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How to Clean and Deodorize a Couch — The Right Way


It’s the weekend, and we know you’re probably catching up on a few chores like laundry and cleaning the house. The warm weather is officially gone (sigh), so it’s the perfect time to stay indoors and focus on what needs to get done after a long season of socializing. Whether you’ve had a lot of guests over or are just in the tidying spirit, you may have noticed that your beloved living room sofa is in need of a refresh. Cleaning a couch can be tricky, but luckily, we’re here to help.

There are different ways to clean a sofa depending on the type of fabric. The first and most important rule of couch cleaning is to read the manufacturers’ label, which can usually be found underneath the cushions on the base of the sofa. Cleaning your couch with inappropriate substances can damage the fabric permanently and even void manufacturer warranties, so double and triple check your labels!

Upholstery labels can be tricky to read, though. Here’s a  handy little guide to the cleaning codes you’ll find on them: 

  • W —  Safe to clean with water.
  • S — No water! To clean this material, you’ll need to buy a special solvent-based cleaner.
  • WS —  Water or a solvent-based cleaner can be used to clean this sofa.
  • X — Vacuum only.

It’s generally safe to vacuum your sofa using your vacuum’s nozzle attachments, and this should be your first sofa-cleaning step. Remove all the cushions and give it a good vacuum, focusing on corners, nooks, and crannies. Be sure to pick up anything like loose change with your hands.

Once the vacuuming is complete, you can now either spot clean or steam clean the material. Again, make sure you’re using the appropriate solution according to the cleaning code on the label. Mistakenly using water in place of solvent-based solution can and will stain your couch if it specifically says no water, so don’t make this mistake! 

You can use a steamer to clean your sofa if the color code says W or WS. The label should tell you which steamer pressure settings you can use, eliminating any confusion. First, wipe a test patch on your couch with the steamer and allow to dry. Check the test patch to ensure the fabric is still OK, then proceed to steam the upholstered areas of the couch. Once you’ve done the entire sofa, be sure to place a fan nearby or open up some windows to allow the moisture to dry properly. This will prevent bacteria and mold from forming. 

If your sofa label has a W or WS, you can use a mixture of water, dish soap, and vinegar to easily lift stains. Mix two or three cups of filtered water (tap water minerals can leave residue on fabric, so make sure to use filtered water!) with one teaspoon of soap and one teaspoon of vinegar in a large bowl or bucket. Then, use a non-colored cloth to spot clean the area of the stain. 

Baking soda helps to absorb harsh smells, so if your couch has an unpleasant odor, it may just be your answer. Simply sprinkle some baking soda on the upholstered areas, and then under the cushions. Let it sit for 15 minutes, and then vacuum the couch again, picking up all the baking soda. 

Now that your sofa is clean and smelling fresh, you may ensue cuddling up comfortably with a cozy blanket and a good book for the rest of the season. 

This story originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women

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