How to Clean a Couch

Wine glass spilling on couch

Couches get a lot of use, and along with it, an accumulation of dirt and stains. Therefore, knowing how to clean a couch is a necessary skill. Whether you want to know how to clean up an emergency red wine spill or a buildup of everyday dirt, read on as we share our best professional couch-cleaning tips.

Before You Start: Determine Couch Material

Before you even gather cleaning supplies, determine your couch’s material. Different couch materials, such as leather, microfiber, and cotton, require different cleaning methods, or else you can cause permanent stains or damage. Durable and stain-resistant leather needs a gentle cleaner and conditioner. Microfiber, popular for its softness and resistance to stains and moisture, typically requires water-based cleaning solutions. Cotton is comfortable but prone to stains and often needs professional cleaning.

Depending on the material, gather supplies such as mild detergent, a soft brush, and a microfiber cloth tailored to the type of stain and fabric. Always check the manufacturer's guidelines for specific care instructions to avoid damage. This approach is key to cleaning a couch effectively and safely.

Couches always have cleaning tags. Check them for instructions. The following are codes you may find and their meanings:

  • W – You can use water to clean this fabric.
  • S – Do not use water. You must use a solvent-based cleaner on this fabric instead.
  • WS – You may use water or a solvent-based cleaner on this material.
  • X – Only vacuum this material.

Check the care tag before attempting to clean your couch, and always test products in a small, unnoticeable spot before applying them to the whole couch.

How to Clean a Fabric Couch

Person using vacuum on fabric couch

  1. Start with a deodorizing baking soda clean. Prep the couch by brushing it with a clean white hand towel or a stiff brush. This will loosen anything that has dried onto the couch.
  2. Sprinkle the entire couch with baking soda, and let it sit for at least 20 minutes. (You can leave it there for up to an hour.) Using a brush attachment, vacuum the couch to remove the baking soda.
  3. Next, make this simple cleaner to tackle any remaining stains. Combine 1 tsp. dishwashing liquid, 1 Tbsp. white vinegar and 1 cup of warm water in a small spray bottle. Next, add 1 tsp. baking soda and quickly screw the top onto the spray bottle. (Baking soda and vinegar will create a lot of bubbles when combined!)
  4. Spray a white cloth with the cleaning solution, and gently dab and rub any stains on the fabric. Alternatively, wipe down the entire couch with the solution for a thorough cleaning.
  5. Let the fabric dry.

How to Clean a Microfiber Couch

House cleaner using rag on microfiber couch.

Rubbing alcohol is your friend when you’re cleaning most microfiber couches. As we mentioned before, be sure to check that tag and test the solution before using anything to clean the entire couch. The cleaning code “S” (for “solvent”) means rubbing alcohol is a great option.

  1. Working section by section, spray an area with rubbing alcohol and then scrub with a white or light-colored sponge (so no color transfers to the couch while you scrub). You’ll see the stains lift off onto the sponge.
  2. The couch should dry quickly, as alcohol evaporates rapidly. Once it’s dry, use a dry scrub brush to brush the couch in a circular motion in order to fluff the fabric.
  3. If there are any water stains on the couch (and your couch allows both water and solvent cleaning), follow the same process using distilled water. Spray, scrub, then brush after the fabric has dried.

How to Clean a Leather Couch

Hand wiping leather couch

Leather couches open the book to a whole list of cleaning options, as leather comes in a variety of different finishes. When determining how to clean a leather couch, keep in mind that methods will vary significantly from one couch to another. These cleaning instructions are specifically intended for cleaning protected leather, which is most common and simpler to clean than other types of leather. If you have an unprotected leather couch, consult the company’s suggestions for cleaning. Finally, be sure to check that cleaning label and test cleaning products in an inconspicuous spot on the couch first.

  1. Start by vacuuming the couch, including all those nooks and crannies.
  2. Wipe the whole couch down with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.
  3. Create a cleaning solution by combining equal parts water and white vinegar in a small bucket. Dip a microfiber cloth into the solution so that it is damp but not wet. Wipe the couch, rinsing the cloth regularly.
  4. Dry the couch with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.
  5. Be sure to use a leather conditioner on your couch every six to 12 months to keep the leather feeling soft.

Common Couch Stains and Solutions

Each type of stain requires a different cleaning approach. For food stains, gently blot with water and dish soap. Beverage spills, such as wine or coffee, can often be treated with a solution of vinegar and water, using a soft cloth to dab gently.

For pet stains, an enzymatic cleaner works best to break down odors and stains. Always start by blotting, never rubbing, to prevent the stain from spreading. For deeper cleaning, consider using an upholstery steam cleaner, which can effectively treat and refresh fabric without harsh chemicals. This tool is particularly useful for tougher stains.

DIY Cleaning Solutions

DIY cleaning solutions for couches can be made with common household items. A mixture of vinegar, water, and a small amount of dish soap works well for general upholstery cleaning. For tougher stains, baking soda and water create a powerful paste. When these methods fall short, a couch steam cleaner offers a deeper, more thorough cleaning, efficiently tackling stubborn stains and refreshing the fabric. Test any solution on a small, inconspicuous area first.

Routine Maintenance Tips

To maintain your couch, vacuum regularly to remove dust and debris. Rotate and fluff cushions to prevent uneven wear and sagging. Use furniture protectors, especially in high-use areas, to shield against spills and stains. These routine practices help extend the life of your couch, keeping it looking fresh and clean.

Dealing with Stubborn Stains

Dealing with older, stubborn stains on couches is challenging. For such cases, advanced cleaning techniques such as applying a paste of baking soda and water or using a specialized upholstery cleaner can be effective. Gently blotting rather than scrubbing helps to lift the stain without spreading it. If these methods don't work, consider seeking professional help.

Need Help with the Rest of Your Living Room?

As part of our home cleaning services, Molly Maid® vacuums and does basic furniture cleaning. For help keeping your home looking beautiful, give us a call. We offer recurring house cleaning services, one-time cleaning, and many other options. We’ll keep your house in order so you can have more time to do the things you truly enjoy.

Request a free estimate today. All our services are backed by the Neighborly Done Right Promise™, which means you can count on us to get the job done right the first time!

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