How To Clean Your Couch: Detailed Guide 2019

How To Clean Your Couch

Cleaning your couch with a steam cleaner cannot only help clean it up but in some cases, it can restore it to almost new condition. If you need to clean delicate upholstery, fabric furniture, or sanitize a mattress, your steam cleaner can be the most useful cleaning tool you’ll ever use. Steam cleaning not only removes embedded stains, grease, and dirt, it also sanitizes all surfaces, removes allergens, and kills bacteria, mold, viruses, dust mites, bedbugs, and most pathogens.

The key to cleaning your couch to an optimal condition is knowing how to properly clean your couch with a steam cleaner. If you do not clean a couch with a steam cleaner the right way, it may not look as good as it can, or you can even damage it. The recommended Steam cleaner for your couch is PurSteam World’s Best Steamers Chemical-Free Cleaning Pressurized Cleaner on Amazon for less than $50.

When it comes to figuring out how to steam clean a couch, you’re really just going to follow the manufacturer’s instructions provided with the upholstery steamer. Determine the type of fabric you’re dealing with. Find the tag on the couch and read the instructions for how to clean upholstery.

Here are the codes found on labels:

WS: Use a mild detergent with a steam vacuum or a dry-cleaning detergent
S: Use a dry cleaner detergent only.
X: Use a vacuum only. No water.
W: You can use water to clean it.

  • The vapor produced by a dry-steam cleaner allows you to deodorize and sanitize your sofa without using any chemicals. The high-temperature steam also loosens and dissolves surface dirt, brightening the fabric’s colors. Steam cleaner units are supplied with a variety of cleaning heads.
  • Vacuum your sofa before you start to steam clean. Vacuum the sofa thoroughly to remove all loose dust and debris. Use the upholstery attachment, and go over every surface. If it has loose seat cushions, remove them, and vacuum all of their surfaces. Attach the crevice nozzle to clean gaps at the sides and along the back. Vacuum the surface under the seat cushions. After you have steamed and the sofa has completely dried, vacuum it again.
  • Pick a nice day to steam clean your couch so that you can open the windows and air out the room.
  • Some steam cleaners use microfiber cloths to help pick up debris. You’ll want to change these out as you steam so you can pick up all the dirt. Fold over a microfiber cloth to form a thick cleaning pad, and clip it to the tool recommended for upholstery by your steam cleaner’s manufacturer. Deactivate the safety lock on the steam trigger.
  • After steaming, point a fan on your couch to help it dry completely.
  • Wait until the water in the steamer cools before dumping it out.
  • Wash the microfiber cloths in warm water and detergent. Rinse them thoroughly, but do not use fabric softener as this affects their dirt absorption abilities.
  • Vacuum the sofa again, when it is completely dry. This will remove any dirt loosened by the steam cleaner but not picked up by the microfiber cloth.

How to Clean Silk, Haitian Cotton, Velour, Brushed Corduroy, Leather or Non-colorfast Couches with a Steam Cleaner.

  • Remove hair, fur, dust, dirt, and debris from the couch frame and couch cushions. Larger debris can be swept up with a dustpan and hand broom. Smaller debris should be vacuumed up.
  • Pre-treat tough, set-in stains using a steam cleaning stain pre-treater. Allow the pre-treatment to sit on the stains for 15 to 20 minutes. A lot of stains, such as food, dirt, pee, and poop, can be cleaned from the steam alone. If you have a stain that is oil based, you might need a commercial cleaner such as Oxy Clean to get out the stain. You can also try mixing vinegar and rubbing alcohol or cornstarch and baking soda with water to treat the area.
  • Prepare your steam cleaner by filling the water tank with the appropriate amount of hot water and steam cleaning formula. Guidelines for cleaner amounts should be listed on or with your machine. Plug the machine in and free the hand-held upholstery attachment from the base of the unit. Make sure you check operating instructions for use of your upholstery attachment before you begin.
  • Check the couch for colorfastness by cleaning a small, inconspicuous area first. After cleaning it, turn the machine off and blot the area with a clean, white towel. If a large number of color transfers to the towel, do not proceed with cleaning. If only a small quantity of color, or no color at all transfers you can proceed.
  • Clean the upholstery of the couch one section at a time. Use slow, even strokes that are slightly overlapped. Clean cushions or pillows for your couch on a sheet or towels, on the floor separate from the couch frame.
    Leave the couch to air dry. Open windows and place a fan near the couch to promote air circulation.

How to Clean Your Couch with Baking Soda

Baking soda is great for a lot of things, including the removal of grime and embedded dirt in your couch. Bicarbonate of soda neutralizes fabric odors: This neutral, natural product reacts with foul-smelling acidic scents. Unlike air fresheners or fabric sprays, bicarbonate of soda actually absorbs smells in your sofa and carpet, rather than just masking them.

Bicarbonate of soda is abrasive. Another thing that makes bicarb so effective is its abrasive qualities. It is gentle, yet slightly gritty, which ‘exfoliates’ stains, helping to lift dirt and debris – ideal for getting deep down into your upholstery.

Test the fabric first in an inconspicuous area, but baking soda is safe for most types of upholstery. You will need a couple of cleaning cloths, a stiff brush, baking soda and your vacuum cleaner using the brush attachment.
Bicarbonate of soda not only neutralizes smells, but as you’ve no doubt witnessed in many of our natural cleaning articles, is also a sensationally powerful, natural cleaner.

Wipe down your couch with a dry, clean cloth or clean stiff brush to get any dust or dried on gunk off.

Sprinkle baking soda on your couch and let sit for at least twenty minutes. If you want to deep clean it, mix in a dry carpet cleaner.

Vacuum the baking soda up with the brush attachment.

Spot clean any tough stains that remain with a clean cloth and cleaning solution that is suitable for your couch’s fabric.

How to Remove Stains from a Couch

Knowing how to clean a couch means knowing how to remove stains. You can use a commercial cleaner or you can make your own cleaners from natural ingredients you have in the kitchen. Homemade cleaners are cheaper and kinder to the Earth.

Here’s how to clean a fabric couch, by fabric type:

For fabric upholstery

Mix 1/4 cup vinegar, 3/4 warm water and 1 tablespoon for dish soap or Castile soap. Put in a spray bottle. Mist the soiled area. Scrub with a soft cloth until the stain lifts. Use a second cloth moistened with clean water to remove the soap. Dry with a towel.

For leather upholstery

Mix 1/2 cup olive oil with 1/4 cup vinegar and put into a spray bottle. Spray the cleaner on the surface of the couch and buff with a soft cloth.
For synthetic upholstery, mix 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of warm water, and 1/2 tablespoon of liquid dish soap or castile soap in a spray bottle. Mist the soiled area and scrub with a soft cloth till the stain is gone.

Removing Lingering Stains From Couch After Steam Cleaning

Step 1

Clean the stain with water and soap. Steam cleaning gets out a lot of different stains. If you still have lingering stains once the steam cleaning has been done, there are a few ways you can tackle them. Start first with the easiest option, which is soap and water. Take a sponge and dip it in water. Put some dish detergent on the sponge and massage it into the pad. Wring the excess water from the sponge. Blot the stain with the sponge, coating the stain in the soapy mixture. Next, clean the soap out of the sponge and put fresh water in the sponge. Take the sponge and blot the soapy area to remove the soap and the stain from the surface.

Step 2

Use vinegar. Instead of soap and water, you can try to use vinegar to remove the stains. Take white or apple cider vinegar and soak a cloth. Blot the stain on the upholstery with the fabric, saturating the fabric with the vinegar. Make sure you don’t scrub too hard on the fabric so you don’t make the stain set in more or harm the fabric. You can gently rub the stain with the cloth in a circular manner to help remove the stain particles with the cloth.
If you don’t have vinegar, you can also use vodka. The smell of either will evaporate once the fabric dries.

Step 3

Use a heavy-duty cleaner. If none of the other methods of stain cleaning work, you may need to try a heavy duty commercial cleaner such as Tuff Stuff, Resolve, or Folex. Take a cloth or sponge and wet it. Spray the cleaner directly on the fabric and use the cloth to blot the stain. You can also gently rub the spot with circular motions to help loosen the stain.

Make sure you test the cleaner on a part of the upholstery that isn’t normally visible. You want to make sure the cleaner won’t hurt the fabric.
If you have a wine or coffee stain, try Wine Away. It is made to specifically treat dark liquid stains. If the stain is still being stubborn, you may have to go through another round of cleaning until the stain is completely removed.


To keep your furniture looking fresh and clean, you should consider steam cleaning your upholstery once a year. The time between cleanings will vary depending on how often the furniture is used.

Alternative Method of Cleaning Your Couch

Check for Cleaning Instructions

Check your furniture for its cleaning codes. This gets you on the right track of how to best tackle your stain. Some pieces can be cleaned with water, others will require moving directly into various solvents. If your furniture lacks a cleaning code, which is often the case with vintage and antique pieces that have been modified over the years, do a simple spot test on a hidden piece of upholstery. I like to test the water, vodka, and vinegar because they’re always my first choices for cleaning, before getting into the more heavy-hitting chemical stuff.

Try Some Steam

How To Clean Your Couch with steam

If your furniture can be cleaned with water, hitting the stain with a bit of steam loosens it up and makes the stain more responsive to treatment. I typically just grab my iron and use the steam button for this application, I don’t find it necessary to drag out the steamer to deal with small areas.

Clean, Phase 1

This is the phase where you cross your fingers and hope that a simple solution is all that’s needed. If your furniture can be cleaned with water, mix a little dish soap with cool water and, using a wrung-out sponge, blot the stain with the soap mixture. Take care not to rub at the stain — at this point, it’s unlikely that the stain will set in deeper, but rubbing can weaken and pill your fabric. Next, rinse the sponge and use just water to blot out some of the soap mixtures. Press dry with a cloth or paper towels. If your furniture cannot be cleaned with water, try using vinegar or vodka on a cloth to blot the stains. The smell of both the vinegar or the vodka will disappear when the area is dry.

Clean, Phase 2

If a more gentle clean doesn’t work, it’s time to go heavy-duty and break out the tough cleaners. Any cleaner you choose to use should be spot tested in a discreet place on the piece of furniture. Some people swear by Resolve or Tuff Stuff, and Jenny Komenda of Little Green Notebook has had some truly remarkable results with Folex. I’m fortunate that my stains came out without having to venture into this territory, but on several separate occasions when an entire glass of red wine or a mug of hot coffee has spilt Wine Away has been a real lifesaver. It managed to entirely remove red wine stains (caused by an unfortunately placed glass being flung across the room by an exuberant hand gesture) from the two brand-new cream side chairs in my living room.

Rinse and Repeat

If your stain has survived this entire cleaning process, you are dealing with one stubborn stain. As exhausting—and possibly irritating—as the process can be, doing it all over again can give you the result you’re looking for. The previously mentioned wine on white chairs situation took two full passes before the stains came out. I really thought when I entered Phase 2 for the second time that there was no way these stains were going anywhere, but perseverance paid off and the stains disappeared!

Finally, Time to Celebrate!

The seemingly impossible to remove set-in stain has been conquered. Hooray! Feel free to share your accomplishments with friends, so long as you offer to help out if they ever have need of your stain removing powers.


Recent Posts