How to Clean a Couch (Because It’s the Most Used Piece of Furniture in Your Home)

how to clean a couch

Of all the pieces of furniture in your home, there’s a good chance your couch has given you the most bang for your buck. The bad news is that, for the very same reason, it might be the scuzziest piece in your home, too. Yep, couches are big and comfy and they get a lot of action. You know, like when ‘Netflix and chill’ turns into ‘Netflix and spill a glass of red wine on your sofa and spend the remainder of the movie mopping up the stain.’ (Just us?) Or maybe you’ve decided to roll up your sleeves and give your entire house a deep clean. Either way, if you find yourself wondering how to clean a couch, we’ve got some good news: This indispensable piece of furniture is not as cumbersome to clean as you might think. But don’t take our word for it—instead, read on for the expert guide on how to transform your couch from cringe-worthy to ‘cuddle here’ condition.

How to Clean a Couch 

If you clean a couch the wrong way, you might end up ruining it and costing yourself hundreds of dollars. And then if you try to remove the eyesore too soon, you’ll have nowhere to sit for a few days (disaster!). That line of reasoning was (sort of) valid before, but we’re here with some game-changing news—both good and bad. The bad news is that we found out how to clean a couch and, after reading this, you’re going to feel obligated to tackle that chore on the regular. The good news? It really isn’t as onerous a job as you might think. In fact, if you follow these easy steps from the American Cleaning Institute, there’s a good chance that when you finish the task you’ll sprawl out across the spotless cushions and wonder why you avoided cleaning your couch for so long in the first place. Here’s what to do when it’s time to de-scuzz your sofa. 

1. Read the Tag

Leather, linen, wool: The upholstery on this piece of furniture can really run the gamut, which is why not all couches can be cleaned in the same manner. Manufacturers include valuable information on the tag, and it’s not just a courtesy—those care instructions are there to protect the company from claims that the product wasn’t up to snuff when, say, it was simply improperly cleaned. That's why the cleaning experts at ACI recommend that when in doubt, you consult the tag before you proceed with the cleaning process: If care instructions are present, follow them—but at the very least the tag should tell you what kind of material you’re working with, and that’s a good place to start. (Hint: If the tag is long gone, you can probably find the basic info online.)

2. Vacuum

Seriously, nobody needs to deep clean their couch on a regular basis, so let’s please just agree to not set that precedent. Instead, ensure that your couch stays conducive to canoodling and cat naps by vacuuming it frequently. Per the ACI, your vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment is the most effective way to pick up any crumbs or dirt.

3. Wash the Cushions

If you can unzip the cushion covers, you’re in luck: The ACI recommends you simply remove and wash them as a separate load in your laundry per the fabric instructions. Pro tip: “Using a cooler water temperature can help keep them from fading or shrinking.” Of course, if you can’t take off the cushion covers on your couch then your washing machine won’t be of any use. Instead, see the next step for a method that can be used to clean the whole package.

4. Clean the Couch

For the rest of the couch (and the cushions, too, if they didn’t have removable covers) you are going to need an upholstery cleaner. Again, the ACI emphasizes the importance of checking the tag—in this case, to ensure that you purchase a cleaning product formulated for the specific material of your sofa. Once you have the appropriate cleaning solution, spritz your couch with the stuff wherever you see stains, or all over for extra thorough cleaning. (Note: For stubborn stains that require scrubbing, use a microfiber cloth to ensure you don’t rub your couch the wrong way.) Finally, be sure you consult the instructions provided on the label of the upholstery cleaner before you get started and “try it on a small, less noticeable spot first,” says the ACI. Once the cleaning product has been applied per the instructions, let the couch air-dry completely before you reassemble the cushions and start lounging.

There you have it—everything you need to know to give your couch the TLC it deserves.


purewow author

Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...