How to Clean an Upholstered Sofa

by SharkClean
on 28 August 2019

An upholstered sofa offers comfort, warmth and style. But cleaning it isn’t always straightforward. In fact, if you don’t do things properly, you can cause serious damage.

Nevertheless, regular cleaning is essential. Cleaning an upholstered sofa keeps bad odours at bay, removes stains, and minimises discolouration. And if you do it right, you can prolong the life of the item considerably.

We’ve compiled a list of tips for cleaning upholstered sofas effectively — without turning a minor cosmetic issue into something a lot more serious.

Removing stains from a sofa

The key to successfully removing stains from sofas is quick action. The moment the spillage or accident occurs, take decisive action. But remain calm, as losing your cool could lead to permanent damage or staining.

The first thing to do is remove any of the excess spillage or mess. Once you’ve done that, blot the area dry with an absorbent paper towel.

Check the sofa manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines before doing anything else. Using the wrong product or cleaning tools could cause serious damage to the fibres.

Vacuum the area to ensure all of the excess dirt is removed. This will help you to identify the specific area that requires attention.

There are several fabric stain removers on the market today. But they’re all expensive, and they’re not always kind to the environment. It might surprise you to know that bicarbonate of soda is just as effective as most stain removal agents you’ll find at your local supermarket.

While the stain is still damp, sprinkle bicarbonate of soda over the entire area. The powder will absorb any excess moisture and, hopefully, any lingering odours. Leave the powder there for at least 20 minutes, then vacuum thoroughly.

If the stain is still there, treat it with a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water. Apply the paste gently in a circular motion with a clean microfibre cloth. Again, leave the paste in place for at least 20 minutes before vacuuming it. Adding a little white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to your paste might be an option if the stain persists. However, always follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.

Bicarbonate of soda won’t work on all stains, however. You might need to use a dedicated cleaning agent. Alternatively, superheated steam from a handheld steam cleaner might do the trick.

Blot the fabric dry with a microfibre cloth or paper towels once you’re confident the stain is gone. Finish by opening a window and giving the sofa time to air dry.

Steam cleaning a sofa

There are various ways to clean an upholstered sofa, but using steam is one of the safest — and the most effective.

Before you do anything, however, vacuum the sofa thoroughly. Use all the various attachments to ensure you cover every square inch of fabric. The best chance of restoring your sofa to its showroom appearance lies in the preparation.

Before you start blasting superheated steam at your sofa, make sure the room is well ventilated. Using a steam cleaner increases the humidity levels in a room — which could eventually leading to mould.

Start by spot testing a hidden area of your sofa. If there’s a bad reaction, the consequences won’t be visible. If you’re happy that a steam cleaner is the best way to clean your sofa, proceed.

Exactly how you approach the process is up to you. Just make sure you remove all the cushions, throws and accessories before you begin. If you can, air dry the removable parts of your sofa outside.

Vacuum your sofa again once you’re done. And open a few windows to let your sofa air dry. Don’t use it until you’re confident it’s completely dry.

Sofa cleaning tips

  • Always vacuum the sofa before you clean it. Use the necessary attachments to ensure every square inch is free from dust, dirt and debris.
  • Use light-coloured, microfibre cloths — they’re less likely to bleed dye.
  • Use distilled water. Water straight from the tap often contains mineral deposits that leave stains.
  • Try everyday agents first, including bicarbonate of soda, water, dishwashing liquid, white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.
  • Only use expensive, store-bought stain removers as a last resort.
  • Always vacuum your sofa after cleaning it.
  • Allow your sofa to air dry fully before using it.

Keeping your sofa clean

Once you’ve spent a lot of time and effort cleaning your sofa, you’re going to want to keep it spick and span. If you do, you’ll probably get away with cleaning it just once or twice a year.

Thankfully, there are a few ways to keep a newly cleaned sofa fresh and dirt-free.

Vacuum weekly

Even if you don’t think it’s necessary, vacuum your upholstered sofa at least once a week. Remove all the cushions, and look for large items and debris first. Use your fabric and crevice tool to access the darkest recesses of your furniture.

Tip: If you’re trying to retrieve money or something valuable from inside your sofa, attach a pair of tights to your crevice tool. Whatever is sucked up won’t enter the dust canister — it will be on the surface of your tights until you turn off the suction.

Plump up the cushions regularly

Cushions become deformed over time. But you can slow down the process through regularly plumping. This is also a good way of spotting dirt and spillages before they cause serious problems.

Add protection

A family sofa is subjected to almost continuous use. No matter how often you clean it, there will always be a degree of wear, tear and discolouration. But by using throws and blankets, you can protect the fibres from flattening, dust and dirt. You’ll find covers for the armrests and the entire sofa in large furnishing stores or on the Internet.

If you have pets, this added protection is vital. And when pet hair and dander make it onto the surface of your sofa, quick action with a powerful, cyclonic vacuum cleaner is essential. Remove any stubborn hair with a lint roller or damp rubber gloves.

Be ready for stains

The faster you react to spillages and messes, the greater the chance of preventing permanent staining. Create a cleaning pack in readiness for sofa-related emergencies. In it should be paper towels, fabric brushes, microfibre cloths and your preferred cleaning agents. Put everything in a box or tray, and keep it close.

Set strict usage rules

How you use the sofas in your home is important. If you take precautions and refrain from doing certain things, the item’s lifespan can be greatly increased. For example, impose a strict no-eating policy. You might also want to think about banning coats and other outdoor clothing items from your sofa. If you have children, stop them from playing on it. Sticky hands, crayons, felt pens and a range of other stubborn substances tend to follow children around the house.

Look after your sofa from day one, and it should provide you with more than a decade of faithful service.


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