle baking soda all over your couch and cushions, and let it sit for at least 20 minutes to remove odors and work on stains.
  • Vacuum up the baking soda with your vacuum’s brush attachment.

How to Clean a Microfiber Sofa

  • Vacuum your microfiber couch thoroughly, including beneath the cushions and the crevices.
  • Mix ½ cup liquid dish soap with two cups of warm water.
  • Fill a separate container with water only for rinsing.
  • Dip a nylon brush in the cleaning solution and begin gently scrubbing from the top down.
  • Rinse the scrub brush in the clean water when it gets dirty and reapply the cleaning solution.
  • Remove residue and loosened dirt by gently wiping the fabric with a damp microfiber cloth.
  • Let your couch air dry, then vacuum it using the brush attachment to bring back the softness.

How to Clean a Couch With Leather Upholstery

  • Mix equal parts of water and distilled white vinegar to create a safe, natural leather cleaner.
  • Dampen a microfiber cloth with your cleaning solution and rub it into the leather.
  • Scrub gently to prevent discoloration or damage.
  • Let the leather air dry.
  • Mix one part white vinegar and two parts linseed oil in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the solution onto a dry microfiber cloth and gently rub the oil and vinegar into the leather.
  • Wait about 10 minutes, and buff the finish to a nice shine with a dry microfiber cloth.

How to Clean a Sofa With Suede Upholstery

  • Use your vacuum’s brush attachment to gently remove dirt, dust, and hair.
  • Dampen a microfiber cloth and wring out excess water.
  • Wipe down the couch, starting from the top down.
  • Scrub the armrests gently to remove buildup and dirt.
  • Rinse your cloth often, and be sure not to get the suede too wet.

Bonus Tip: Here’s how to clean a sofa quickly and easily if your couch’s tag is marked W or WS. Pick a nice day, throw open the windows, and use a garment steamer for a deep cleaning. You only want enough moisture to loosen dirt, grime, and stains. Change any microfiber cloths often and point a fan at the couch to help it dry completely.

Count on The Maids to Make Housekeeping More Manageable

Since 1979, The Maids has been on a mission to help customers enjoy a clean home more often with less work. Now that you can clean upholstery like the pros, what’s next? Whether you rely on our field-tested cleaning guides or professional house cleaning services, The Maids is your partner in grime! Discover how you can enjoy more free time when you get your free personalized cleaning quote today.

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