7 Things to Know When Learning How to Clean a Fabric Couch

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7 Things to Know When Learning How to Clean a Fabric Couch

Posted by Alexandria on January 13, 2022

Design Lab Nikola Multicolor Confetti Sofa

Fabric couches look great, but they can be a real pain to keep clean. The regular wear-and-tear of life — eating quick meals in the living room, spilling a drop of coffee on the armrest, dogs tracking muddy paws over the cushions — take a particularly hard toll on fabric sofas.

Even in the most clean and organized households, oil and dirt from human bodies eventually sink into the fabric and make your guest room’s prime furniture showpiece look…well, less showy.  Here are 7 things you should definitely know when learning how to clean a fabric couch

Your Sofa’s Cleaning Codes Matter

Before you attempt any couch cleaning, check out your sofa’s cleaning tag. Each piece will include a manufacturer’s tag that includes important information for how to clean your fabric couch. A variety of natural and synthetic textile fabrics could be included in the makeup of your sofa, and each type requires specific cleaning instructions.

One note in particular to keep in mind is whether your couch’s fabric can handle water. Some upholsteries will actually stain worse when water is used to clean them. Here are some of the more common tags you will see on couch labels (and what they mean):

W Water can be used to clean your couch. It won’t leave stains or spot damages.
WS Mild and dry-cleaning detergents can be used in conjunction with a steam vacuum.
X Water should NOT be used to clean. Most experts recommend only using a vacuum on this type of material.
S Dry-cleaning detergent or special solvents (usually detailed on the tag) only can be used as a cleaning agent.

Checking your sofa’s tag before cleaning is important for reasons other than just keeping your couch looking good. In some cases, failing to follow the manufacturer tag’s instructions can void warranties. When learning how to deep clean a couch, the first step should always — and we mean, always — be to check your sofa’s cleaning code.

Conduct Regular Cleanings

An easy way to avoid deep cleaning exercises is to keep up on regular, weekly fabric couch cleanings. Clean your sofa’s crevices and pick out any hair, food remnants, or toys that may have, quite literally, fallen through the cracks.

Mix together liquid dish soap and warm water to use on non-fabric couch surfaces like supports and feet. If you live in a humid area, consider placing a fan in front of your sofa for a few hours. Excess moisture can occasionally cause mildew, which you definitely do not want in your lounge spots.

Another tip to know when learning how to clean a fabric couch on a regular basis is paying particular attention to your cushions. If your couch’s cushions have removable covers, take them off and stick them in the washing machine. Otherwise, you can pursue the old-fashioned route of removing your cushions, taking them outdoors, and beating them manually. The sun actually provides great UV rays that help disinfect textiles, so this approach may be particularly well-suited if somebody in your household has been ill.

Of course, in a pinch, you can take the easy road: turning your cushions over so that the fresher-looking undersides show. This strategy also minimizes the run-down look some well-loved cushions inevitably get over time.

Use a Good Vacuum

When creating an attack plan for how to clean your fabric couch, include a reliable vacuum cleaner. Vacuums come in handy for any cleaning method you choose to use on your fabric sofa. Loose crumbs or smaller items are easier to pick up with a vacuum’s low setting, and the application of cleaners — whether it be a solvent or plain ‘ole water — runs more smoothly after vacuuming the couch’s surface first. Similarly, if you decide to try the baking soda route (more on that in a minute), you’ll need a vacuum to suck up the soda when you’re done. 

Buy Some Baking Soda

Queue the drumroll please for the best underutilized cleaning agent of all time: baking soda! Although baking soda and its use in cleaning deserves a post of its own, it also makes cleaning fabric couches much simpler. Safe for most types of fabric, baking soda helps loosen embedded grime in your couch for easier vacuuming. 

Just to be safe, spot test some backing soda on an inconspicuous spot of your couch. If your fabric does happen to be a type unfriendly to baking soda, you’ll find out pretty quickly with this spot check. Once this experiment has been successfully conducted, sprinkle baking soda onto your sofa’s surface and let it sit for a half hour. Then, use your vacuum to suck up the baking soda — and the dirt! 

When deep cleaning your couch, you don’t need to use a lot of baking soda to get the job done. Light coverage will get you the results you want and cut down on vacuuming time. For a more in-depth cleaning, mix some baking soda with carpet cleaner, water, or dry upholstery (depending on what your manufacturer’s tab says is safe to use). This paste is particularly effective for removing grease stains. Gently apply the paste onto the stained areas of your couch and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then, vacuum up the remnants. 

Whichever baking soda method you opt to use, the results should be the same. Your upholstered couch will be cleaner — and smell much nicer — when you’re done.

Make DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Cleaning Agents

For some inexpensive and creative cleaning solutions, consider trying out a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) recipe. An important note before starting: make sure that you check your manufacturer’s tag to determine specific ingredients that are safe for use on your fabric. It bears repeating that your fabric couch could be ruined if you use non-approved cleaning agents on it.

Many natural ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen cupboard will work well for deep cleaning a couch. For example, 3 tbsps of white vinegar mixed with dish soap can be used to spot-treat stains. Don’t be too aggressive with applying this mixture; gentle wiping and light application are a better bet for ensuring the spot doesn’t get worse by being rubbed in further.

For larger areas that need some additional cleaning love, use a mixture of white vinegar with water and dish soap. Pour this solution into a spray bottle for easier cleaning. Simply spray the vinegar mixture onto your sofa, let it air-dry, and enjoy your newly cleaned couch. 

Some additional DIY tips include using distilled water and working fast once spills do happen. Distilled water works better on many fabrics because it doesn’t leave mineral residue behind like tap water does. Similarly, since many fabrics are prone to stain quickly, it’s best to jump on them before they are able to soak up messes for too long. DIY solutions are great for fast cleaning since you’ll typically have the materials on-hand and readily available. 

Dry Brush Your Fabric Couch

Learning How to Clean Your Couch with a Dry Brush Investing in a dry brush is a good idea when learning how to clean a couch. When used properly, dry brushes loosen up dirt and debris on your sofa. To start, move the brush back and forth in a straight line. Try to follow your fabric’s grain instead of working against it. Brushing in this way is an easy and quick cleaning solution for sprucing up your couch.

Other brushing options include lint rollers for pet-friendly homes and, as a quick fix, large strips of packing tape. Brushing your sofa isn’t meant as a deep-cleaning solution, but it definitely helps freshen things up before company arrives.

Invest in a Steam Cleaner

As a final cleaning measure, consider buying or renting a steam cleaner to use on your fabric couch. Steam is great for loosening up dirt and, when used in conjunction with a vacuum, can be a great cleaning tool for your sofa. Depending on the type of steamer you use, you may need to fill up the machine with water or specialized cleaning solution. Consult your couch’s manufacturer tags for details on what you can use on your sofa’s fabric.

It’s particularly important to read these tags when using steam since some couches — even those that allow water as a cleaning treatment — cannot handle heat. If you’re still unsure after reading the instructions, spot test some steam on an out-of-the-way sofa part to see how your fabric takes it.

An alternative to a steam cleaner is a clothes iron. Putting your iron on its “steam” setting and slowly pulling it across your couch will have much the same effect as a traditional steamer. However, your best bet when it comes to applying heat is to follow any manufacturer directions provided on your sofa’s tag or included paper instructions. 

Ultimately, learning how to clean a fabric sofa can seem like a daunting task, but keeping these 7 tips in mind will help you get started. Also, if you find yourself needing expert cleaning help, contact the representatives at RC Willey’s, and they can provide you with additional recommendations and paid cleaning services. Don’t have a fabric couch, but want one? Check out RCWilley.com to see the latest models in stock. 


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