Hint: Here's how to stop hiding stains with throw pillows and blankets. 

By Katie Holdefehr
February 05, 2020

A large, comfortable couch that your entire family will want to lounge on through many hours of Netflix binge-watching is typically a big investment. And after spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a sofa, most of us would like it to last for as long as possible. The secret? Learning how to clean a couch the right way. For starters, check out the care instructions provided by the manufacturer—those recommendations should always supersede the tips you read online. Then, be sure to choose the right couch cleaning method for the material of your sofa. Cleaning a leather couch will be a different process and require different products than cleaning a microfiber couch

If you have an upholstered or slipcovered fabric sofa, the techniques below will banish dirt, dust, and stains so the focal point of your living room will stay pristine for as long as possible. Movie marathon popcorn crumbs are no match for these cleaning methods. 

Note: It's always a smart idea to test any new products or cleaning methods on an inconspicuous spot first. Before you start cleaning, read the fabric care tag on your sofa. Follow the guide below. 

  • W = can be cleaned with water
  • S = can be cleaned with a solvent-based cleaner (aka dry cleaning) 
  • WS = can be cleaned with either water or solvent-based cleaner
  • X = can only be vacuumed (or requires professional cleaning) 

RELATED: 9 Simple Ways to Spruce Up an Old Sofa

How to Clean an Upholstered Sofa With Water ("W" or "WS")

What You'll Need:

  • Vacuum cleaner and upholstery attachment 
  • Distilled water
  • Mild dishwashing liquid (preferably undyed)
  • White vinegar 
  • Microfiber cloths 
  • Baking soda (optional)

Follow These Steps: 

1. Using the upholstery attachment, vacuum up any loose dirt or crumbs on your sofa. Remove the seat cushions to get all of the crumbs hiding below

2. Create a solution of water, a squirt of dishwashing liquid, and one tablespoon white vinegar. Using a white microfiber cloth (so the dye won't bleed onto your sofa), gently dab the solution on any stained areas. 

3. Rinse off any soapy residue with a second dampened cloth. 

4. For a quick refresh: To make a light-colored fabric sofa smell fresher in the next 30 minutes, sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda onto the surface of the sofa. Wait 20 minutes, then vacuum up the baking soda. 

How to Clean an Upholstered Sofa with Solvent-Based Cleaner ("S" or "WS") 

What You'll Need: 

  • Dry cleaning solvent for upholstery
  • White cloth
  • Upholstery brush

Follow These Steps: 

1. Using the upholstery attachment, vacuum up any loose dirt or crumbs on your sofa. Remove the seat cushions to get all of the crumbs hiding below​​​. 

2. Make sure the room is well-ventilated and apply a dry cleaning solvent to soiled areas of the sofa (like the headrest or armrest) using a white cloth. 

3. Use an upholstery brush to gently work the solvent into the fabric. Use another barely damp cloth to lift away any remaining solvent. If stains remain, call in a professional. 

How to Clean a Slipcovered Sofa 

Read the care instructions on the tag. Many slipcovers are designed to be machine-washable, but you want to check whether they can be machine dried, or else you could wind up with a too-snug slipcover. 

What You'll Need:

  • Stain removing spray 
  • Mild laundry detergent

Follow These Steps: 

1. Remove the slipcovers and shake out any crumbs or lint. 

2. Pre-treat any stained areas using a gentle stain removing spray or follow our stain removal chart for specific spots. 

3. Unless the tag says otherwise, wash the cover on the gentle cycle using cold water. 

4. Check for any remaining stains before drying the covers. If there are still visible stains, try pre-treating the spots again and rewash the covers. 

5. If your slipcovers are air-dry-only, set them on a drying rack to help them dry more quickly and prevent mildew. Or throw them in the dryer, following the fabric care instructions. Remove the covers right away so that wrinkles don't set in. 

6. Put the slipcovers back on the sofa. Visible wrinkles will typically decrease within a few days, but a handheld steamer can also help release any creases in the fabric. 

7. Make sure the fabric is completely dry before sitting down—or else the moisture could cause the dye on your jeans to bleed onto your clean couch. 

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