Your 6 Step Guide for How to Clean a Sofa

Woman leans over gray couch using vacuum attachment to clean between cushions

You and the kids just had the best movie night ever—buttery popcorn, chocolate chip cookies, and soft drinks included! Woohoo! The only thing is, now your couch looks like it lost a food fight. Whether you need to clean off fresh chocolate stains or dried popcorn butter, this six-step guide will teach you how to clean a sofa or couch on the cheap.

1. Find the fabric tag.

Before you do anything drastic (unless you’ve got an emergency spill on your hands), look for the fabric tag. This tag should be attached to the couch, and it will tell you whether it’s upholstered in leather, faux leather, or cotton, nylon, polyester, rayon, and wool blends.

On that tag, you’ll find a universal letter code that recommends how you should clean your couch. For instance, “X” means you shouldn’t clean the couch with either a water- or solvent-based cleaner. Instead, you should vacuum or lightly brush the fabric. On the other hand, “WS” signifies that you should clean the fabric only with water-based shampoo or foam upholstery cleaner, and “W,” tells you it’s OK to clean the material with water.

If you can’t locate the fabric tag, see if you can find the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions online.

2. Consider the options.

In many cases, if your couch doesn’t have a “W” or “WS” tag, then you might need to rent a steam cleaner for upholstery or hire a professional to clean it (although we know that’s not the cheapest way to do it). But if you see a “W” or “WS” on your couch’s care label, then you should be able to go the DIY route.

Before you begin any DIY treatment, test it out on a spot of the couch that’s not easy visible to check whether it causes any damage.

3. Gather the right gear.

To clean your couch, you’ll need to assemble the proper tools:

  • A vacuum cleaner that’s equipped with an upholstery attachment
  • At least three bleed-proof microfiber cloths that won’t transfer dye to your couch
  • A spray bottle or eye-dropper to lightly wet stains and spots
  • Distilled water
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Distilled white vinegar

4. Think about baking soda.

If the upholstery of your couch is made of fabric, you might consider baking soda as another weapon to add to your stain-removal arsenal.

Believe it or not, sprinkling baking soda over all of your fabric upholstery can help loosen stains and remove odors—especially pet-related ones! You can also try a cleaning paste made of equal parts baking soda and water rather than one that’s soap-based.

Regardless of whether the baking soda is wet or dry, let it do its work for roughly 15 to 20 minutes. Once the stain is (hopefully) gone, vacuum the baking soda or baking soda solution with the brush attachment on your vacuum.

If you decide to use baking soda, be sure to test it on a small out-of-sight spot on your couch to find out whether it could harm the fabric.

5. Start cleaning.

Once you’ve got the right stain-fighting equipment and supplies, you’re ready to get rid of those nasty stains. Follow these steps:

  • Vacuum the couch. Be sure to remove the cushions so you can suck up dirt, dust, and other hidden stuff that doesn’t belong there.
  • Mix about two cups of distilled water with one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid and one tablespoon of vinegar.
  • Dampen a cloth with the cleaning mixture.
  • Gently blot stained areas with the cloth.
  • Moisten a clean cloth with distilled water, but not with dishwashing liquid or vinegar, to wipe off any remnants of the soapy solution.
  • With a dry cloth, blot the area again to remove any remaining dampness.

6. Check out the results.

Once you’ve completed the cleaning, examine the couch to see whether the stains were removed. If the stains didn’t come out completely, then you might want to hire a professional cleaning service to do some intensive stain removal. Or, it might be time to upgrade to a high-quality couch with more durable fabric—one that’s free of stains.

You can shop a variety of Ashley Sofas and Loveseats with quality microfiber fabric that can handle everyday living. Stop by your nearest Rent-A-Center today to try out a new sofa!