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How Do You Clean a Fabric Sofa?

We use sofas every day, for watching TV and snacking, napping, sitting, and sometimes even eating dinner. They are very easily stained especially lighter ones. You should clean your sofa even if there aren’t any visible stains, as it still collects dead skin flakes, pet hair, your body’s natural oils, and so on. So, how do you clean a fabric sofa?

How you clean your fabric sofa depends on what kind of sofa you have. If you can remove some of the upholstery, you will wash it in a washing machine, but if you can’t you will have to hand clean it. 

Clean a Fabric Sofa
Clean a Fabric Sofa

Cleaning your fabric sofa also depends on the manufacturer’s recommendation. Make sure you check the label of your fabric sofa to see what solution is recommended. If you use something you’re not supposed to use for cleaning your fabric sofa, you will damage it badly, so be careful. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to clean and care for your fabric sofa. 

How do you clean a fabric sofa?

Even though traditional upholstery remains attached to furniture and requires tricky spot cleaning or sometimes even a professional treatment, you can quickly and conveniently remove upholstered slipcovers and throw them in the washing machine when you notice some dirt and stains on your sofa.

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Washing an upholstered slipcover brightens its appearance, prolongs its life, and protects your upholstered furniture from unnecessary wear and tear.

Most renewable upholstery can go into the washing machine, but some fabrics require professional cleaning. Check the care label to make sure that the fabric on your sofa is preshrunk and colorfast. If it’s not, do not wash it in the washing machine, because untreated fabrics can bleed colors and shrink when washed in a washing machine. In case that the care guidelines are missing or unclear, do your own colorfast test by dabbing a damp cloth on a hidden part of the fabric, like at the back of your sofa if it’s next to a wall. If the color transfers onto the cloth, do not wash it in the machine, because that means that it is not colorfast.

Step 1: Start the cleaning of your sofa by pretreating tough stains. Pretreating your fabric helps the washing machine perform better. Some stains are difficult for the washing machine to remove on its own, for example, stains from lotions, and body oils. To pretreat your stains, apply a stain remover to spot clean stained areas or make your own cleaning solution by mixing a combination of equal parts liquid laundry detergent and water. Dab the solution onto the spot and gently rub it with a sponge or microfiber cloth

Step 2: Let the solution sit on the spot until you wash the upholstered slipcovers because this gives it time to penetrate the fibers and lift stubborn stains. Try not to flood spots with water, as this can result in water stains.

Step 3: Vacuum your upholstered slipcovers before throwing them in the washing machine. Running the vacuum’s brush attachment across your slipcover helps remove fine dust and debris and makes washing it in the washing machine significantly easier. If you have a special upholstery attachment, use that instead.

Step 4: Wash your upholstered slipcovers in the washing machine. Avoid washing them in hot or warm water, because cold water is kinder to delicate fibers, especially if you use it in combination with the delicate cycle on your washing machine. 

Step 4: Dry your upholstered slipcovers. Do not dry your upholstery in a dryer, as it could also cause shrinkage and fading. Tumble dry on the fluff or air-only setting or air dry after laundering instead. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t let the upholstered slipcovers dry completely, because it is easier to put it back on your sofa while it’s still a bit damp. For ideal cleaning, isolate upholstered slipcovers from other types of laundry and wash in small, single batches. 

Step 5: Clean the rest of the sofa. While the part of your sofa that can be removed is washed in the washing machine and dried, clean the part of your sofa that can’t be removed. Start by vacuuming the sofa to get rid of any pet hairs or crumbs.

Step 6: Based on your manufacturer’s recommendation, choose a cleaning solution for your couch. Do a spot test first to make sure it doesn’t harm your sofa. Dab the stains on your couch with the solution and let them dry for some 10 minutes.

Step 7: Gently pat off any excess moisture to prevent mildew. 

Step 8: Sprinkle some baking soda to get rid of any smells. Let it sit for about 15-20 minutes.

Step 9: Vacuum your sofa once again to clean up the baking soda.

Step 10: Put your upholstered slipcovers back in their place while they are still slightly damp.

Step 11: Let your sofa dry completely overnight. Make sure you don’t sit on your sofa while it’s still wet. Keep in mind that the room in which the sofa is should be airy, so leave a few windows open while the sofa is drying.


If your cleaning solution doesn’t work, try using club soda instead. Pour the club soda directly over the stain, and scrub it with a clean cloth. Club soda should be able to remove grease and oil stains from most fabrics, even ones that contain polyester or other man-made fabrics.

If you have a light-colored sofa, keep your black and dark jeans away from it. The dark dye from your jeans can transfer onto your light-colored sofa. 

If you’re in a hurry and you have to quickly remove a stain from your sofa, use baby wipes. They are surprisingly effective in picking up dirt and spills from your fabric sofa. Since it is intended for the baby’s sensitive skin, the wipe will also gently work with the fabric and won’t damage it even more. Baby wipes also have a pleasant smell compared to some other stain removers. 

In case that you have guests coming soon and you noticed some pet hair on your sofa but don’t have enough time to vacuum it, don’t panic. Simply use a lint roller that you would use on your clothes. The lint roller is gentle enough so it won’t damage the fabric or pull out any fibers. 

If you have kids or pets, try covering your sofa with some throw blankets. That way you won’t have to clean your sofa as often, you will just wash the blankets. The blankets will also protect the sofa from some stains that are harder to remove. 

If you don’t like the idea of completely covering your sofa with throw blankets but you still struggle with removing your pet’s hair, try this. Put a blanket on a permanent spot, like next to an armrest, and teach your dog that this blanket is its and that if it wants to be on the couch, it can only be on the blanket. It might take a few weeks for your dog to be trained to only lay on its blanket, but after that, you will have much less pet hair on your sofa.

How do you clean it if you can’t remove the fabric and use a washing machine?

Some sofas come with upholstery that can’t be taken off. That doesn’t mean that these kinds of sofas don’t stain or need washing, it just means that you have to find a way to wash the upholstery without taking it off.

Most sofas have solutions recommended by their manufacturer. Check the label to see with what solution you should wash your sofa. A “W” on the label means you can use a water-based cleaner, an “S” means you can use a solvent-based cleaner, and a “WS” means you can use either. If there is an “X” on your label, that means you should only have it professionally cleaned. 

How often you should wash your sofa depends on how often you use it. Ideally, you should vacuum it once a week and wash it once a month. That said, if there are any stains, try to wash them as soon as they appear, don’t wait for your monthly sofa washing. 

Before using any kind of washing solution on your sofa, make sure you do a spot test somewhere where it won’t be noticeable if something goes wrong. 

Make sure you don’t use a colored cloth when washing your sofa, Using a white cloth will allow you to see if any color comes off. If so, stop using the product immediately. That is why you should always do a small spot test first. 

To clean your fabric sofa you will need rubber gloves, a vacuum with upholstery attachments, microfiber cloth, an upholstery brush,  a bucket, upholstery stain remover, baking soda, recommended spot treatment, and some warm water.

Start by brushing your sofa. Keep the brush dry, and go over the entire sofa with a stiff brush with natural bristles to help loosen stains and bring dust and dirt to the surface.

Once you’re done with brushing, vacuum your sofa. Use a handheld vacuum to remove crumbs and any other loose particles before you start cleaning your sofa.

Next, clean it with baking soda. Baking soda can be used for more than just baking. It’s an effective cleaning treatment. If you sprinkle baking soda on your couch, it will help remove odors and loosen stains even more. You can use a homemade baking soda solution for any areas of deep-set stains. 

To make the solution, mix together equal parts of baking soda and water. Sprinkle the mix on the sofa and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes. When the baking soda has absorbed the smell and stains, vacuum it up with a brush attachment. 

Use the recommended spot treatment on your sofa. If you’re not sure if the product falls within the recommendations, test a small area for any discoloration before moving on to clean the entire couch. Remember to follow the instructions on the packaging, regardless of whether you use a water-based cleaner or a solvent.

Dry the sofa with a dry towel. Pat down any areas that are wet with a dry towel to soak up the residual moisture. Then, gently brush off any remaining cleaning solution.

Lastly, let your sofa air-dry overnight.

There are often some stubborn stains that are very hard to get out of your sofa. Maybe you spilled some red wine, ketchup, or ink leaked out of a pen. The easiest way to remove these stains is with white vinegar and baking soda. This is because the baking soda reacts with the vinegar to create an acidic formula that gently cuts through grease and grime.

To remove these stubborn stains, you will need washing-up liquid, white vinegar, baking soda, and some warm water. 

Start by taking a teaspoon of washing-up liquid, white vinegar, baking soda, and warm water and mixing them together into a lather. As white vinegar and baking soda react with one another, the mixture should froth up.

Next, apply directly to any stains or smudges that you see on your sofa, and let it dry for about 10 minutes. 

When it’s dry, wipe the surface with a clean cloth to lift away any residue.

If you have a steamer, you can use it to clean your sofa, but you first have to make sure that the manufacturer’s recommendations state it is safe for your fabric couch. Just because your sofa is water-safe doesn’t mean it’s heat-safe too. 

Start by reading the manual and the instructions that come with the steamer. 

Next, vacuum your sofa. Vacuuming your sofa before cleaning it makes it much easier to clean. You will remove any dirt, dust, and other loose particles and they won’t get in your way of cleaning.

Make sure you keep the air circulating. You can turn on a fan, or if you don’t have a fan, open all the windows in the room for a strong cross breeze. This will keep air circulation and prevent moisture buildup and residue.

Do a spot test first. This step is very important, so pick a small hidden spot to test the cleaner, such as the back or the inside of the sofa’s skirt if it has one. 

Once you’ve steam cleaned your sofa, let it dry. Don’t sit on it until it is completely dry. Keep the windows open to help dry out the room and dry your sofa. Keep in mind that you may have to leave the sofa untouched overnight for it to fully dry.

Lastly, vacuum again. Once you’ve steamed your sofa, vacuuming it again will help ensure that any dirt that was loosened by the cleaner gets removed. Make sure you wait for your sofa to be completely dry before vacuuming it.

If you need to quickly disinfect your sofa, mix an antibacterial essential oil, such as tea tree oil, and a bit of rubbing alcohol. Lightly spray your sofa with the mixture, let the solution sit for a few minutes, then run a vacuum over the sofa’s surface.

You should also consider treating your sofa with a stain guard, which is a spray that protects the fabric from stains.


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How Do You Clean a Fabric Sofa?

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