How to Clean a Couch: DIY Couch Cleaner Tips

By Laura Parker
April 23, 2021

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Couches are hard to clean. You can’t just throw it into the washing machine, and wiping it down with a wet cloth doesn’t get you very far. And as we all know, no matter how fast you get to it, a red wine stain can look devastating.


Even if you’ve managed to avoid the big spill, couches experience a lot of wear and tear. Chances are, your couch has some combination of crumbs, mysterious stains, pet hair, and dirt covering its surfaces and filling its crevices. So without further ado, here’s how to clean a couch.

1. Start with a Vacuum

Most vacuums come with an appendage that helps you access those dirty crevices in your couch. Start by removing the loose dirt and debris off the couch. Make sure you remove the couch cushions to access the dirt in the frame of the couch. 

2. Wipe Down What You Can

We know that wipes aren’t too successful on the couch fabric itself, but if you have sofa parts made of wood or metal, they can easily be cleaned with warm water and soap. 

3. Check the Manufacturer Instructions

Depending on what kind of material your couch is made of, the manufacturer should have left important instructions for cleaning your couch. Check the tag on the couch for a code that explains what kind of methods you can use on your couch. Here’s how to interpret those codes.

W – Use water-based detergents to clean upholstery.

S – Use dry clean (water-free) detergent only.

WS – Use water-based or dry clean detergents.

O – Wash in cold water.

X – Vacuum only, no water, or have it cleaned by a professional.

4. Remove Those Stains

The biggest part of cleaning your couch is removing those ugly stains. If you like easy, cheap, homemade methods tailored to your particular couch, we’ve got you covered. Find a spray bottle and a couple of cloths and get to work!

5. Wait For it to Dry

If you’ve wetted your couch as part of your clean, you’ll want to make sure that everything is dry before you start using the couch again. Water in the cushions and fabric can cause mildew which will negate the effects of your clean. Soak up any excess water and let your couch air dry for best results. 

The Best Way to Clean a Sofa by Material


Make a mixture of ¼ cup vinegar, ¾ cups water, and a tablespoon of dish soap. Liberally spray the stain and scrub at it with a cloth until it disappears. Use another cloth to dry the spot.


Mix ½ cup olive oil with ½ cup vinegar, and spray the solution on any dirty spots, using a cloth to rub it in. Dry with a different cloth.


Make sure you’re using white or light-colored sponges, brushes, and cloths. Make a solution of rubbing alcohol, distilled water, and an unscented, clear dish soap, and rub down the couch, brushing lightly at any stains you find. 

Textured materials 

Textured materials like corduroy are trickier to clean. You’ll want to have a soft fiber brush on hand. Make a cleaning solution using about 1 tablespoon of liquid cleaner for delicate fabrics, like Woolite, and 1 gallon of water. Wipe at any stains with a cloth wetted with this solution, and then brush it in the direction of the fabric’s nap. When you’re done spot cleaning, wipe down the couch with a cloth dampened with the cleaning solution. 

Cleaning a Couch FAQs

Can you use a steamer to clean a couch? 

Absolutely! A dry-steam cleaner will sanitize and deodorize your sofa, with no added chemicals. The high-temperature vapor will also dissolve any dirt on the surface, helping brighten the fabric. You can even use a clothes steamer, if that’s what you’ve got on hand. 

Can I use laundry detergent to clean my couch? 

Of course! Just make sure you’re not overdoing it on the detergent. Mix 1/2 cap of liquid laundry detergent in with a gallon of water. Dip a cloth into the solution and begin scrubbing the upholstered surfaces. This works really well with microfiber couches.

How do you clean a smelly couch? 

Sprinkle a light layer of baking soda on all the upholstered areas of the couch, including the cushioning, and let sit for at least an hour, but preferably overnight. Then vacuum it up with an upholstery brush attachment. As a final touch, you can fill a spray bottle with one part water and one part vinegar and lightly mist the couch, allowing it to air dry. 

How do you clean a couch without leaving watermarks? 

Watermarks tend to happen when a piece of furniture gets splashed. They’re caused by leftover minerals in the water oxidizing with the air. To prevent this from happening when cleaning your couch, you should first make sure you’re using distilled water if at all possible. And secondly, use a light touch! There’s no need to absolutely soak your couch. 

Final Thoughts on Cleaning Your Couch


Cleaning your couch might seem labor intensive, but if you’ve got the right materials and pay attention to your technique, you can end up with a couch that’s almost as good as new. Good luck with your clean!

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