How To Clean A Fabric Sofa At Home (Step-By-Step Guide)

How To Clean A Fabric Sofa At Home (Step-By-Step Guide)

A nice sofa is an investment; a statement piece that brings life to your living space.

A sofa represents comfort and relaxation. Nothing beats the feeling of throwing yourself down on the couch after a long day.

Since so much time is spent on the sofa nearly every day, it’s unavoidable that dirt builds up. Sometimes spills even occur. Unless you have a leather sofa, a simple wipe-down won’t save you from stains and dirt. So what do you do?

Simple habits like eating in the dining area can help keep your couch clean, but it can be hard to stop yourself from snacking there while relaxing. Spot cleaning can also help remove stains caused by spillage as soon as they occur. 

What about huge messes and months of build-up?

We have a solution for that―it won’t be simple, but it’ll get the job done. We’ll walk you through several step-by-step cleaning methods for your sofa, no matter the fabric, so you can enjoy a clean couch once more.

Table of Contents

Before You Start Cleaning

Chamonix Tufted Sofa – Large

Why are you cleaning? Is it to remove stubborn stains or are you just doing general maintenance? First, you need to know the nature of the stain or dirt on your couch to employ the right cleaning solutions.

Next, read the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions before attempting to remove any stains. Some couches come with a warranty, and failure to read those instructions might ruin your couch and void your warranty.

If you can’t find the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions, check for a tag on your sofa. Similar to the tags found on clothes, your sofa tag has instructions for cleaning the upholstery.

On the tag, you’ll see a letter that represents the method of cleaning your couch needs.

If you can’t find a guide or sofa tag, do a simple test on a small, inconspicuous part of your couch to avoid ruining the whole piece of furniture. To test, apply a bit of detergent and water to a cleaning cloth, let sit on the area for 15-20 minutes and check for color transference.

Cleaning Code for Fabric Sofas Chart

The table below contains the cleaning code symbols you’ll find on your sofa tag and what they represent.

Cleaning Code for Fabric Sofas Chart

What You’ll Need

Below is a list of the tools and equipment you’ll need for cleaning your sofa:

  • A vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment
  • Three light-colored microfiber cloths
  • A bucket
  • Distilled water 
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • A drying towel
  • A stiff brush
  • Fabric couch cleaner
  • Liquid dish soap
  • An upholstery steam cleaner

Fabric Matters

The cleaning method you’ll use depends on the type of fabric your couch is covered with.

Fabrics like leather, vinyl, and microfiber are very easy to clean. They don’t absorb liquids and are therefore harder to stain. Simply wiping them down with a damp cloth is sufficient for keeping them clean and fresh.

Do you wonder why some couches wear easier than others? The answer lies in the quality of the fabric. Cheap fabrics not only wear easily, but they’re also harder to clean. This is because such fabrics are mainly suited for clothing and other upholstery purposes.

A couch is a long-term investment that should last you 7-15 years. When buying a couch, it’s important to invest in one with higher quality fabric since it will be more durable.

Cheap is expensive. A low-quality fabric will wear through in a year, and you’ll need to either reupholster or buy a new couch altogether.

On the bright side, you don’t have to break the bank to get a good-quality couch. HD Buttercup is home for all your sofa needs with a guaranteed assurance of comfort and quality. Turn your house into a home with a statement piece from our stores, created by our talented designers.

How To Clean A Sofa  Without A Steam Cleaner

Below is a step-by-step guide to cleaning a fabric couch by hand.

STEP #1 - Dust and Deodorize

removing dust and deodorize the sofa

First, dust off your couch to get rid of debris and loose dirt. When dirt comes into contact with water, it can create stubborn stains that are harder to remove.

Sprinkle baking soda all over the sofa and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and will remove odors from your couch. 

Use the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner for suctioning up the baking soda and any remaining debris. In the absence of a vacuum cleaner, use a dry brush to sweep away dirt. Remove the cushion covers and clean them separately. This is covered later on.

STEP #2 - How to Clean A Sofa  Stain

Next is spot cleaning. Identify the stains and use the right stain removal method.

Mix water, dishwashing liquid, and vinegar in a bottle and use the solution to dampen your microfiber cloth. Gently blot the stained areas with the cloth to remove stains.

To remove grease stains from upholstered furniture, cover the stain with mild dish soap, let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse off with a damp cloth dipped in warm water.

For blood stains, apply hydrogen peroxide to a cloth, dab it on the area and rinse off with a damp cloth dipped in cold water.

STEP #3 - Deep Cleaning the Whole Sofa

woman wiping the sofa


Using the same blotting method, apply a mixture of water, vinegar, and dish soap to your cloth and wipe the couch. Alternative options for cleaning your fabric sofa include using a store-bought fabric cleaning solution or a mild detergent.

Moisten a clean microfiber cloth with plain water, and use it to blot the entire couch. This will remove the remaining cleaning mixture and dirt. Repeat the process till the couch is clean.

For dry-clean-only fabric furniture, mix dry cleaning detergent and solvent. Apply the mixture on a clean cloth and use it to blot the entire couch until clean. Dry cleaning agents have a pungent smell, so be sure to work in a well-ventilated room.

STEP #4 - Cleaning Non-Fabric Parts

Non-fabric parts of the couch also need cleaning. These parts include bare frames and couch legs which are usually made of steel or wood.

Use a damp cloth to wipe off dirt and stains, then polish with a dry cloth for that clean, shiny finish.

For steel, add a few drops of vinegar when cleaning.

STEP #5 - Drying the Fabric

Using a dry microfiber cloth, blot your entire fabric sofa working one area at a time to absorb excess cleaning solution. Fabric couches absorb a lot of liquid, so when you’re done, you can either air-dry your sofa or point a fan on the couch to completely dry it.

STEP #6 - Brushing Back to Normal

The fibers in fabric couches have a rough look and feel when they dry. To revive their appearance, brush the fabric back with a soft brush to separate the clumped fibers and smooth them out. There you have it, a clean, fresh-looking sofa; good as new.

How to Clean a Fabric Couch With a Steam Cleaner

Before you start cleaning with a steam cleaner, check the manufacturer’s instructions on the sofa’s tag to confirm whether the fabric can withstand heat.

STEP #1 - Use Baking Soda to Loosen Dirt

pouring baking soda on sofa

First, it’s important to loosen dirt from the couch. Sprinkling baking soda over the entire surface and letting it sit for 20 minutes will rid the fabric sofa of odors, loosen dirt and make it easy to identify stains.

Vacuum the sofa to remove dirt and baking soda debris. Your couch should be looking clean and smelling fresher already.

STEP #2 - Stain Removal

Old stains won't come out completely during general cleaning, so it’s important to treat them beforehand. Work on each stain, one at a time, using the correct stain removal technique required.

STEP #3 - Run the Steam Cleaner

Steaming fabric sofa

A steamer uses water and heat to remove dirt from the fabric. Steaming causes moisture build-up, so open the windows or turn on a fan for air circulation.

Using a steamer with an upholstery attachment will make your work easier. Remove the cushions and work on them one side at a time with rapid strokes to prevent waterlogging. Clean the sofa in small sections to ensure every area is covered.

STEP #4 - Let the Sofa Air Dry

Leave the couch to air dry, then return the cushions. Make sure both sides of the cushions are dry. For a clean finish, vacuum the fabric couch one more time.

How to Clean a Couch Cushion

For loose cushion covers, remove the cushion and hand wash or machine wash the covers. Always check the cover tag for the safest laundering method and use a mild detergent. Once the covers are dry, return them to the cushions. 

How to Clean Couch Cushions that Cannot Be Removed

For cushions that are permanently attached to the couch, use a steamer to clean the upholstery, or spot clean with a microfiber cloth and professional upholstery cleaner. Pay attention to the corners as they tend to harbor a lot of dirt.

Featured Sofas Made to Last

Charcoal contemporary sectional sofa

Routine cleaning is key in maintaining the pristine look that sofas have when you first buy them, but even that can’t save your couch from natural wear and tear. 

It’s important to invest in a good quality sofa. But remember, when the cushions no longer match the sofa’s body, it’s time to say goodbye.

Mariena Q found beautiful unique pieces for various rooms in her house. She found a variety of styles and her review attests to how everything was of very high quality.

Why You Should Clean Your Sofa

Given how much time we spend there, the couch is a hub for dirt, dust, and debris. Regular cleaning will not only keep your sofa clean but will enhance its durability too. 

Dirt build-up can make a couch look old and destroy the fabric, and reupholstering is expensive. To avoid that unnecessary expense, use our simple tips to deep clean your sofa. 

Matthew R

I can spend hours here looking at furniture I never knew I needed, LOL. Amazing selection of home goods for every style and taste. Also a great place to find decorating ideas.