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How To Clean A Couch In Five Steps

Updated on December 27, 2012

Time to spruce up "ye olde" couch? Here's the good and bad news. The good news is that cleaning a couch, even the most used, tired and stained kind, can lead to surprisingly results. The bad news? It isn't always a simple as we'd like, while some hi-tech household tools combined with the appropriate knowledge can make swift work of cleaning, not all of us have access to them.

Don't despair, however! I have written this article as concisely as possible, while also never assuming we know what we're doing. Following the guide will ensure that you achieve results, without damaging your furniture. For any other corrections, suggestions or questions, feel free to contact me via the comments section below.

1. Vacuuming And Soft Brushing

Before we begin tackling stains and giving our couch the make-over of a lifetime, we need to remove as much dust and debris as possible.

For soft-fabric couches, you can use a vacuum cleaner to do a little preliminary groundwork and get the dirt out. If your couch is made of leather or vinyl however, skip the vacuum and use a soft brush to do some pre-cleaning.

In a perfect world you can simply use the right attachment on your hi-tech vacuum cleaner. Most will have additional attachments made specifically for the type of couch you own.


2. Read The Sticker!

Not every couch or sofa is equal, if you dive in with generic cleaning tools you may very well ruin or damage the fabrics themselves. Before we begin cleaning in earnest, we need to know what we're dealing with. If the language of the sticker's cleaning code makes no sense to you. Feel free to read this visual sticker guide.

For those of you who can't find a sticker, or are sure there isn't one anywhere on the couch, please skip to the next section for ways to test which fabric cleaner is safe to use.

3. Tackling Stains

You're going to need some form of upholstery stain remover to apply on affected areas. While I have heard that you can use a water and vinegar solution instead, I cannot directly confirm it works. If you have experience with home made remedies such as vinegar, I would love it if you confirm whether they worked or not.

Important: If you do not have access to a cleaning code (manual or sticker) always make sure that you test any couch shampoo or stain remover on an invisible patch of the couch before applying it to the rest of the couch.

Apply and smooth your concoction on the stain with the use of a damp cloth. You don't want to make the couch overly wet. Once the stain has dried and dissipated remove the cushions and prepare the sofa for war.

4. Make-over Time

Depending on the time of fabric we're dealing with, and what the instructions are, it's time dig-deep and work our magic. Unfortunately for leather couches you are limited to a leather cleaning solution and a soft cloth to fend off the dirt as best you can. Because of the risk to leather, most solutions require commercial steam-cleaning (which may set you back as much as $100 a pop).

Apply an appropriate shampooing agent to your fabric couch and deep clean the entire surface uniformly. If your couch's washing instructions mention dry cleaning, you can rent or borrow a steam-cleaner. Remember in both cases to test the solution on areas invisible to the eye!

5. Develop A Cleaning Routine

Regularly vacuuming (usually prescribed once a week) to clean out the dirt will keep the couch looking great. It is also recommended to limit shampooing or steam-cleaning to no more than once a month, in order to protect the fabric from discolouration or spots.


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