Ideas + Advice

How Tos

How to Clean a Fabric Sofa

Don’t let tough stains and messy spills cramp your style – follow this easy, step-by-step process on how to clean a fabric sofa with baking soda, cleaning detergents and more.

How to Clean a Fabric Sofa for Stains

  1. Get to the stains quickly. As soon as a spill or stain occurs, get to cleaning it immediately. Waiting too long before treating a stain – even a matter of a few minutes – can cause the stain to set, making it harder to get out.
  2. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations. Before using any cleaning detergents or solutions, check the manufacturer’s instructions for care, which can usually be found on the sofa’s tags. Failing to use safe cleaning products could mean permanently damaged upholstery.
  3. Check the cleaning codes for your fabric sofa. You know those random letters on your sofa’s tags? Those are actually codes! Check out the table below for the list of codes – and what they mean.

fabric sofa

— Cleaning Code for Fabric Sofas Chart —

Cleaning Code What it Means
W "Water-based cleaner." Only use a water-based cleaner to clean the upholstery. A water-based cleaner is a type of solution that uses water as the main component.
S/W "Solvents and water-based cleaners." It is safe to use both solvents and water-based cleaners.
S "Solvents." Only use a solvent to clean the upholstery. A solvent is a type of solution that uses a cleaning chemical as the main component.

4. Use a dry brush to remove loose particles. Go over the entire sofa with a stiff brush with natural bristles to help loosen stains and bring dust and dirt to the surface.

5. Vacuum. Before scrubbing and cleaning your fabric sofa, use a hand-held vacuum to remove crumbs and any other loose particles. This will make it easier to identify and focus on troublesome stains when it comes time to clean.

6. Clean with baking soda. Baking soda isn’t just for baking – it’s also an effective cleaning treatment. In fact, sprinkling baking soda over the entire couch will help to remove odors and further loosen stains. You can also use a homemade baking soda solution for any areas of deep-set stains; in a bowl, mix together equal parts baking soda and water. For either the dry or wet solution, let the baking soda sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Once the baking soda has fully absorbed the stain, vacuum it up with a brush attachment. And as with all types of cleaning solutions, always spot treat a test portion of the sofa before cleaning it fully.

7. Spot treat with the recommended agent. Begin cleaning your couch with the recommended product. If you are unsure if the product falls within the recommendations, test a small area for any discoloration before proceeding. Whether you use a water-based cleaner or a solvent (or both), follow the instructions on the packaging. If the instructions say it is safe to do so, use a soft cloth to wipe away the solution.

8. Dry your fabric sofa with a soft towel. Pat down any wet areas with a dry towel to soak up the residual moisture. Gently brush off any remaining cleaning solution.

9. Let your fabric sofa air dry. Let the upholstery air dry overnight, and enjoy a fresh sofa in the morning!

Need to clean a leather sofa instead? Check out the Leather Sofa Cleaning Guide.

How to Clean a Fabric Sofa with a Steamer

What you’ll need:

An upholstery steam cleaner. Make sure before using that the manufacturer’s recommendations state it is safe for a fabric couch. Note, too, that just because your sofa is water-safe doesn’t make it heat-safe. As with other types of cleaners, always test spot an area before going full-steam (pun-intended)!

What to do:

  • Read the manual. There’s a reason why a steam cleaner comes with instructions. Read them carefully before beginning.
  • Vacuum first. Vacuuming your sofa – or anything, for that matter – before cleaning makes it a whole lot easier to clean it. Dirt, dust and other loose particles won’t get in the way and will give your steam cleaner a clean canvas to work from.
  • Keep the air circulated. Turn on a fan and open all the windows in the room for a strong cross breeze. This will help to keep the air circulation strong, preventing moisture buildup and residue.
  • Spot test an area first. This step is so important, it bears repeating. 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, and if the inside material is made of the same fabric as the outside of the sofa).
  • Let the sofa air dry. Don’t sit on the sofa while it’s still wet. Keep the windows open to help dry out the room. Be aware that it may take leaving the sofa untouched overnight for it to fully dry.
  • Vacuum last. Vacuuming again, once you’ve steamed the upholstery, will help ensure that any dirt that was loosened by the cleaner gets removed. Just remember to wait until the sofa is completely dry before vacuuming!

— Shop Featured Items —

— More Great Articles —