How to Clean Smelly Sofas

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Deodorize your smelly sofa so you can enjoy the furniture once more.
Deodorize your smelly sofa so you can enjoy the furniture once more. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Sometimes your typical housecleaning routine won't get the job done, such as when your sofa is smelly. Wet dogs, sweaty teenagers, muddy children, a second-hand sofa or a sofa that's been locked away in storage or the basement can look great, but have an odor problem. Clean your smelly sofa so it feels, looks and smells fresh again.

Things You'll Need

  • Deodorizing powder
  • Vacuum
  • Steam cleaner
  • Plastic bag

Check the label on your sofa -- if it's still attached -- to avoid using a product that will ruin it. Water-based cleansing solutions are OK if there's a "W," solvent-based solutions should be used if there's an "S" and either will work if the label has a "W-S." Test an inconspicuous area of the sofa if the tag has been removed.

Sprinkle an odor-neutralizing powder on your sofa and let it sit for a few hours. Baking soda or special upholstery deodorizers will work. Some odors, such as urine, can be neutralized by misting the area with a solution of white vinegar and distilled water.

Vacuum the powder using the crevice tool on your household vacuum cleaner. Get in between all the cushions and hard-to-reach areas that typically go overlooked.

Steam-clean the sofa if you can use a water-based solution on the fabric.

Remove the cushion covers if possible and hand-wash or use a delicate cycle if appropriate. Meanwhile, put the cushions inside of a plastic bag and vacuum all the air out of the bag, essentially removing the air from the cushions. Take the cushions out of the bag and allow them to expand with fresh air.

Tips & Warnings

  • It may be necessary to repeat Steps 2 and 3 a couple of times.
  • Add cedar wood chips or unused, scented dryer sheets between the sofa and cushions for a continued fresh smell, or spray odor-neutralizing products on the sofa every few days.
  • Some odor-causing sources, such as mold or mildew, can make it difficult to get rid of the smell permanently. In that case, it may be best to part ways with the sofa or have it restuffed and reupholstered.

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