How to Clean Your Sofa

Messy Kid Eating

Whether you are taking a power nap or you fall asleep watching TV, most of us spend some time sleeping on our sofa. Of course we also sit, snack and share the sofa with our pets. As the centerpiece in most living rooms, it takes plenty of abuse. So, what's the best way to keep the sofa as clean and stain-free as possible?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is a theory that works when selecting a sofa. If you know the piece will get lots of use, select a sofa that has durable upholstery or use a removable slipcover that can be easily cleaned. For the family sofa, natural or synthetic leather is a good choice for durability. If you prefer a fabric covering, it is best to avoid silk or velvet and choose a natural or synthetic fiber that holds up well under use and is easy to clean.

Let's focus in on some cleaning tips for fabric sofas. Removable slipcovers will have a care tag much like the ones in your clothing that will tell you how to wash or dry clean the covers. Even if you've long ago lost the original paper tags that came attached to the furniture, you can still find hints on how to clean the upholstery. Take a look under the sofa cushions or under the fabric skirt to locate a tag with letter codes that indicate how to clean the furniture. Here's how to decipher the code:

W - Sofa can be cleaned with a water-based detergent.

S - Sofa must be cleaned with a dry-cleaning solvent.

WS - Sofa can be cleaned with a water-based or dry-cleaning solvent.

X - Sofa can only be cleaned by vacuuming or by a professional cleaner.

O - Sofa is made from organic materials that require cleaning with cold water methods only. No heat.


Understanding the code will prevent the headaches of shrinkage, irremovable water stains and other fabric damage. Make sure you have the correct cleaning solution on hand before you begin spot-cleaning or overall cleaning.

To maintain a clean sofa for napping, use the upholstery brush attachment of your vacuum at least weekly to remove surface dust, crumbs, pet hair and dirt. Remove any cushions and vacuum on both sides. Use the vacuum's crevice tool to get into tight spots.

Check the upholstery for stains and treat them as soon as possible. Always test your cleaning solution - water-based or dry-cleaning solvent - on a hidden area before tackling a stain to be sure there is no color change to the upholstery. If you see a change, consult a professional.

Always use a clean white cotton cloth for stain removal to prevent color transfer. Work slowly and try not to over-saturate the area. Allow the sofa to dry completely before using again. Dry at room temperature away from direct heat or sun. You can use a small fan to speed the drying.

For fabrics that can be spot-cleaned with a water-based detergent, mix two tablespoons of non-sudsing ammonia with one quart of water. Begin at the outside edges of the stain and work toward the center to prevent the stain from spreading. Blot the solution onto the stain with the clean white cloth. Do not scrub. Blot with the solution and keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred to the cleaning cloth. When the stain is removed, blot with a clean cloth dipped in plain water and then allow to dry thoroughly.

Dry cleaning solvents should be applied in the same way but should not be "rinsed away" with a water-dipped cloth.

Taking time to clean your sofa weekly will help it last longer and you'll have a nice, clean place for your next nap.