How to Clean a Sofa

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How to Clean a Sofa

As one of the most central pieces of furniture in a home, a sofa gets a lot of use. Whether for entertaining guests or lounging with a book, the sofa is an indispensable part of the household. In addition, it may be the favourite spot for children at play and pets at rest. It is no surprise, then, that sofas can accumulate a fair amount of dirt and debris over time. With some simple regular maintenance, they can be kept fairly clean. However, when grime builds up or tough stains occur, additional action is needed.

Because cleaning techniques depend on the sofa material, there is no single universal method for cleaning a sofa. The care instructions that came with the sofa should always be consulted before any attempt to clean it. In addition, testing the cleaning products first in an inconspicuous spot is always advisable. Experts recommend trying the gentlest method first, before proceeding to harsher cleansers, which may damage fabrics. In some cases, a professional upholstery cleaner should be consulted. The key to cleaning a sofa is to remove dirt and stains without damaging it.

How to Clean a Fabric Sofa

Upholstery fabrics come in a wide range of materials, and each has specific care instructions. These instructions should be consulted before attempting to clean any part of the sofa. They usually contain information on what kind of cleaning products can be used, as well as what cleaning methods.

Regular Maintenance

Fabric sofas, no matter what the material, benefit from regular vacuuming. Vacuum once per week, using the vacuum’s upholstery brush, to remove dust, dirt, hair, and crumbs. Alternatively, a soft-bristled cleaning brush can be used; this loosens dust and dirt and keeps the fabric from matting. This regular maintenance helps a sofa to look its best.

Removing Odours

Sometimes sofas absorb body odours, pet odours, kitchen smells, or other scents. In these cases, bicarbonate of soda can work wonders. Simply sprinkle a liberal amount on the sofa, let sit for ten minutes, and remove with a vacuum or brush.

Removing Stains

No matter how careful sofa owners are, accidents may occasionally occur. Stains are best treated immediately, so keeping a cloth on hand is a good idea. Loose covers can be removed for laundering, as discussed below; however, for small spots on both loose and fixed covers, treating the stained area alone may be a preferable approach.

Dip a soft, white cloth into a mixture of warm water and mild washing-up liquid. The cloth should be white so as to prevent any dye transfer to the sofa material. Always test in an inconspicuous area first to make certain the mixture does not damage the fabric. If the test area looks fine, gently dab at the stain, working from the outside towards the centre of the spot. The cloth should be damp, but not soaked. Do not rub or scrub the stain. Next, use a clean white cloth and water to clean the area once finished. Take care not to get the area very wet, and dry it as quickly as possible, first dabbing with a clean white towel and then opening windows or even using a hairdryer.


Vinegar is also a good stain remover. Again, test an area first. Using a clean white cloth, dab undiluted white vinegar onto the stain, then follow with a mild solution of washing-up liquid and water. Follow that with clean, water and dry quickly.

Commercial Stain Removers

If all else fails, commercial stain removers are available. Shoppers should take care to find one that is suitable for their sofa fabric, and follow the instructions carefully.

Stain Resist Treatments

Stain resist treatments may be recommended for sofas that are highly susceptible to stains. These treatments usually need to be reapplied every couple of years for maximum effectiveness.

Cleaning Loose Covers

Sofas with loose covers are relatively easy to clean. Simply remove the covers and wash by machine, by hand, or by dry cleaning, depending on the care instructions. Instructions often advise using cold water. For handwashing, use a mild detergent.

It is important to wash all the slipcovers at once, to avoid any colour variation. Since many domestic washing machines are not equipped to handle such a large load, it may be necessary to take them to a local launderette. Or, if handwashing, try placing them all in the bathtub. 

If ironing is recommended in the care instructions, do so on the reverse side. Experts suggest replacing them on the cushions when still slightly damp but not wet; this helps to prevent shrinkage and maintain their shape.

How to Clean Sofa Cushions

If cleaning the cover is not enough, it is possible to clean the cushions. One option is to use a steam cleaner, which is especially helpful if the cushions cannot be removed. Use a fan to speed the drying process. Foam cushions can also be machine-washed on the gentle cycle, or in the bathtub if they do not fit in the washing machine. Detergent or vinegar may also be used. The cushions may be dried on a rack in an electric dryer; better still is to dry them outside on a warm, sunny day. It is important that they dry quickly, as any lingering dampness may result in mold.

Cleaning Down Cushions

Before cleaning cushions on a down sofa, check the care instructions. Washable down cushions can be laundered in the bathtub with cool water and detergent. Soak them for about 15 minutes, and rinse with cool water, squeezing out any excess liquid. It is preferable to dry them outdoors in the sun, but in damp conditions they may be dried on the no-heat setting in an electric dryer. To prevent mould and mildew, it is vital to ensure they dry completely.

If down cushions cannot be washed, shaking them out and placing them outdoors on a warm sunny day can often remove dirt, dust, and odours.

How to Clean a Microfibre Sofa

Microfibre sofas have a luxurious, suede-like texture. The fabric is stain-resistant, which is a big advantage, but it can still get dirty. And because it is made of polyester, cleaning it with water would leave unsightly water marks. To get rid of persistent stains, rubbing alcohol can be used. It does not penetrate the material and evaporates much more quickly than water.

First, vacuum the sofa to remove any loose dirt. Next, spray a small amount of rubbing alcohol in an inconspicuous area to check for colourfastness. If that looks fine, proceed to spray rubbing alcohol on the dirty areas. Using a white scrub sponge, rub the area vigorously. Once finished, let the area dry completely. Finally, rub with a clean, white scrub brush to restore the material’s softness. Using a white scrub sponge and brush prevents colour transfer onto the sofa fabric.

Special Instructions for Cleaning a Leather Sofa

Leather is a durable, luxurious material whose texture improves over time. In addition to being highly comfortable, leather sofas are also fairly easy to keep clean on a regular basis. When stains occur, however, it is important to approach the problem carefully. Different kinds of leather may require special treatment, so users should know whether they have finished or unfinished leather; if unfinished, they should know what kind of leather it is.

Harsh cleansers, alcohol, and detergents should never be used on leather, as they can cause irreparable damage. If the methods suggested below do not work, it is best to consult a professional upholstery cleaner.

Regular Maintenance

As with fabric sofas, leather sofas benefit from regular vacuuming to remove dust, dirt, hair, crumbs, and debris. Alternatively, a soft cloth can be used to wipe the sofa down.

Cleaning a Finished Leather Couch

Finished leather has been treated to be stain and moisture resistant, making it very user-friendly. If not properly maintained, however, its protective layer may crack, allowing dirt, dust, and other debris to collect and slowly break down its topcoat. Therefore, regular cleaning and conditioning are recommended.

It is generally inadvisable to use household cleaning products on leather. A few drops of mild liquid soap such as Neutrogena or Dove can be mixed with a litre of distilled water to make a gentle cleansing solution. Dip a soft, clean, white cloth into the mixture and squeeze out the excess liquid. First, do a test spot in an inconspicuous area. If it does not damage the leather, proceed to clean the sofa one section at a time with the damp cloth. Use a separate rag to dip in clean distilled water and wipe away any soapy residue. A third rag should be used to dry the area immediately. Once dry, buff the couch with soft, clean, dry cloth. After cleaning, it is recommended to add a leather conditioner to help it retain moisture.

Cleaning Unfinished Leather Sofas

Unfinished leather comes in different varieties: aniline, semi-aniline, antique grain, pull-up, nubuck, and suede. It is soft and supple, but also more susceptible to stains and water damage. The product used to clean unfinished leather depends on the specific type of leather. Some kinds, like aniline and semi-aniline, can be cleaned with a mild soap solution as described above for finished leather. Others, like suede and pull-up, should be cleaned with a dry cloth only.

For more thorough cleaning, look for non-chemical products designed for the specific type of leather. Regular conditioning and application of protective treatments help keep unfinished leather looking its best.

Treating Grease Stains on Leather Sofas

The first tactic when treating a grease stain on a leather sofa is to press the stain with a soft, dry cloth. Water does not help dissolve grease and should not be used.

Talcum powder or cornflour also works well to absorb grease stains. Sprinkle generously directly on the stain and let it sit for four hours. For finished leather, remove by brushing with a soft-bristled brush. For unfinished leather, use a soft cloth. This process may need to be repeated.

How to Buy Sofas and Sofa Care Products on eBay

You’ll find a wide range of sofas and sofa-care products on eBay’s online auction website. To search for an item, go to eBay’s home page and enter keywords, such as "leather cleaning kit" into the search bar. eBay lets you then refine your results by selecting factors like seller location, item condition, and more. If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, you can try visiting eBay Shops.

Before you bid on an item, read the product description carefully. It should have a detailed description of materials, item condition, and the seller’s return policy. Also verify the shipping fees and conditions. If you have any questions, you can contact the seller through eBay.

Researching the seller is another important step. Check their feedback rating and read comments left by previous buyers. This helps you establish how reliable and knowledgeable the seller is. Top-rated sellers consistently provide excellent customer service.


A good sofa can get a lot of use. Its comfortable construction makes it the perfect spot for socialising, relaxing, playing, and even sleeping. For these reasons, some regular maintenance is required to keep a sofa looking its best. Caring for a sofa depends much on the specific kind of fabric used, and sofa owners should consult the product’s care instructions above all else when it is time to clean.

While it is difficult to generalise about sofa cleaning instructions, there are some basic guidelines. Every couch benefits from being vacuumed or gently wiped down with a dry cloth once a week. This helps eliminate dust, hair, crumbs, and dirt. For stain removal, the gentlest methods should be used first. Before any cleaning, a small, inconspicuous area should be tested first. Foam and down cushions can often be washed in the machine or by hand, making sure they dry thoroughly before replacing them on the sofa. Cleaning leather sofas should be done with a mild soap (for finished leather) or a product intended for the specific type of leather. A quality sofa is an investment, and with the right care, it can be comfortable and beautiful for years.

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