How to clean a fabric sofa

by Janine, Oct 2022

Fabric sofas are ideal if you’re looking for somewhere cosy and warm to sit in your home. In comparison to a leather sofa, however, they are easily stained and if you opt for a lighter coloured fabric, can end up looking grubby if not cleaned regularly.

If you’re looking at your cream fabric sofa and doubting your decision – don’t panic! They’re easier to clean than you might think…

Read the instructions and care labels

Before we start looking at how we can clean our fabric sofa, it’s important to read the manufacturers instructions first. If you don’t check the instructions, and then cause damage to your sofa when cleaning it, it could void any warrantees you have in place… or simply ruin your couch!

Care labels can be very helpful when it comes to choosing how to clean your sofa. Keep in mind that one side of the tag may address the cleaning of the sofa cover, while the other will provide information for washing the cushions themselves. Make sure you’re looking at the correct tag before you clean.

Typically, a sofa’s care label will feature one of the following letters:

  • W — You can clean this material using water.
  • S — No water. You’ll need to purchase a special solvent-based cleaner.
  • WS — You can use water or a solvent-based cleaner on this sofa.
  • X — Vacuum only.

Water may seem harmless, but if you use it to clean a couch that specifically calls for a solvent-based cleaner and nothing else, you’re going to be in for an unpleasant surprise. Believe it or not, the water will actually leave a stain on your sofa. Don’t risk ruining your furniture. Stick to the tags. They know what’s best for your couch.

How to clean a stained sofa

  1. First of all, always spot test an innocuous area first. Even if you’ve reviewed instructions and care labels, there’s still a risk to getting it wrong and the last thing you want to do is to have your first attempt in a super obvious location
  2. Next up, vacuum! If you’re sofa is marked with an X, you now know that this is the only step you can take. Vacuuming with your upholstery tool is a great way of getting all the dirt and debris out of your furniture. This should always be done first to avoid rubbing dirt further into the material.

    If you’re not sure what vacuum attachment to use, check out our previous article on the various attachments and their uses by clicking here!
  3. Now it’s time to get creative and mix up your own cleaning solution. Combine 2 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid and 1 tablespoon of vinegar.
  4. Take a clean microfibre cloth and gently blot the stained area – do not rub or scrub! This can damage your fabric.
  5. Take another clean microfibre, and wet it with water only – once again, gently blot the area to remove any cleaning solution residue.
  6. And finally, take your last microfibre (a bone dry one!) and blot again.
  7. It can also be a good idea to use a fan pointed directly at the area to help speed up the drying process

How to steam clean your sofa

If you have a sofa marked “W” or “WS,” you may be able to use an upholstery steam cleaner. However, as with our ‘stain cleaning’, it’s important to spot test somewhere hidden first – just incase!

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. They should tell you what settings you’ll need to use. There are a few tricks that can make your cleaning more successful, though:

  • Start, once again, with vacuuming first!
  • Pick a sunny day to steam your sofa so you can have the windows and doors open for the drying process
  • Some steam cleaners will use detachable microfibres to clean- ensure to change these out regularly as you steam so you can pick up all the dirt
  • If the weather isn’t on your side, use a fan to help speed up the drying process
  • Vacuum the sofa once again after it’s entirely dry

Dealing with a smelly sofa

If your sofa is looking okay but isn’t smelling too fresh (maybe you have pets – prime culprits for a smelly sofa!) there is a simple trick to eliminate the odours.

Sprinkle baking soda all over your couch, including the arms, backs and into the crevices. Leave it to sit for 20 minutes (or even up to an hour if you have a serious stench on your hands) and witness this miracle substance immediately get to work.

Now break out the vacuum and hose everything up!

Remember, baking soda is not a substitute for actually cleaning your sofa – this is just the best method for dealing with smells!

Consider calling the professionals?

Finally, if just the thought of the above processes makes you feel exhausted, you might be better calling a professional upholstery cleaning service.

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