How to Clean a Couch without Ruining It

Cleaning a couch involves different steps depending on the material. But, no matter the type of fabric, you can tackle couch cleaning in less than an hour.

Couches are one of the hardest working pieces of furniture. Crumbs, spills, and hours of lounging can leave your once-pristine sofa looking dingey. Here’s how to clean a couch so it looks great again.

How to Clean a Couch: Step by Step

How to Clean a Couch: Step by Step

Before cleaning your couch, check the manufacturer’s label for care instructions, which you can find on your sofa’s tag. The tag will have a symbol that lets you know how you can (and can’t) clean it.

These are the furniture fabric care symbols and what they mean:

  • W – A “W” indicates water and water-based cleaners. These are the easiest sofas to clean – you can use mild water-based detergents, upholstery shampooers, and upholstery steamers.
  • S – You can only use dry cleaning solvents, making these harder to clean.
  • W/S – You can use a combination of dry cleaning solvents or water-based cleaners. But these fabrics aren’t quite as durable as those marked with “W,” so you need to spot-test water-based detergents before using them all over.
  • X – Vacuum only. Don’t use water-based cleaners or dry cleaning solvents.

Step 1: Vacuum Your Couch

No matter the upholstery code you’ve found on your couch, start by vacuuming. If your couch cushions are removable, take them off, and sweep underneath. Next, run your vacuum hose attachment over the entire sofa paying particular attention to crevices.

Step 2: Clean Non-Fabric Pieces (Legs, Arms, Etc.)

If your sofa has non-fabric pieces like metal or wood legs and arms, wipe them down using a gentle all-purpose cleaner and a microfiber cloth.

Step 3: Treat Stains (Cloth and Microfiber)

If you have a cloth or microfiber couch, it’s best to spot-treat stains since oversaturating a sofa can lead to mold and mildew.

For a cloth couch with a “W” or “W/S,” fill a spray bottle with one tablespoon of Dawn dish soap, ¼ cup of white distilled vinegar, and ¾ cup of water. To check for adverse reactions, do a spot test by spraying the solution in an inconspicuous area. If it doesn’t cause any staining or water spots, move on to treating your stain.

Lightly spray the stain with the mixture and wipe in circular motions with a soft microfiber towel until the stain is gone. Then, use a fresh towel to blot the area dry.

For a microfiber couch with a “W/S” or “S,” use rubbing alcohol to treat stains. First, place a little rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and mist the stain. Then use a white towel or sponge (no colored towels) to dab the area until the stain lifts. With the stain gone, brush the area with a fabric brush so the microfiber fluffs up before it dries.

Step 4: Let the Couch Dry

After removing the stains, let the couch dry before using it again. 

How to Clean a Leather Couch

Cleaning a leather couch is a little different than cleaning a cloth couch – it’s also easier.

  • Step 1: Vacuum the sofa to remove all loose dirt and dust.
  • Step 2: Use a solution of half water and half white distilled vinegar to wipe down the couch. Work in small sections using a separate cloth to dry as you go.
  • Step 3: Apply a leather conditioner to keep your couch soft and prevent cracking. 

To make cleaning a leather couch easier, you can use a 2-n-1 cleaning and conditioning product.

How to Clean a Smelly Couch

If you have a smelly couch, start by vacuuming it well. Then check the care tag. If it’s marked “S” or “W/S,” use an enzymatic cleaner to remove the foul odors. The enzymes from these cleaners eat bad bacteria, eliminating the smell at its source. 

A couple of enzymatic cleaners that are worth trying include:

Use baking soda if you need a gentler method for tackling bad couch smells. Baking soda is cost-effective, easy to find, and can absorb odors. To use it, sprinkle baking soda all over the sofa, let it sit for 12 hours, and then vacuum it off.