The Ultimate Guide To Couch Cleaning

Last Updated May 21, 2021 By Bella Zinti

Your sofa is one of the most used— and abused— pieces of furniture in your home. Not only does it offer a comfortable seat in your living room, but it doubles as a bed, dinner table, a place to snuggle your dog or loved ones, and even a home office. But with all that multitasking comes dirt, dust mites, bacteria, pet hair, odors, pet dander, allergens, coffee stains, and all sorts of germs.

If there's one thing we learned during the great Quarantine of 2020, it's that we spend a lot of time on the couch. It isn't just a place to kick your feet up during a Netflix marathon; it's a desk, a bed, and even a dinner table at times. But lots of use can easily lead to lots of stains.

Your couch does a lot for you, so why not give it a little love in return? With these easy couch cleaning methods, you can keep your sofa in tip-top shape and reduce everyday wear-and-tear. To keep your furniture looking its best, you'll need to keep up with regular cleaning and give your couch a good deep clean at least once or twice a year. In this guide to couch cleaning, we'll break down everything you need to know about both professional and DIY couch cleaning.

How to Clean a Couch

When it comes to sofa cleaning, there's no one solution. The best cleaning products and methods vary widely depending on what materials the sofa is made from. So don't assume that a store-bought cleaning agent— or even plain old water and dishwashing liquid— is safe to use before testing to ensure it won't ruin the appearance of your sofa.

Because couches are made with different materials and different designs, there's no one "right way" to clean a couch. Regardless of what upholstery your couch is made of, you'll want to do the following before you deep clean:

Check the Care Tag

Using the wrong cleaning solution can permanently stain or damage your couch, leaving it looking worse than when you started. Before cleaning your couch, you'll want to peek at the cleaning code on the care label to double-check that the product you've selected is safe to use on that specific fabric.

Here are a few common cleaning codes you'll find on couches, chairs, and other upholstered furniture:

  • W— Fabric is safe to clean with a mild detergent diluted with water. With the proper technique, you can clean your couch without needing professional cleaners.
  • S— Fabric can only be cleaned using a solvent-based product, such as a dry cleaning solution. Due to the toxic chemicals required, it's best to leave cleaning S-code couches to the professionals.
  • W-S— Fabric can safely be cleaned using either a water-soluble detergent mixture or chemical solvents. If you plan to clean it yourself, make sure to test a small spot in an inconspicuous area to ensure no discoloration occurs.
  • X— Fabric cannot be cleaned outside of brushing or vacuuming. There's a high risk of shrinking or staining the fabric by using steam or cleaning products.

Furniture Cleaning Methods

When it comes to sofa cleaning solutions, there are numerous cleaning methods and tools on the market. Selecting one comes down to your budget, style of couch, and the amount of elbow grease you're willing to put in.


Undoubtedly, the easiest way to clean a couch is to call in professional cleaners for assistance. Using a cleaning service can be especially helpful if your sofa is made from leather, suede, or delicate fabric upholstery.

Machine Wash

These days, many cushion covers can be removed, and machine washed for easy stain removal. Avoid putting the cushions in the dryer, and instead, hang them to dry in a sunny spot outdoors.

Regular Maintenance

Cleaning regularly on a weekly or monthly basis will help extend the life of your couch, prevent long-term damage from spills and the wear and tear that comes with everyday use. Here are our step-by-step recommendations on how to do it:

  • Dry Brush— Start by using a dry brush to loosen up dirt, debris, and dander. This can also be done using the brush attachment on your vacuum.
  • Vacuum— Using a low setting, vacuum the loosened debris. A crevice tool can help remove crumbs in hard-to-reach places.
  • Spot Clean— If your upholstery allows, spot clean any obvious large stains like spills, food stains, pet accidents, etc.
  • Rotate Cushions— Finally, switch the position of the cushions to help them wear more evenly and increase the longevity of your couch.

The Baking Soda Method

Baking soda is a safe and affordable cleaning solution that doesn't require harsh chemicals or professional help. The natural deodorizer and stain remover is suitable for use on most fabrics.

  • Test the Fabric— While baking soda is safe to use on most sofas, you'll still want to double-check by testing a discreet spot.
  • Brush the Couch— Remove excess crumbs, dust, and dirt using a stiff brush.
  • Sprinkle Baking Soda— Sprinkle the couch evenly with baking soda or a mixture of baking soda and dry carpet cleaner and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  • Vacuum— Thoroughly vacuum up the baking soda and grime you've loosened.
  • Spot Clean Tough Stains— Remove tough stains from pets, food, and oils with a vinegar solution and a cloth or microfiber towel for blotting. To create the natural stain cleaner, mix three parts water to one part vinegar in a spray bottle and add a small splash of dish soap.

Deep Cleaning

From time to time, regular maintenance isn't enough. For a deeper clean, rent a carpet or steam cleaner and follow these steps:

  • Test the Fabric— If you've determined your fabric type can be cleaned without professional upholstery cleaning services, you'll first want to test your furniture cleaner in an inconspicuous area.
  • Vacuum with a Brush Attachment— Start by removing all the loose debris using the vacuum.
  • Clean Mindfully— Fill the machine with warm water and your chosen upholstery cleaner. Use straight, even movements that go with the grain of the material.
  • Replace Dry Cushions— Wait until the cushions have fully dried before rotating or replacing them. 

Spot Clean Tough Stains

The key to keeping your couch looking its best is to spot clean stains right away. While it's important to deep clean your entire sofa from time to time, it's more important to clean up messes left behind by greasy food, wine, coffee, kids, and pets right after they happen.

Woolite Carpet and Upholstery Stain Remover

This four-pack of handheld Carpet and Upholstery Stain Removers from Woolite is perfect for cleaning stubborn stains from your couch, car interior, carpet, and other upholstery. The powerful formula features patented odor elimination and stain lift technology to remove stains, eliminate odors, and keep your upholstery looking fresh for longer. Its convenient brush attachment reduces scrubbing and is safe for use on most fabrics.

Freshen Up Between Deep Cleans

Using a fabric refresher spray between deep cleans helps keep your couch smelling fresh, especially in homes with pets. Just like upholstery cleaner, you'll want to spot-test the fabric refresher in a discreet spot (such as underneath your couch cushions) before spraying it over the whole sofa.

The Laundress Classic Fabric Fresheners

Unlike other fabric refreshers, this Classic Fabric Fresher from The Laundress doesn't just mask odors. It eliminates them completely while adding an invigorating Lily of the Valley scent (which features notes of jasmine, musk, sandalwood, and citrus) to the air. It's safe for use on upholstery, clothing, bedding, car interiors, closets, and other fabric items.

Couch Cleaning

How To Clean Your Couch Based on Material

Leather Couch Cleaning

To clean leather furniture, you will need to use specially formulated leather cleaners. Because of the cost of leather material, it's always a good idea to hire a professional to get the job done.

Vinyl Upholstery Cleaning

To clean the vinyl material couch, use either specialized vinyl cleaners or baking soda with mild soap on a rag. If you have some money to spare, hire a professional for vinyl upholstery cleaning.

Fabric Upholstery Cleaning

For day-to-day cleaning, vacuum your fabric upholstery to remove any dirt, dust, and grime. To clean your fabric upholstery, you can mix 3/4 cup warm water with 1/4 cup of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of dish soap.

Professional Upholstery Cleaning

Depending on the material of your couch, you may want to consider getting it professionally cleaned. While professional upholstery cleaning services costs aren't cheap, they will save you a whole lot of time, effort, and elbow grease.

How much does upholstery cleaning cost?

The cost of professional upholstery cleaning varies depending on the size and material of the couch. Chairs, loveseats, and small sectionals typically cost between $50 and $150, and full-sized fabric couches usually cost between $150 and $300.

Due to their finicky materials, suede and leather couches typically cost a bit more to clean professionally. Expect to spend between $200 and $500 on a professional service, depending on the size of your couch.

Is professional couch cleaning worth it?

While professional couch cleaning can get a bit pricey, it's well worth it if your couch is made of hard-to-clean materials. Hiring professionals is the easiest way to ensure the job gets done correctly.

At-Home Couch And Couch Cushions Cleaning Guide

How can I clean my sofa at home?

While it's best to leave upholstery cleaning to the professionals, it is possible to deep clean your sofa yourself:

  • Start by removing the cushions and fishing out any stray coins, toys, and small objects lurking in the depths of your couch.
  • Next, thoroughly vacuum between every crack and cushion in the couch to get rid of crumbs, hair, and other larger dirt and debris.
  • Spot-treat any stains using the appropriate upholstery cleaner.
  • Steam cleans the cushions and couch upholstery to deodorize, kill bacteria, and loosen up dust and dirt.
  • Allow your couch to dry fully before replacing the cushions.
  • Vacuum the entire couch again to lift away anything left behind during cleaning.
  • Fluff the couch cushions, replace their covers, and return them to your couch.

What is the best sofa cleaner?

Remember to check the care label before using anything on your couch, even if it's just water. Additionally, you should always spot-test the cleaner in a discreet spot before using it on the entire couch. You'd much rather be safe than sorry!

Steam Cleaner

A steam cleaner sanitizes and deodorizes your couch without requiring any harsh chemicals. On top of killing odor-causing bacteria, the high temperatures and steam help to loosen up dirt, dissolve stubborn stains, and remove debris.

Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Cordless Upholstery & Carpet Cleaner

The handheld Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Cordless Upholstery & Carpet Cleaner makes it easy to remove pet stains from your couch, carpet, rug, or car interior. Its lightweight, cordless design is convenient and easy to carry. A built-in brush, separate clean and dirty water tanks, and suction action help you to use less elbow grease to scrub away stubborn stains. At just $85, it's a worthy investment for any home.

Stain Remover Spray

Stain-removing sprays and upholstery cleaning products can be incredibly helpful for cleaning up stains, spills, and other unsightly messes. If you're in a pinch, you can always use a little dish soap and warm water for spot cleaning fabric upholstery.

Rejuvenate Green Natural Carpet Cleaner Spot & Stain Remover

This Carpet Cleaner Spot & Stain Remover from Rejuvenate Green Natural is perfect for tackling spills, pawprints, and food stains. Instead of harsh chemicals, the all-natural upholstery cleaner powers away tough stains using a pH-balanced mix of engineered enzymes that dissolve proteins, starches, and pigmentation without requiring intense scrubbing. It's safe for kids, pets, and most carpets and upholstery.

Baking Soda

Is there anything baking soda can't do? Not only can baking soda deodorize your fridge, whiten your teeth, and help your baked goods get nice and fluffy, it can freshen up your couch! While baking soda can't actually 'clean' your couch by killing bacteria and removing stains, it can neutralize odors.

To clean your couch with baking soda, sprinkle a thin layer over your couch and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes before vacuuming it off. Depending on the material, you can also use a homemade baking soda solution for a deep-set stain.

How To Clean Couch Cushions

If your couch cushions have a cover, remove the cover and clean it according to the tag. Most cushion covers are machine washable. Otherwise, you can leave them outside on a sunny day to loosen dirt and debris. Plus, the sun's UV rays will work as disinfection.

How Often Should I Clean My Couch?

In general, you should clean your couch every six months to twelve months. This frequency varies based on various factors, including fabric type, frequency of use, pets, kids, and even users' allergies or health concerns.

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About the author

Bella has a Bachelors degree in interior design, is a master gardener. She designs nourishing outdoor & indoor spaces guided by the practice of Feng Shui.