How to Clean Every Type of Couch

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Learning how to clean a couch is easier than you might think—as long as you follow these expert-approved instructions

Out of all the furniture in our homes, couches experience the most wear and tear. After all, we use them every day to kick up our feet and relax, watch Netflix with a snack and drink in hand, and cuddle up with our human and furry babies. We might even use them as a makeshift bed for guests. But all that activity can turn your favorite gathering spot into a hot spot for dirt, germs, allergens and more. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to clean a couch—and to do it regularly.

If you’re only cleaning your couch when you need to remove a stain, that’s a mistake. You should incorporate this task into your weekly cleaning schedule to make your couch last longer and look brand-new again. But how you clean a couch depends on the specific material it’s made from, and if you clean it the wrong way, you might ruin it.

Don’t worry: We have all the information you need right here, from simple step-by-step instructions to the best cleaning solutions and pet hair removers, for every type of couch. You truly won’t believe how easy it is or what a difference it makes on microfiber couches, wool couches, leather couches and more. When you’re up to speed, learn how to clean your kitchen and your bathroom quickly and easily.

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How often should you wash your couch?

How often you clean your couch is almost as important as how you clean it. To keep yours in tip-top shape, deep-clean it every three to six months, says Alicia Sokolowski, president and co-CEO of Aspen Clean. “But,” she adds, “I would recommend vacuuming your sofa at least once a week—more if you have pets—and spot-cleaning as required.”

Generally speaking, cleaning frequency should depend on how much you use your couch and who uses it. In addition to pets, young children tend to get things messier faster (as parents know all too well). The color of your sofa is also a factor. White or cream sofas, of course, tend to need more maintenance than darker colors. If you do have pets, you’ll also need these tips on how to get dog smell out of a couch.

Why is it important to clean couches?

Before we get into how to clean a couch, it’s important to understand why it needs to be done in the first place. According to Sokolowski, there are three main reasons couch cleaning is a must. The first, of course, is about protecting your expensive purchase. “Furniture is an investment, and therefore it is important to maintain its appearance,” she says. “Regularly cleaning your sofa will keep it in good condition and [help it] last for years.”

But the other two reasons have to do with your well-being. “Allergens such as fleas, mold, dust mites and bacteria can live in the fibers of your sofa, and if left for long periods of time, they can have a negative effect on your health,” Sokolowski explains. Additionally, your sofa can hold enormous amounts of dust, and when you sit on the cushions, this dust is released into the air. Translation: If you don’t vacuum your couch regularly, you’re probably breathing in a lot of dust. Using a HEPA vacuum is the best way to go, Sokolowski says, because it will also remove 99% of bacteria.

What you’ll need to clean a couch

The first step for all couches

No matter what type of couch you have, start by removing the cushions from the couch. “I would then use a vacuum to clean under and around cushions,” Sokolowski says. “You can also use a dry natural-bristle brush to gently loosen dirt and dust.”

Next, read the fabric care labels to see if the cushion covers are machine washable. “In general, couch cushion covers should be cleaned in cold water either by hand or on a delicate cycle in the washing machine,” Sokolowski notes. However, be careful when it comes to drying them. A common complaint, even with machine-washable covers, is that they tend to shrink in the dryer and then fit the cushions too tightly. Air-drying might be a better option.

How to clean a microfiber couch

  1. Read the care label of your microfiber couch to determine what solution you can (and cannot) use on it.
  2. Vacuum or brush your sofa to remove all dirt and dust, as outlined above.
  3. Depending on your couch’s care label, Sokolowski suggests using a natural cleaner, which you can make at home using 1 Tbsp. natural dish soap and 2 cups of warm water in a spray bottle. Lightly spray the solution on the stained areas, and then gently blot them with a dry cloth.
  4. If your microfiber couch feels stiff after cleaning, gently soften it by using a soft, natural-bristle brush to fluff the fibers.

Rubbing alcohol is also excellent for microfiber couches, because it evaporates quickly and doesn’t leave water stains behind. If you go this route, Sokolowski suggests adding a little rubbing alcohol to your spray bottle, saturating the stain with the solution and then gently rubbing away the stain.

How to clean a wool couch

  1. Read the care label of your wool couch to determine what solution you can (and cannot) use on it.
  2. Vacuum the sofa to remove all dirt and dust. You can also use a dry natural-bristle brush to loosen dirt and dust.
  3. Wool couches are generally labeled with a “W,” with the label specifying whether the fabric is a blend or 100% wool. Most wool couches should be cleaned only with water. “Therefore,” says Sokolowski, “I would recommend using a damp towel or cloth and gently scrubbing in a circular motion to remove any dirt or dust.” If you use a couch cleaner, you might permanently damage the sofa.

How to clean a linen couch

  1. Read the care labels of your linen couch to determine what solution you can use on it.
  2. Vacuum your sofa to remove all dirt and dust.
  3. To spot-clean an area, gently blot the stain with a damp cloth. “Do not rub or scrub, as this may ruin the material,” Sokolowski points out.
  4. If your sofa needs a more thorough cleaning, you can hand-wash the linen coverings or put them in the washing machine, on a warm temperature with a mild natural detergent.
  5. But you’ll probably want to stay far away from the dryer. “Read the instructions carefully beforehand,” she emphasizes. “Generally, the safest method is air drying.”

Pro tip: To get rid of coffee stains and more, try pre-washing or soaking a linen item with oxygen bleach in cool water to break them down.

How to clean a synthetic fabric couch

  1. Read the care labels of your fabric couch to determine what solution you can use on it.
  2. Vacuum your sofa to remove all dirt and dust. You can also use a dry natural-bristle brush to loosen dirt and dust.
  3. Mix together 2 cups of water, 1 Tbsp. dish soap and 1 Tbsp. white vinegar in a spray bottle. You can also use an all-purpose cleaner, since synthetic fabrics are generally sturdier and stain-resistant.
  4. Spray the sofa or just the stains with your solution, depending on how dirty your sofa is, but make sure stains are saturated with the solution.
  5. Once the sofa is saturated, dampen a microfiber cloth with more of the solution and gently dab at any stains.
  6. Blot the area with a dry paper towel or microfiber cloth to help lift the stains. Do not rub, as you may rub the stain in instead of removing it.

FYI, here’s how to wash microfiber cloths to preserve their cleaning power.

How to clean a silk couch

  1. Check the care label—and then check it again. “Silk fabric can be a little trickier than other fabrics, as it can get damaged more easily,” explains Sokolowski. “Sometimes when silk is wet, the dye can come off, so it is important to check first what solutions you can use.”
  2. Vacuum your sofa to remove all dirt and dust.
  3. Use a simple solution of 2 cups of cold water mixed with 1 Tbsp. mild laundry detergent. Alternatively, you can mix water and vinegar. “I would recommend doing a patch test before using either,” says Sokolowski. “If there aren’t any color transfers, you can continue.”
  4. Dip a soft cloth into your solution, and gently blot at any stains. Avoid dousing the fabric, or you might ruin the sofa or discolor it.
  5. Use a hairdryer to dry the area and prevent any water stains from forming.

Note: If you are ever unsure about silk fabrics, you should get them professionally cleaned. Do you own other silk items too? Here’s how to wash silk clothing and sheets at home.

How to clean a faux-leather couch

  1. Read the care labels of your faux-leather couch to determine what solution you can use on it.
  2. Vacuum it to remove all dirt and dust.
  3. Mix together 2 cups of water and 2 Tbsp. castile soap, and put the solution in a spray bottle. “Castile soap is recommended for faux-leather and leather couches,” says Sokolowski. “It is plant-based and will not dry out the leather like other soaps may.”
  4. Spray the stain, then wipe or lightly scrub it.
  5. Dry the area using a hair dryer, or blot it with a dry towel. “Make sure to dry your couch well enough to get rid of the water stains,” Sokolowski cautions.

How to clean a leather couch

“This is perhaps the easiest couch to clean,” notes Sokolowski. “It simply needs to be wiped down after each use or when there is a stain present.”

  1. Vacuum your sofa to remove all dirt and dust.
  2. Mix a solution of equal parts water to white vinegar in a spray bottle. Alternatively, you can also use mild soapy water, made with plain dish soap. “Patch-test your sofa first if you are unsure,” Sokolowski says.
  3. Lightly spray the solution all over the couch.
  4. Use a microfiber cloth to lightly rub the solution onto the couch in circular motions.
  5. Use a clean towel to dry it.

You can also try using Leather Honey, a nontoxic leather cleaner and conditioner that has more than 30,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. Place a quarter-size drop of this fan-favorite leather cleaner on a lint-free cloth, spot-test it in a discreet area and allow your test area to dry. As long as everything’s fine, coat your leather in a thin, even layer of the conditioner.

How to clean a velvet couch

Sokolowski stresses that with velvet furniture, you should always spot-clean immediately after any type of spill. “Do this by placing a microfiber cloth or paper towel on the spill to absorb it,” says Sokolowski. “Leave it there until the entire spill has been absorbed.” Always start with a microfiber cloth, especially when dealing with velvet, she adds.

Overall, though, the best way to keep your velvet couch clean is to steam-clean it regularly. “Gently apply your steamer to the sofa, and work your way down,” she says. You can use either a clothes steamer or one made for upholstery, like Bissell’s Little Green Machine.

If you don’t have a steamer, create your own natural solution.

  1. Mix 1 tsp. natural dish soap with 1 cup of warm water in a bowl. “Make sure you mix it together so there are bubbles,” Sokolowski says.
  2. Dip a microfiber cloth into the solution.
  3. Lightly blot your stain until you have removed most of it.
  4. Allow the cleaned area to dry for at least 30 minutes.

Note: Velvet material can discolor, so try to dry it out of direct sunlight.

How to clean metal and wood details on a couch

After you are done cleaning the material on the couch, move on to metal or wood details. Follow these steps for easy cleaning.

  1. Create a warm-water solution with natural soap or dishwashing soap. While this works on both wood and metal, you can also use a glass cleaner on metal fixtures.
  2. Dip a microfiber cloth into the solution (or spray the glass cleaner on the cloth), and gently scrub at the dirt on the couch’s fixtures. Be careful not to get any solution on the cushions or fabric.
  3. Dry completely.

The best couch-cleaning products

Now that you know how to clean a couch, find out how to clean other tricky areas of your home—from your baseboards to your windows. And if you’re really on a cleaning spree, clean these 30 things in the next 30 days.

Source:

  • Alicia Sokolowski, president and co-CEO of Aspen Clean

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Leah Groth
A general lifestyle writer, Leah covers everything from cleaning hacks and consumer products to travel and pets for RD.com. When she isn't working you will find her chasing after her four children (two humans, a Vizsla and a German Shorthaired Pointer) or working on her 100-plus year-old-home outside of Philadelphia.