How To Clean A Couch (By Material)

Your *time spent on it* to your *time spent cleaning it* ratio is definitely off.

From bums to spills, couches see it all. It might not occur to you to clean your couch until it’s too late. Maybe there’s a call-to-action scenario, either a visible stain or an offensive smell. Either way, routine couch cleaning is a good thing to work into your weekly cleaning schedule. It will help with the longevity of your couch’s life span, and also boost living room morale considerably.

Cleaning your couch may sound like a colossal undertaking, but it’s actually super easy. We’ve broken down how to clean your couch for you by couch material so you don’t end up destroying your favorite piece of furniture.

How to clean a couch

Note: Always use a white rag or cloth to clean your couches, so that color from the rag doesn’t accidentally transfer to the couch, leaving a stain and ruining the fabric.

Quick couch cleaning 101

  • Dry brush

    • This will loosen up any pet dander, dirt, lint and debris from the couch. Start by dry brushing your couch’s cushions, arms, sides and back.
  • Vacuum

    • Using a handheld vacuum or your vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment, suck up all that stuff you dry brushed into clumps or piles. Be sure to remove cushions and hit the underside of your couch with the vacuum to get any residual crumbs, hair and miscellaneous items you’ve probably been missing for years (and change!).
  • If your cushions are reversible, you can flip them every so often to minimize the wear and tear.

How to deep clean your couch

  • Make note that your couch should indicate which type of cleaning agent to use (more specifically, which not to use) on it. Check to see if there’s a label located beneath the couch or under the cushions (or look it up on the manufacturer's site).

    • There are several types of cleaning codes for fabric couches:
      • W = water-based cleaner, which is gentle, contains water as its main ingredient and works well on most upholstery in general.
      • S = only solvents ought to be used, which is a type of cleaner that uses chemicals as its main component
      • S/W = both solvents and/or water-based cleaners can be used
      • X = avoid cleaning agents entirely (“X” is basically the couch equivalent to “dry clean only.”)
  • Conduct the quick clean detailed above:

    • Dry brush
    • Vacuum
    • Flip cushions (if they’re reversible)
  • Zap odors by sprinkling baking soda liberally all over your couch.

    • Let the baking soda sit for about 20–30 minutes. Baking soda is great for neutralizing smells, from wet dog to old pizza sauce.
    • Vacuum up all the baking soda.
  • Spot treat stains with a ready-made cleaning solution or a DIY mixture.

    • If you’re using a store-bought cleaner, be sure to always read and follow the direction on the label.
    • Or mix your own upholstery cleaner.
      • For fabric upholstery, use ¼ cup of vinegar + ¾ cup of warm water.
      • For synthetic upholstery, use ¾ cup of warm water + 1 tablespoon of gentle dish soap, like Dawn.
  • Spray your cleaning solution directly onto offending stains.

    • Try not to oversaturate the cushions—use just enough to cover the stain.
    • Let your solution sit on the stain for 5–10 minutes.
    • Use a soft bristle scrub brush to rub the solution into the stain.
    • Rinse the spot with clean water to remove residue.
  • For serious deep cleaning, you can steam clean or shampoo your couch.

    • You can generally rent a steam cleaner, which will come with specific cleaning solution and instructions.
    • Steam cleaning works well on most fabrics, except for suede.
  • To clean couch cushions, remove them and check the tag.

    • Sometimes cushions are machine washable. Run them through the washing machine with detergent, and follow the directions on the tag for temperature settings and drying instructions.
    • Otherwise, take them outside, and beat them. This will shake loose any hair, dirt, dander and debris.
    • Then you can hit the cushions with the vacuum’s upholstery attachment.
    • Working outside is beneficial while cleaning your couch cushions because it won’t spread the couch dirt onto your carpet or living room floor, and also the sun will help disinfect the cushion’s fabric a bit.
  1. Finish by spritzing your couch and cushions with some Febreze Fabric, which will leave your couch smelling fresh like lilacs, cranberry, morning & dew or whatever yummy scent you select.

How to clean a microfiber couch and cushions

Microfiber couches should be vacuumed weekly, so dust and grime don’t get ground into the cushions (especially if you’ve got furry friends that sit on the couch!). Also, if you tend to spill frequently, treat the stain ASAP to be sure you can remove it from the microfiber. There are a couple options for washing your microfiber couch, detailed below.

1. Dish soap + water

  • If your couch has a W or W/S tag, you can simply scrub it with dish soap (we like Dawn) and water.
  • First, conduct the quick clean.
    • Dry brush and vacuum loose debris.
  • Mix your cleaning solution.
    • 4 cups of warm water + ¼ cup of dish soap, such as Dawn.
    • Whisk it together in a bucket until it’s crazy sudsy.
    • Fill a second bucket with clean, warm water.
  • Dip a soft bristle scrub brush or sponge in the sudsy solution, and get to scrubbing the couch.
    • Scrub your couch from the top down. Don’t forget the sides, arms and all sides of each individual cushion.
    • Rinse your sponge or brush often in the clean water bucket, and wring it out as to not oversaturate the couch with water.
    • Repeat until you’ve scrubbed the entire couch.
  • Using a clean microfiber rag, rinse the couch with fresh water.
    • Dip your rag into clean water, and wring it out.
    • Wipe down the entire couch with the clean, damp rag to remove all soapy residue.
  • Allow your couch to fully air dry before sitting on it (or letting pets on it!).
    • Ventilate the area by opening windows or running fans to speed along the drying process.
  • To finish, hit your couch cushions with the vacuum’s upholstery attachment to fluff up any matted-down fibers.

2. Rubbing alcohol

  • If your couch has an S tag, you’ve got to clean it with a solvent, such as isopropyl alcohol or a solvent-based ready-made cleaner.
  • First, conduct the quick clean.
    • Dry brush and vacuum loose debris.
  • Fill a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol ,and lightly spray the microfiber fabric from top to bottom.
    • If you’re using a ready-made cleaning product, be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
  • While the microfiber fabric is still damp with alcohol, use a soft bristle scrub brush or damp sponge to wipe it down, rinsing the sponge in clean water and wringing it out often.
    • Do not oversaturate the couch or cushions with water.
  • Allow your couch to fully air dry before sitting on it (or letting pets on it!).
    • Ventilate the area by opening windows or running fans to speed along the drying process.
  • To finish, hit your couch cushions with the vacuum’s upholstery attachment to fluff up any matted fibers.

How to clean a leather couch and cushions

Leather rules. It’s sexy, it’s rugged, it’s easy to clean. To keep your leather couch soft and supple, follow our cleaning instructions.

  • First, conduct the quick clean.
    • Dry brush and vacuum loose debris.
  • Using a damp (well-wrung-out) microfiber rag, give the entire leather couch a once-over to be sure all dust and dander are gone.
  • Combine equal parts white vinegar and warm water in your spray bottle or bucket. Using either the spray bottle or a microfiber rag dipped in the solution (and wrung out), apply the vinegar mixture to problem areas of the couch (noticeable soils, scratches, splotches or stains).
    • Be sure not to oversaturate the leather couch or cushions with water.
  • Follow up with a dry cloth, wiping down the vinegar spots to dry them. (Don’t worry, that vinegar smell will fade quickly as it dries.)
  • To spot treat specific leather couch stains, try these tricks:
    • For grease, wipe with a clean, dry cloth. If you add water to grease, it may just soak into the leather even more. If the grease has already dried by the time you notice it (last week’s pizza, perhaps?), sprinkle a pinch of baking soda onto the spot, let it sit for a few hours and then dry brush it off (or vacuum it up).
    • For ink, mildew or mold, dab a bit of isopropyl alcohol onto the spot with a cotton ball or microfiber rag and blot at the stain until it fades away.
    • For dark-colored spots on light-colored leather, mix a 1:1 solution of lemon juice and cream of tartar to make a paste. Apply the paste to the stain, and let it sit for 5–10 minutes before wiping it away with a damp microfiber rag (you might want to test on a very small portion first to avoid discoloration).

How to clean a suede couch and cushions

Suede is cute and all, but it’s sort of a pain to clean because of its itty bitty, sensitive fibers. Suede couches are typically designed to be spill resistant if treated quickly, but stains that settle or become ground into the pillows become more tricky to remove.

  • Especially with suede couches, it’s important to check the tag to determine which sort of cleaning agent to use. If you can’t find the tag or label, assume it’s an S label to be safe.
  • Here’s a refresher, so you don’t have to scroll up.
    • W = water-based cleaner, which is gentle, contains water as its main ingredient and works well on most upholstery in general.
    • S = only solvents ought to be used, which is a type of cleaner that uses chemicals as its main component
    • S/W = both solvents and/or water-based cleaners can be used
    • X = avoid cleaning agents entirely (“X” is basically the couch equivalent to “dry clean only.”)
  • Mix your cleaning solution in your spray bottle.
  • For a W label, mix warm water with a few drops of dish soap.
  • For an S label, use straight isopropyl alcohol.
  • For an X label, just stick to a quick clean (aka dry brush and vacuum).
  • Spray your cleaning agent onto your suede couch, being mindful not to oversaturate it.
    • Using a soft sponge or microfiber rag, rub the solution in circular motions, section by section from the top to the bottom of your couch.
    • Don’t freak out when the suede appears to turn a dark color while wet, it’ll lighten again once your solution dries out.
    • If you’re using a soapy solution, be sure to wipe down the suede with a clean, damp rag afterward to remove any soapy residue.
  • Let the suede air dry completely, then massage the material with a soft, dry scrub brush to fluff the fibers back into place.

How to clean a fabric couch and cushions

When you spill on anything fabric—couch or otherwise—make haste and tackle that stain ASAP, or it’ll quickly absorb into the material.

  • First, conduct the quick clean.
    • Dry brush and vacuum loose debris.
  • Sprinkle the entire couch liberally with baking soda.
    • Let the baking soda sit for 15–20 minutes, then vacuum it up.
  • To spot treat stubborn stains on fabric couches, mix a paste of baking soda and water.
    • Use about ¼ cup of baking soda and a few drops of water to create the paste, until it’s the thickness of cake batter. Add more water as needed to reach consistency.
    • Smear the paste onto the spot or stain, and let it set for 15–20 minutes.
    • Use your dry brush or upholstery vacuum attachment to brush off or suck up the dried baking soda.
  • Using a clean, damp microfiber rag, rinse the couch with fresh water.
    • Dip your rag into clean water, and wring it out.
    • Wipe down the entire couch with the clean, damp rag to remove all baking soda residue.
  • Allow your couch to fully air dry before sitting on it (or letting pets on it!).
    • Ventilate the area by opening windows or running fans to speed along the drying process.
  • Alternatively, you can steam clean your fabric couch.
    • You can generally rent a steam cleaner, which will come with specific cleaning solution and instructions.

How to clean a polyester couch and cushions

For synthetic couch materials, such as polyester, you’ll want to keep it super simple so you don’t risk damaging the material.

  • Conduct the quick clean.
    • Dry brush and vacuum loose debris.
  • Just use a damp sponge to wipe down your polyester couch from top to bottom. Be sure not to oversaturate the material, and rinse and wring out your sponge in clean water often as you go.
    • For stubborn stains on polyester couches, it’s okay to use a drop of dish soap, like Dawn, to spot treat, being sure to wash the soapy residue away with clean water when you’re done.

Couches are comfortable. They should be clean, too. And after all that dry brushing and couch vacuuming, you may want to go ahead and give the surrounding carpet a clean next.

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