Home Decor

How to Clean a Couch, Including the Upholstery and More


In many ways, your couch is the heart of your home. Think about it this way: It’s the place you and your loved ones gather to complete jigsaw puzzles, catch up after a long day’s work, and binge Netflix show after Netflix show. Because of this, your couch is also the catch-all spot for chip crumbs, popcorn kernels, and occasional wine spills.

While vacuuming or wiping down your sofa may tackle day-to-day dirt and pet hair, you should bust out your fabric steamers and cleaners if you really want to get rid of set-in stains, spills, and oils from grimy hands and feet. Every six months or so, follow this step-by-step guide on how to clean a couch — no matter what kind of fabric it may be — by Carolyn Forte, Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, to make your living room ready for another jam-packed weekend of movie-watching.

How to Clean and Sanitize a Couch

Whether you’re trying to tackle a specific stain on a cushion or want to give your entire couch a biannual refresh, give this easy how-to a try:

  1. Use a handheld garment steamer or bursts from your steam iron to kill dust mites. Go over the entire sofa, allowing just the steam to touch and penetrate the fabric. If you don’t have a steamer or iron, skip this step and go straight to vacuuming.
  2. With your vacuum’s upholstery attachment, go over the entire sofa: back, arms, skirt and cushions. If the cushions are removable, take them off and vacuum the fabric underneath, going as far under the back and arms as your vacuum can reach. With the crevice tool, go along the seams, around any buttons, and along the trim.
  3. Take a look at your couch’s care tag to see what’s safe to use on the fabric:
    • W is the easiest to clean and means water-based cleaners are okay to use.
    • W/S means that either water- or solvent-based cleaners are safe.
    • S means only solvent-based cleaning chemicals should be used.
    • X means do nothing more than vacuum or brush the fabric.
    1. For fabrics that can safely be cleaned with water, treat food and pet stains with an enzyme-containing formula like Bissell Professional Pet Stain & Odor Remover. In a pinch, mix together mild dish soap with warm water. Always test the cleaner in a hidden area first.
    2. If your cushions have removable covers, unzip them and place a paper towel between the fabric and filling to absorb cleaner. Apply the cleaner to a cloth and blot the stain carefully, working from the outside in. Once the stain is removed, dab the area with another damp cloth to rinse thoroughly and blot dry. For “S” fabrics, remove stains with a solvent-based product according to package directions.
    3. Clean dingy arms and headrests with a portable extraction cleaner like Bissell’s Little Green ProHeat Portable Cleaner. Simply dispense the cleaner and water mixture through the hose, agitate the fabric with the brush nozzle, and vacuum up the dirt into the tank. For solvent-only fabrics, it’s best to call in a professional for a safe and thorough cleaning.
    4. Once your sofa is clean and dry, kill any lingering germs and odors on water-safe upholstery with a fabric sanitizing spray like Tide Antibacterial Fabric Spray.
      1. How to Get Smells Out of Couch Fabric

        In between your deep cleans, freshen up your couch on a regular basis, especially as soon as it emits an unwanted stench. Whatever the reason — greasy takeout, wet dog, or messy kids — you can remove smells by sprinkling baking soda all over the sofa, or by spraying it with GH Seal Star Febreze FABRIC. Unlike some air fresheners, these products don’t just mask odors; they actually eliminate them.

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