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Yes, You Should Be Cleaning Your Couch—Here's What You Need to Know

how to clean your couch

Cathie Hong Interiors

There's a good chance that your couch is one of the most frequently used pieces of furniture in your house (after your bed, of course). Between afternoon naps, Saturday night movie sessions, and even working from home, your couch is always there for you. But if that beautiful green sofa you bought a few months ago already looks worse for the wear, it's time to rethink this weekend's chore list. The good news? Deep cleaning your couch is something you can easily do on your own in under an hour.

Below, read on for the best tips to clean your couch—and keep your coziest spot fresh for many movie nights to come.

How Often Should You Clean Your Couch?

You should plan to deep clean your couch every six months (so add the task to your spring and fall cleaning checklists). Between major cleans, it's important to vacuum the furniture regularly depending on its use. If you have pets, children, or household members prone to spilling crumbs, give it a quick vacuum refresh once per week. For homes with less wear and tear, once per month should suffice.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum 
  • Microfiber towels
  • Paper towels 
  • Dry brush 
  • Dishwashing detergent 
  • Baking soda 
  • Enzyme-based cleaner (optional) 
  • Handheld steam cleaner (optional) 

How to Clean Your Couch With Soap and Water

how to clean your couch

Cathie Hong Interiors

Step 1: Check Your Manufacturer's Label

You probably won't need all of the materials, depending on the fabric and how recently it's been cleaned. Before you begin, triple-check your couch's care tag to see what cleaning solutions are safe for use on its material. Here's a quick breakdown of common symbols:

  • W: Only a water-based cleaner is safe for your couch.
  • W/S: A water-based or solvent-based cleaner is safe.
  • S: Only use solvent-based cleaning chemicals.
  • X: Vacuum only—this fabric is delicate.

Once you know what types of cleaners are safe for use on your couch, you can opt for either natural, at-home cleaning solutions or a store-bought cleaner.

Step 2: Vacuum and Brush Away Particles

Vacuum your sofa to make sure all debris, pet hair, dirt, and crumbs are swept up before applying a cleaning solution. Use either your vacuum's upholstery tool or a handheld vacuum to gently sweep up all parts of your couch. Remove your cushions if possible, and be sure to get all sides. Focus on buttons, embellishments, and seams where dirt tends to pile up. A dry brush is a great way to loosen up any caked-on debris to make it easier to vacuum up.

Step 3: Spot-Clean Any Stains

If you have pets or enjoy a nice glass of wine, there's a chance you have a few spots that could use a bit of extra attention. If you catch the stain right away, use a paper towel to soak up any excess liquid. Then, mix together a few squirts of dish soap in a bowl and stir vigorously. Blot the mixture onto the stain, but do not saturate the fabric. Allow to air dry and repeat if necessary. If the dish soap is still soaked into the material after drying, blot with water and dry again.

If you have a difficult stain, you may want to reach for a solvent-based cleaner, as long as your couch care tag says that it is safe. Look for one that targets stains and follow the instructions.

If you're trying out a new cleaner for the first time, try a spot test in an inconspicuous area of your couch to ensure it doesn't stain the fabric.

How to Clean Your Couch With Baking Soda

Living room with small couch
Arbor & Co.

Step 1: Ensure the Fabric is Dry

There's a reason people never go without baking soda—you can use it in every room of the house. This method also fights bacteria, mildew, and unpleasant smells that can build up over time on fabric. To clean your couch with baking soda, start by ensuring the fabric is completely dry. If it's damp for any reason, it's safe to gently dry the area with a hairdryer on the coolest setting (avoid heat to prevent setting any stains deeper).

Step 2: Sprinkle Baking Soda

For an easy all-around clean, sprinkle baking soda over your dry couch and let it sit for at least 20 minutes. This allows the powder to gently penetrate the fabric while soaking up bacteria and odor.

Step 3: Vacuum Your Sofa

Using your vacuum's attachment, sweep up all of the baking soda. Take care to double-check any crevices between built-in pillows and armrests to remove any leftover powder.

How to Clean Your Couch With a Handheld Steamer

how to clean your couch

Cathie Hong Interiors

Step 1: Prepare the Steam Cleaner

If you have a steam cleaner, fill it with your recommended cleaning solution. If you have pets, we recommend an enzyme-based solution that can tackle lingering smells from past accidents. Vinegar is also a great substitution.

Step 2: Steam all Surfaces

Run the steam cleaner over the cushions, arms, and back of your couch, agitating where you see stains. Allow your couch to air dry and repeat if necessary.

Step 3: Make Sure It's Dry

If you opted for a wet cleanse, be sure to remove the cushions and allow them to air out before placing them back on the couch. Light fabrics can be left in the sun to expedite the process, but be sure not to replace the cushions until they're fully dry to avoid mold and mildew growth.

How to Keep Your Couch Clean Longer

how to clean your couch

The House on Hillside Lane

While it's important to deep clean every six months, it's also helpful to plan preventative cleanings more regularly. Along with vacuuming the furniture weekly to monthly (depending on household use), it's essential to clean any stains or spills as soon as possible. Use a mixture of soap and water—or a solvent-based cleaner, if applicable—to treat stains after dabbing them dry with a paper towel or washcloth.

How to Get Rid Of and Prevent Smells on Your Couch

how to clean your couch

Burchard Design Co.

If your couch is still retaining an unpleasant smell after cleaning it with soap and water or baking soda, opt for a more powerful clean with vinegar. Simply mix one part distilled white vinegar to three parts warm water, then lightly coat the fabric with a spray bottle. For more stubborn odors, up the percentage of vinegar in your solution. Allow the sofa to dry thoroughly, then repeat a baking soda cleanse to remove any leftover vinegar scents before vacuuming. A quick spritz with a citrus-scented deodorizer (like Lysol) at the end can leave a pleasant scent while preventing any further bacteria growth.