How to Clean Couch Upholstery in a Half a Day – 6 DIY Steps That Work!

We all use couches in our homes for a variety of purposes. Sometimes they serve as a bed, a pet haven, a dining table, or a playground for kids. Over time, they accumulate plenty of stains and hidden crumbs including pet hair dirt, dust mites, spills, bacteria, and fungi among others. Continuous dirt build up can make our couches look dingy and disgusting, so you’re going to need to learn how to clean your couch upholstery the proper way.

Cleaning fabric sofas can be a major nightmare, but they’ll look beautiful and cozy if done properly. Knowing how to clean upholstery couch is especially important when you have kids and pets in your home. Today we’re going to learn everything there is to know about cleaning your couch upholstery with a few supplies you probably already have at your countertop!

Necessary Supplies: 

  • A vacuum cleaner (with brush or crevice attachment)
  • A sponge or microfiber cloth  
  • Carpet cleaner (optional)
  • Liquid dishwashing soap
  • Baking soda
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Dry cleaning solvent
  • A horsehair upholstery brush
  • A small bucket

Steps for Cleaning Upholstery on a Couch

Step 1: Check the fabric care code for safety

In the wake of 1969, furniture manufacturers began labeling their couches and cushions to determine the best and most secure way to clean them. Labels or tags are usually attached to the underside of upholstery, and they show unique rules or suggestions on how to clean them. Some sofas even come with a specialist cleaning kit!

On the label is a fabric care code showing exactly how to get stains out of a couch. Some of the most common cleaning codes found on sofas include the following:

  • Code W – water-based cleaners are safe to use
  • Code W/S – either water or solvent-based cleaners are safe to use (steam is also safe)
  • Code S/P – only solvent-based cleaning chemicals are safe to use (dry-clean only)
  • Code X – only vacuum or brush the fabric (nothing more)

Before you start cleaning your couch upholstery, first check the manufacturer’s recommendations. Using random cleaning detergents or solutions without following instructions can cause permanent damage to the upholstery. Tags serve to answer many cleaning questions.

Step 2: Remove stains as soon as they happen

It is important to clean up a spill or a stain immediately it occurs. If you wait for too long before you treat it, it’s going to set deep in, making it harder to remove. It takes a matter of a few minutes for the stain to seep deep into the upholstery fibers and wreck as much havoc.

Depending on the manufacturer’s suggestions, you can either use commercial cleaners or natural ingredients readily available in your kitchen. Homemade cleaners are not only inexpensive but also kind to the Mother Nature. Below is a how to clean couch upholstery, by fabric type:

Fabric upholstery – In a small bucket, pour ¾ cup warm water, ¼ cup vinegar, and 1 tablespoon dishwashing soap. Thoroughly mix them together and transfer the solution into a spray bottle. Mist the affected spots and scrub with a soft cloth to lift up the stain. Moist a clean cloth with clean water, and use it to wipe the soap away. Dry the upholstery with a clean towel.

Leather upholstery – In a small bucket, mix ¼ cup vinegar with ½ cup olive oil. Stir the mixture to blend, and then transfer it into a spray bottle. Spray the solution directly onto the soiled area of the couch and buff with a clean, soft cloth.

Synthetic upholstery – Pour 1 cup of warm water into a small bucket and mix it with ½ cup vinegar and ½ tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap. Stir the solution to mix and cover the stained surface of the couch with it. Scrub with a clean, soft cloth until the stain has completely vanished.

Step 3: Remove loose crumbs with a dry brush

First, prepare your sofa upholstery by removing any cushions or throws and peeling back the sides to remove any sweet wrappers, loose change, lost credit cards, and other small items. Once the sofa is completely clear, grab a stiff brush or a vacuum cleaner with the brush attachment. If you are using a vacuum cleaner, make sure to hook the brush attachment to the end.

Using a nylon brush with stiff bristles, go over the entire upholstery. This will loosen the stains and lift up dirt and dust to the surface. You may also use a vacuum with a brush attachment to clean up dingy spots on your couch upholstery, carpets, and rugs.

With the brush attachment connected, suck up any dirt or crumbs in a gentle, sweeping motion. You can use the crevice attachment to get down the sides of your couch and brush along the seams and edges.

Step 4: Vacuum your couch upholstery

Before you further scrub and clean your couch upholstery, take at least 5 minutes to vacuum it. Vacuuming helps you identify and focus on troublesome spots where the stubborn stains have accumulated. You can as well use the upholstery attachment, and vacuum left to right, starting at the top and working toward the bottom.

Set the suction to low for delicate fabrics, such as linen and silk. Using left-to-right suction technique helps remove nappy materials which hold onto dirt, including velvet, chenille, corduroy, and suede. Also focus on areas around seams and under cushions, not forgetting to clean the crevices where food crumbs, dirt, and pet hair tend to accumulate.

It would be helpful to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to capture and seize as much allergens (like pet dander) as possible. You can also use one with UV light to tackle viruses, bacteria, dust mites, and bedbugs. The UV light does kill these offenders, sucking and trapping them in a dual filtration system.

Step 5: Clean with the baking soda

If you thought baking soda is only used for baking, think again. Baking soda is an effective cleaning treatment, which helps loosen stains further and remove bad odors lingering on your couch upholstery. Before you use the baking soda, it’s advisable to first try it on a discreet test area, just to make sure you’ll get the desired results.

Baking soda solution is known for treating areas with deep-set stains. In a small bucket, measure equal parts baking soda and water and mix them together. Allow the solution to sit on the couch for 15-20 minutes in order to absorb foul smells.

As soon as the baking soda has entirely absorbed the stain and the accompanying odor, now vacuum it up. Use a brush attachment for best results. CAUTION: always spot treat a test portion before you continue with cleaning to make sure it won’t cause any permanent damage.

Step 6: Rinse and let the couch dry

Complete the couch upholstery cleaning by dipping the microfiber cloth or sponge in clean water. Use this to blot away any remaining cleaning solution, or use a towel to soak up the excess water lingering on the couch surface. Rinsing is extremely crucial because any residual detergent or cleaning solution left in the fibers can trap more soil.

Last but not least, allow the couch to air-dry completely away from direct heat (from hair dryer) or sunlight to prevent cracking or fading. Excessive water can lead to development of molds and mildew which can cause bad smells. You may want to speed up the drying process with a circulating fan, especially if the couch upholstery is overly humid.

Final Thought: 

Tough stains and messy spills on your couch upholstery can easily cramp your lifestyle. Whether you want to give your couch upholstery a regular cleaning boost or want to prolong the life of your investment, this step-by-step guide on how to clean your couch upholstery will do the trick. Just make sure to check the cleaning codes for your fabric before you give it a try!

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