How to Clean a Dry Clean Only Couch or Sofa

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You can dry clean couches.
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Cleaning a couch is already a challenging task, and checking the care label to discover you have a dry-clean couch complicates things. Most fabric cleaners for upholstery, including commercial and DIY products, are water-based or need to be rinsed with water, which isn't a safe option for a dry-clean couch. Yet, you can't take your sofa to the local dry cleaners as you would clothing, and it's impractical to call in a professional every time you need to clean up grubby marks or day-to-day stains. Instead, use water-free cleaning methods and upholstery cleaning solutions designed for dry-clean-only fabrics.


Do You Have a Dry-Clean Couch?

Don't assume you do or do not have a dry-clean couch based on its appearance or fabric type. Instead, locate the couch's care label, which is usually quite large and attached in a hidden spot under a cushion, and look for the cleaning code and any additional care instructions. You have a dry-clean couch if the label has an "S," which indicates you should only use solvent-based cleaners and never water to clean the couch.


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If the care label says "X," this means you should not use any cleaning products on the couch; only vacuum it or hire a professional upholstery cleaning service. A "W" on the label means you can and should clean the couch with water and water-based cleansers but not solvents. "WS" means you can clean the couch with either a solvent- or water-based upholstery cleaning solution.


Fabric Cleaners for Couches With an “S” Code

Search online or in stores for dry-cleaning solvents specifically for upholstery. Some of these products might be labeled as dry cleaners for carpets as well. They come as sprays and wipes and also in powder form. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for use, test an inconspicuous part of the sofa before cleaning the visible areas and open windows for ventilation while working with these types of upholstery cleaning solutions.


Start by thoroughly vacuuming the sofa using the upholstery brush for the flat surfaces and the crevice tool for the creases and seams. The instructions will typically tell you to spray, wipe or sprinkle the upholstery cleaning solution liberally over the couch surfaces that need to be cleaned. Use a clean white towel and a soft-bristle brush to work the product into dirty areas and stains. For wipes and liquid products, wait for the couch to dry completely before sitting on it. With powdered fabric cleaners for couches, let the product sit for the recommended amount of time and then vacuum up the powder.


A DIY Cleaner for Dry-Clean Couches

An inexpensive and approachable DIY alternative to dry-cleaning solvents is a 50-50 mixture of baking soda and cornstarch. Together, these products are excellent at absorbing oils, moisture and odors and breaking down dirt. After thoroughly vacuuming the couch, sprinkle the mixture liberally over the areas that need to be cleaned. Rub the powder gently into the upholstery with a soft cloth or brush and let it sit for 20 minutes to one hour. Remove the powder using the brush attachment on your vacuum.


The DIY approach and commercial dry-cleaning products for couches might not be effective on older, deeply set stains. Don't be tempted to use water-based stain solutions on a dry-clean-only couch; instead, call a professional to tackle tough stains.



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