How to Clean Couches


Furniture prices can break budgets. So cleaning up mom and dad's gently used sofa, refurbishing a couch from a secondhand store or rehabilitating a prize adopted during a late night garbage day raid are terrific options. If you want to know exactly how much effort you'll put forth to clean a couch, figure you'll spend 25 percent of your time figuring out the fiber content, 25 percent choosing the proper cleaning agents and the final 50 percent on pure manual labor. You'll take care of the last half. Here's help with the rest.

Things You'll Need

  • Couch Fabric Content Information Vacuum with a HEPA Filter Spot Removal Product Upholstery Cleaning Agents Upholstery Shampoo Machine Assorted Rags and Brushes Scotchgard™ or other upholstery protector (optional) Sandpaper (optional) Wood stain (optional)
  • Remove all cushions from the couch and use a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to vacuum the surface areas. Move the wand into the recesses of couch, substituting a crevice tool to dig into tight places and corners. Vacuum cushions separately.

  • Search for tags that offer information about the couch's fabric content if you don't have a care guide. Look for "S" and "W" codes that indicate a fabric can be cleaned with a water-based or soluble cleaning agent. If you don't see either and suspect that the couch covering is made of cotton, rayon or silk, select a cleaner for that material or experiment with mild agents like Oxiclean® or Charlie's Soap All-Purpose Cleaner. Test an obscure area of the couch before you start cleaning to be safe.

  • Use a stain removal product formulated for the upholstery material and spot clean stains on the couch before you start general cleaning. First, try the stain remover on stains in an obscure area like under the cushions.

  • For water-soluble upholstery, rent or purchase an upholstery cleaning machine and shampoo. Use a chemical cleaning agent if the couch is covered in cotton, rayon or silk, working the product in with soft upholstery brushes. In both cases, remove the soil that has been captured by the cleaning agent as a final step in the couch restoration.

  • Clean wood trim and other non-upholstery couch fittings with mild soap. If the wood sections are damaged or scarred, consider sanding and staining them while you wait for the upholstery to dry.

  • When the couch is dry and you've completed the job, apply a spray-on product such as Scotchgard™ to all surface areas of the upholstery to keep it from attracting grime in the future.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure the couch is in a well-ventilated area where it can dry completely or you could encourage mold or mildew to grow in the foam rubber back or seat cushions. Avoid the mistake professional upholstery cleaners say is most often made by amateurs: using a dark rag -- even if it's clean -- to spot clean a stain. Chemicals in cleaners can transfer the dye in the rag to the furniture.
  • Using laundry detergent to clean a couch is never a good idea since today's products are made with fabric brighteners that could literally change the color of the couch you're trying to rehab. Alternately, be cautious about "citrus" upholstery cleaners since these types of products replicate chemicals used by dry cleaners and are too strong to be used by a non-professional.

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  • Photo Credit © Adelman Cleaners
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