boy drawing on sofa

How to Clean a Fabric Sofa?


Date Posted:

May 13, 2022

A tidy living room can be elevated by a clean, fresh sofa, or brought down a couple of pegs if the sofa is spotty and smelly. 

Although you can ask for a professional cleaner to come every few months and steam clean the sofa, the cost of these visits can add up. This can be a problem if you have small children playing around and messing up the sofa every other day.

If you want to learn how to clean your fabric sofa, or keep it clean between professional visits, keep reading!. 

How to Clean a Fabric Sofa

Fabric sofas have an advantage compared to other types of sofa coverings. Unlike leather and suede, various cleaning methods can be used to get them looking as new.

However, it’s not always safe to assume you can use water to clean your sofa. In fact, some fabric sofas require a special, solvent-based cleaner to avoid water stains.

You can easily find out the proper way to clean your sofa by checking the tag with the cleaning instructions, on which you can find:

W – Safe to use water and steam to clean

S – Avoid water and steam, use a solvent-based fabric cleaner

WS – Use water or solvent cleaners

X – Vacuum clean only

If you find W or WS on the tag, there are multiple ways you can clean and deodorise your sofa using household items.

For Minor Stains and Smudges

If your sofa is mostly clean, but there are a couple of spots where it’s not as clean and bright, follow these steps:

  1. Vacuum clean the sofa to remove any dirt or debris that might have fallen through the cracks, this is to prevent rubbing in the dirt later.
  2. In a clean spray bottle, mix 1 cup of lukewarm water, 1 teaspoon of mild dishwashing liquid, and a drop of fabric softener.
  3. Spray the areas where the fabric is stained, but don’t oversaturate the fabric.
  4. Blot or rub gently using a white or light-coloured cloth (so it doesn’t bleed any other colour on the sofa).
  5. Once the grime is transferred to the cloth, use a clean cloth dampened with water to remove the excess cleaner.
  6. Dry the sofa using a fan or a blow dryer in the coolest setting.

For Stubborn Stains

If the stains are more stubborn, you might need a little extra help cutting through the grease and darker stains. Here, the mixture of white vinegar and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) comes in handy.

The reaction between the two components results in millions of tiny bubbles that help the dishwashing liquid penetrate the fibres better. This makes stubborn stains less likely to linger.

To remove stains that need a little extra elbow grease:

  1. Vacuum clean the sofa thoroughly before starting.
  2. In a clean spray bottle, mix 1 cup of warm water, 1 tablespoon of mild dishwashing liquid, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, and ½ a teaspoon of baking soda.
  3. Cover the spray bottle immediately after you add all the ingredients so the bubbles don’t escape.
  4. Spray the stained areas and rub gently until the stain is transferred to the white or light-coloured cloth.
  5. With a clean, damp cloth, wipe the same area until all the cleaner is removed.
  6. Dry the area with a fan or blow dryer in the coolest setting.
  7. If the stain lingers, repeat the steps, this time adding a drop of fabric softener to the mix so as not to stretch out and fray the fabric.

To Remove Unpleasant Odours

Anyone with pets or cigarette smokers around the house knows how the smell tends to linger in the upholstery. This can be quite unpleasant and can make the sofa feel less clean, regardless of what it looks like.

Baking soda can be very helpful in that regard, you can use it to deodorise your sofa by following these steps:

  1. Vacuum clean the sofa.
  2. Spray the whole sofa with a light mist of water.
  3. In a clean salt or pepper shaker, add about 2 tablespoons of baking soda.
  4. Shake the baking soda all over the sofa as evenly as possible.
  5. Leave the baking soda for about 30 minutes to an hour, shaking more on spots where all of it was absorbed.
  6. Vacuum clean the sofa using the upholstery attachment until all the baking soda is gone.
  7. White marks might be left behind where the baking soda was sprinkled. Gently rub them away using a barely damp, clean cloth and they should come right off.

There’s also the option of buying an at-home steam cleaner. There are a few options on the market that aren’t very expensive and will save you the time and money needed for home visits by a professional.

To Clean Fabric Sofas Without Using Water

Some fabric sofas are treated with chemicals to make them less flammable. Those can make water pool into the fabric and stain it. These sofas can’t be cleaned using the aforementioned methods, instead, a good solvent-based stain remover is your best friend.

Most of these cleaners have specific instructions you need to follow to get the best results.

The most important thing is to do a patch test on your sofa fabric before applying the product to a larger area by following these steps: 

  1. Find a spot where no one can see the fabric, like under the sofa’s seat cushions.
  2. Use the cleaner on it per the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  3. Leave the sofa then check on it the following day, so you can be sure there are no long-term effects on the fabric. 
  4. If the fabric cleaner is safe, go ahead and use it on the rest of your sofa, if not, then look for an alternative.

A wise decision would be to use a fabric protector on the sofa to make it water-resistant. This can prevent future stains and keep the sofa in better shape for longer.

To Sum Up

Cleaning your sofa doesn’t have to be a long, arduous process that costs you a lot of time and money. This is especially true for those of us who have pets or children (or both!) and can’t keep the sofa clean for over a week.

Just make sure to read the tag on your sofa with the cleaning instructions. After all, the worst thing would be to add another stain to your sofa while trying to get an old stain out.