How to Clean Couch Cushions and Remove Stains

The steps to cleaning a couch cushion depend on the material. Some couch cushions are vacuum only, while you can submerge others in the water.

If your couch has taken a beating and is dirty or stained, here’s how to clean couch cushions.

Locate the Upholstery Cleaning Symbol on the Care Tag

How to Clean Couch Cushions and Remove Stains

Before cleaning your couch cushions, locate the care tag. A symbol on this tag will indicate the best cleaning method.

You’ll find one of the following upholstery care symbols:

  • W – Clean with water or a water-based detergent. Don’t clean with a solvent.
  • WS – Spot clean with a water-based detergent or dry cleaning solvent.
  • X – Clean with a vacuum only.
  • S – Clean only with a dry cleaning solvent.
  • Machine washable – If you have removable couch cushion covers and the tag says machine washable, you can take them off the sofa and run them through the washing machine using a gentle detergent.

How to Clean Your Couch Cushions

The best way to clean your couch cushions is to vacuum and spot-treat stains. If your cushions smell bad, you can sprinkle baking soda on them to absorb odor or, if removable, set them outside on a sunny day to air out.

Tip: Check for color fastness before cleaning any sofa with a liquid. To do this, dampen a white cloth, and wipe it on an inconspicuous area of the couch. If the color comes off, avoid cleaning your sofa with liquids.

Here’s how to clean your couch cushions.

Step 1: Vacuum Well

Start by vacuuming the cushions, going over them several times to pick up crumbs and dirt. If the covers are removable, remove them and vacuum the bare cushion. Then, flip it over and sweep the other side.

Step 2: Spot Treat Stains

Spotting-treating couch cushion stains vary depending on the type of fabric. 

Machine washable covers – Pretreat stains with a stain-removing spray. Then place the cover in the washing machine and run with cold water and mild detergent on a gentle cycle. Tumble dry low or air dry, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions.

Couches marked with “W” or “W/S” – Fill a spray bottle with one cup of warm water and three drops of dish soap. Shake to combine. Mist the stain and then blot with a white microfiber towel until the stain disappears. Repeat as needed.

Couches marked with “S” – Use a dry cleaning solvent to clean couches marked with “S.” If you have microfiber sofa cushions marked “S,” you can dab stains with a little bit of rubbing alcohol. (Do a spot test first.)

Can You Wash Couch Cushion Foam?

If you have removable covers over foam couch cushions, you may wonder if you can wash them. Most of the time, you can. But to be on the safe side, check manufacturer instructions.

Light cleaning foam couch cushions. For light cleaning, remove the couch cushion cover, sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda on the cushion, and after two hours, vacuum. You can then spot-treat stains with mild soap and water.

Deep cleaning foam couch cushions. If you’d like to deep clean your foam couch cushions, remove the covers, fill a bathtub with warm water and add ¼ cup of mild liquid laundry detergent. Swirl the mixture with a wooden spoon to combine.

Submerge your cushions and press hard on them to release the dirt. After pressing on the cushions, drain the bathtub and fill it with fresh water to rinse. Again, push on each cushion. Drain the tub and press hard against each cushion to remove excess moisture.

Pat a towel against each cushion and then move them outside or to a well-ventilated area to continue drying.

How to Clean Couch Cushions with Urine On Them

If your couch cushion has urine spots or smells, whether from a human or pet, treat the area with an enzymatic cleaner. These cleaners feast on the bacteria that cause the smells, eliminating odors instead of masking them.

To find an appropriate enzymatic cleaner, look for a pet odor eliminator at your local home improvement store or Amazon. Make sure it says it’s “enzymatic” or “bio-enzymatic” and safe for upholstery.