The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Couch

Your couch is probably where you do most of your lounging, snacking, and snuggling with pets. All that use adds up to crumbs, stains, human and pet hair, and dust trapped in one of your most-used pieces of furniture. Learn how to give your couch the TLC it deserves with these easy cleaning tips.

Woman wearing cleaning gloves cleans couch with a cloth.

Table of contents

How to read your couch’s care instructionsHow to spot-clean your couchHow to clean your entire couch in 4 easy steps

How to read your couch’s care instructions

Just like clothes, most upholstered furniture comes with care instructions, which are specific to its type of fabric. Before cleaning your couch, find out the best way to clean it by locating the care tag, usually found on the underside of the couch. It should read:

  • W stands for wet cleaning only. This means you can use a water-based upholstery cleaner or warm soapy water and a rag to remove stains.

  • S stands solvent cleaning only. These couches can be damaged by water based cleaners, so you’ll need to use a dry solvent cleaning solution to remove stains. Alternatively, pour rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and spray it on the stained area.

  • SW stands for solvent and wet cleaning. These versatile couches are fine to clean with wet or dry methods.

  • X means professional dry cleaning or vacuum-only. You can vacuum these couches, but they’ll be damaged by both wet and dry solvent cleaners. If this couch becomes stained, you’ll need to call a professional.

  • O stands for organic material. These couches are made from natural fibers that should only be washed in cold water.

How to spot-clean your couch

Spills happen. Dealing with them immediately will prevent long-lasting stains in your couch.

  1. Blot. If the stain is fresh and wet (red wine, soup, pet drool), the first thing you should do is gently blot it with a clean, slightly damp cloth to reduce spreading. Older stains, too, can benefit from this pretreatment. Do not rub or scrub the stain.

  2. Use stain remover. Use a stain treatment that’s compatible with your couch’s material. Most cotton, synthetic, and wool couches can be treated with the same type of stain remover you’d use on your clothing, while leather couches require specific leather cleaner. To make your own cleaner for W or SW couches, dilute ¼ cup dish soap in 1 cup warm water. Skim off the bubbles, and dip a clean rag in the solution. 

  3. Blot again. Use a second, clean towel to gently blot away your stain remover—don’t rub or scrub. Always test your stain remover in an inconspicuous part of the couch (such as the underside) to avoid making stains worse.

Hands in yellow cleaning gloves vacuum a grey couch.

How to clean your entire couch in 4 easy steps

If you vacuum your couch regularly, the entire cleaning process should take under an hour—making it an easy addition to your seasonal deep cleaning routine

Tip: Like cleaning an area rug, this task is best saved for a sunny day, as air drying in the sun is an essential component (see step 3). 

Step 1: Brush. 

If your couch has any caked-on dirt (hello, muddy paws and shoes!), use a stiff brush to scrape it off. Your vacuum cleaner can do the rest of the work.

Step 2: Vacuum. 

No matter what your couch is made of, you should be vacuuming it regularly. (Every week or two is ideal.) Use your vacuum cleaner’s crevice tool to get into tight corners, and the upholstery attachment or soft brush attachment for the couch’s surfaces. Lift each cushion up to reveal the dust and crumbs underneath. If you’re not doing a deep clean, this is a great time to simply rotate your cushions.

Step 3: Remove slipcovers. 

If you’re lucky enough to have machine-washable slipcovers, you can unzip them and throw them in the washing machine. Read the care tag and follow the manufacturer’s directions. In general, you’ll want to wash the zipped-up covers in cold water on the delicate cycle with a gentle detergent. Hang them out to air dry. 

When the covers are almost completely dry, return them to the couch and cushions for a better fit. While you’re washing the slipcovers, you can air out the cushions themselves on a sunny day. If you regularly vacuum and spot-clean your couch, you’ll only need to wash the slipcovers once a year.

Step 4: Deodorize. 

If you don’t have removable slipcovers, there’s another way to get smells out of your couch: baking soda. Although this method will work for almost any fabric couch, always test in an inconspicuous area first. Sprinkle the entire couch with baking soda, then wait 30 minutes. Then, remove the baking soda with a thorough vacuuming.

Looking for a home where monthly cleaning is always on the books? Bungalow’s homes are handpicked for shared living, located in the best neighborhoods, and set up for seamless living. Common spaces come furnished, cleanings are scheduled monthly, and payments are handled individually on our app. Whether you already have roommates or are looking for new ones, there’s a Bungalow with your name on it. Find your Bungalow.

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