Let’s face it: sofas can get dirty. This is especially true if, like most people, your sofa serves as the hub of the house and the hangout for everything from watching movies to crafting and eating dinner. If you’ve got furry family members, the mess goes even deeper. The dirt, mud and fur they shed leave behind odors and even bacteria.
Luckily, unless a member of your family is sick, the bacteria hanging out with you on lazy Sundays is, for the most part, harmless. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your couch clean. A dirty sofa is home to plenty of icky stains, smells, pet fur and weeks-old crumbs, which can contribute to an unhealthy living environment and prevent you from being able to resell your furniture when it’s time to upgrade.
Sticking to a routine of regular sofa-scrubbing and maintenance can help. We’re here to help you learn how to deep clean everyone’s favorite chill spot and how to keep it fresh and sparkly for longer.
What You Need to Clean a Couch
Keeping your sofa nice and tidy is easy as long as you have the help of a hard-working lint cleaner, a vacuum cleaner and an upholstery steamer. Here’s everything you need to clean your sofa like a pro.
- The Fabric Cleaning Code — Before you begin cleaning any piece of upholstered furniture, check the tag for an upholstery cleaning code. This will indicate whether the fabric needs to be professionally cleaned, dry cleaned or if you need to use a specific type of cleaner. You may see codes S, D, F, W, SW or X, all of which correlate to a different recommended cleaning method. Don’t see the code? If you think the fabric type may be on the fussy end, be sure to reach out to the manufacturer for guidance.
- A Heavy-Duty Lint Cleaner — If your family includes members of the furry variety, be sure to invest in a quality pet hair remover brush. These are critical to helping you keep your furniture looking neat and tidy in-between cleans. They’ll also ensure that you don’t stand up from the sofa covered in fur.
- A Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner — Professional upholstery cleaning is always best. However, if you’ve deemed that your sofa is safe for home cleaning, consider buying or renting a heavy-duty steam cleaner. These units work by heating up water and a cleaning solution which is then forced out of a brush or another attachment. The tool is applied to the cushions and sides of the sofa to loosen and eliminate stains, dirt, mold and more.
- A Vacuum Cleaner — Simply put, nothing does a better job at eliminating the gross, weeks-old crumbs under the couch cushions. Be sure to pick a vacuum that has an upholstery tool and a crevice cleaner that provides a high-level, targeted suction to get deep between the folds of the couch.
- A Fabric Refresher Spray — If too much lounging has left behind a bit of lingering funk, you’ll want to finish off your deep clean with a refreshing spritz or two. Don’t overdo it, though. Heavy-handed spraying can soak and damage the fabric. Note that some fabric sprays can cause skin allergies and respiratory irritation, so make sure to choose one that’s safe for your family.
- A Clean Sponge and Dish Soap — For emergency spills and stains, always make sure you have a clean sponge and some gentle dish soap on hand. The combination of warm water and a drop of dish soap is generally safe for most fabrics — including leather and microfiber — but you should always check with the fabric manufacturer to be sure.
*A note on steam cleaners and cleaning solutions: Always make sure to spot test in an inconspicuous area — such as the hidden underside of a cushion — to ensure that the steam or cleaning solution won’t bleach, dye or damage the fibers of your sofa.
Deep-Cleaning Your Couch
The official first step of couch-cleaning may be to strip it of its cushions, but we all know nothing can happen until you crank up your favorite deep-cleaning playlist. Once you’ve got the jams going, it’s time to channel your energy into the couch. We recommend deep-cleaning the sofa once a month or so and maintaining it with spot-cleaning and lint removal on a weekly or twice-weekly basis.
- Remove the Cushions — Step one: deconstruct! Ideally, your sofa will be designed in a manner that allows you to remove the cushions entirely so you can easily vacuum and steam clean. We recommend moving other furniture out of the way so you can lay the cushions out on the floor.
- Vacuum the Base and Crevices — Using your vacuum cleaner’s crevice cleaner and upholstery brush, clean beneath the cushions, in-between the sofa components and on the upholstery of the back and sides. Be sure to remove any crumbs and small items which may have found their way between the cushions. If your sofa has a velvet-like texture, be sure to pay attention to the (ultra-satisfying) vacuum marks to create a desirable pattern.
- Attack Surface-Level Lint — If your sofa is made of velvet, microfiber or most other non-leather materials, you’re going to want to prep for steaming by getting rid of the fur, lint and dust on the surface of the fabric. Vacuuming and lint removal will help ensure that no crumbs, fur or lint gets in the way of the steam or cleaning solution penetrating the fabric. Working in small sections, use your large pet hair remover to clean the cushions, pillows, sides, armrests and the back of the sofa.
- If Possible, Wash the Pillow Covers — Inspect the edges of the cushions for zippers. If they are zippered, you may be able to remove the covers and either throw them in the wash or give them a deep clean with the steamer. If the covers do come off, be sure to check with the sofa or fabric manufacturer on washing and care instructions. Often, you can machine wash these pieces, but you need to be careful with heat and laundry additives.
- Attack Any Stains — Ideally, you should address spills as they occur, but sometimes that’s not possible. Inspect the entire couch. If you notice any dark or discolored spots, be sure to give them some individual attention before you start steaming. Using a clean sponge or soft-bristled cleaning brush and a mix of warm water and a drop of dish soap, rub the stain in a circular motion until it comes clean. Be sure to rinse out any excess soap, especially if you don’t plan to follow up with a steam clean.
- Steam Clean with Upholstery Brush — Now that you’ve removed the fur and lint from the fabric and addressed problem spots, you can go in with your steamer. Remember to spot test the steamer in an inconspicuous area before using it on your sofa, especially if you’ve added any cleaning solutions to the steamer. Most steam cleaners work very similarly to vacuum cleaners, but you can always watch brand- or model-specific tutorials online to learn how to use yours. Be sure to let it dry completely before sitting on it.
Not as Clean as You’d Like? Call the Pros
If you find that your sofa still looks rough even after a deep clean, it may be time to call in for reinforcement. Get in contact with a local carpet and upholstery cleaning service for a quote. Luckily, many of these companies will gladly come to your home to clean only your sofa. However, since a professional clean will run you about $164 on average, it’s best to keep these visits to a minimum.
Couch Spot-Cleaning and Maintenance
The key to making deep-cleaning less of a task is to keep up with your ongoing maintenance strategy. Ideally, you’ll want to give your sofa a little attention at least once per week, but more often if you have a house full of kids and pets. Here’s what to do to keep it in great shape without a ton of work.
- Set (and Keep) Sofa Rules — Nobody wants a fussy, formal living space, especially if you intend to use it for actual living. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set (and follow) a few simple rules that will help you get more mileage from your furniture. Some good, reasonable rules include:
- No eating or drinking (except water) on the sofa
- No pets allowed on the sofa or pets only on a blanket or protective pad
- No shoes on the sofa
- No drawing, coloring or painting on the sofa
- No messy toys, such as slime or clay, on the sofa
- Address Stains Immediately — Emergency spills can turn into permanent stains rather quickly if you don’t address them right away. Whether it’s mud from a rainy day or a red sauce spill, you need to treat it the same — with haste. Grab a soapy sponge or whichever spot-cleaner the manufacturer recommends and treat it right away. This will prevent stains from setting in and spills from hardening and becoming next to impossible to remove.
- Remove Pet Fur and Lint — Regularly removing the pet fur and surface lint that accumulates on the sofa will help keep it looking clean and will also help to reduce allergens within the home. At Uproot, we make the best lint removers for sofas, chairs and other furniture in your house. We always recommend keeping one of these workhorses in the drawer next to the couch so you can easily attack fur and lint before it accumulates.
- Clean Up Before Sitting Down — The sofa gets dirty because you and your family get dirty. Never sit down on a sofa with muddy, wet, sweaty or smelly clothes, as this will only transfer the ick to the sofa. You can also use your lint and fur remover on your clothing before sitting down to ensure that fur and debris don’t simply transfer from one surface to another.
- Regularly Fluff the Cushions and Throw Pillows — Not only do you want to keep your sofa looking and smelling clean, but you also want it to appear tidy and put-together. Every night before you head to bed, give the sofa a once-over. Return all the seat cushions and back rests to their proper position, fluffing them to make sure they’re nice and plump, and neatly return any throw pillows or blankets back to their proper place.
Preserving the Hub of the House
The reality is that, when we’re at home, many of us virtually live on the couch. It’s where we decompress after a long day, cuddle with family members and immerse ourselves in entertainment. Admittedly, it’s also where many of us eat, work and play, which means it’s a magnet for messes.
Luckily, most modern sofas are designed to be relatively low-maintenance and easy to clean. With the right set of tools and the techniques listed above, you’ll be able to keep yours in great shape for many more years of lounging, resting and bonding with your family.