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Insider’s Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Your Sofa

Updated on December 24, 2016
Difference that Cleaning Makes to A Sofa
Difference that Cleaning Makes to A Sofa

Big, bulky and cushioning that your sofa is, cleaning it has always been a nightmare and yet it is something that needs to be done. However, as it turns out, the task may not be as overwhelming if you educate yourself as regards the type of dirt and the modus operandi for cleaning that you can employ to accomplish this objective.

Comfortable though the sofa is at all times, the same cannot be said for its hygiene. Courtesy of everyone lounging on it including children and pets, it can be aptly described as a domestic version of a land-fill. In such a situation regular cleaning is a must not just for the sake of maintaining its appearance but also for protecting your family’s health.

Nature of Dirt on Your Sofa

No matter how rigorous your cleaning schedule might be in terms of time and technique, it is not enough. To begin with, there are multiple inlets through which dirt and micro-organisms can enter your home and once they settle down at various spots, it is extremely difficult to get rid of them.

But do you realize that dirt on your sofa could be in various forms? While some of these come off quite easily, others tend to sink deep into the fibres and are extracted only by applying deep cleaning techniques. Discussed as follows are some of the common forms of dirt that your sofa could be infested with –

Dust mites – Ubiquitous by nature, dust mites are particularly prone to settle down on soft furnishings like cushions, curtains and sofas. Polluting that these are, what renders them truly harmful is the fact they have a tendency to shed skin every now and then and leave their faeces scattered all over the surface. If allowed to remain on the fabric for too long, these can cause a variety of health problems ranging from irritation of nasal track to allergies and even asthma.

Regular cleaning is most effective solution for mitigating the presence of dust mites and their remnants on your sofa and other forms of upholstery.

Bacteria – Microscopic that these are, their presence often goes undetected which means that unknown to you, your sofa might be teeming with bacterial colonies. The fact that they can lay dormant for an indefinite period of time is indicative of their ability to survive even the toughest of conditions. All it takes is a congenial environment to become active once again and this spells trouble for the family.

In addition to regular cleaning, sanitization is a must if you are serious about getting rid of bacteria from your sofa as also your home.

Oil and grease – While a layer of natural oils on your skin keeps it healthy and glowing unfortunately the same logic is not applicable in case of sofa and upholstery. Oil and grease deposits on the sofa not only attract dirt but also form dark and unsightly stains on the fabric, thus ruining its appearance.

To prevent oil and grease from destroying your sofa’s fabric, frequent cleaning with appropriate cleaning agents is a must.

Nature of Dirt On Your Sofa

Mould – Has anyone in your family recently developed a skin rash or might be sneezing incessantly without any climatic changes? The reason could be the presence of harmful mould that might have grown on your sofa courtesy of warm and humid conditions. Any portion of your house that has moisture in copious quantities like kitchen, bathroom and upholstery can serve as a breeding ground for mould. Sofas are particularly susceptible to having mould courtesy of food crumbs having been left behind – these sink into cracks and crevices and are soon covered by a layer of mould.

Vacuum cleaning is regarded as being the most effective to combat the presence and growth of mould and it should be carried out using specific upholstery fixtures so that even the deepest of cracks and corners can be swept.

Chemicals – It is but natural for home owners to use cleaning agents of different types in their homes, not realizing that most of the aerosols and solutions are chemical based and tend to release strong fumes every time they are used. In additions, these are bound to leave behind particles that get embedded in the fabric and cause slow degradation. On being inhaled by people in the house, they can have an adverse impact on health.

As far as possible, you must cut down on usage of chemical-based cleaning agents in your home and with ready availability of several eco friendly alternatives this should not be difficult at all.

Being aware of the various forms of dirt infesting your sofa could leave you preoccupied and thoughtful. However, on the upside, you could use this knowledge to figure out the different ways by which you can clean and sterilize your sofa.

Surveys have revealed that on an average, home owners spend a minimum of eight hours a week cleaning their homes and this figure increases exponentially if the family comprises of children and pets. But awareness as regards the various types of dirt would drastically cut down both your cleaning time and effort.

Vacuum Cleaning of Sofa

DIY Sofa Maintenance

Having invested in a sofa set after much deliberation and thinking, you would obviously want it to add to the personality of your home. This is where your DIY maintenance comes in. True though it is that you must get your sofas cleaned by a professional upholstery cleaning service at least twice a year, daily maintenance has its own importance. To this effect, inclusion of the following measures in your daily schedule would work wonders towards improving your sofa’s appearance –

Regular vacuum cleaning – You may not realize it but over the days your sofa is bound to become a homing ground for dirt, dust, grime and several varieties of micro-organisms, not to mention stains. While some of these are visible, most of them are able to escape a casual scrutiny and usually reside in crevices, folds and corners. These tend to build up as days go by with the result that your sofa begins to appear faded and dull, therefore it is important to remove them at least once a week or even once in three days.

Regular vacuum cleaning of sofa using an upholstery attachment not only prevents a build-up of dust and micro-organisms but also ensures that the colour and appearance are duly preserved.

Commandments for Removing Stains

  • Stains should be removed while they are still fresh.
  • Dark stains are best removed by applying a paste of tartar cream and lemon juice.
  • After having left on the stain for at least 10 minutes it is wiped off with a damp sponge.
  • Ink stain is best removed by blotting the area with a cotton ball dipped in alcohol.
  • Stubborn ink stains need to be covered with a non-oily paste overnight and wiped the next morning with a damp cloth.

Stain removal – No-one can possibly predict a spill or its nature but the onus is on you to take charge of the situation so that any permanent damage can be avoided. Rather than panicking, you must spring into action by blotting the area with a solution of detergent in lukewarm water and following it up by wiping the area with a clean wet cloth. The patch should then be left to dry on its own and can be laced with a bit of baking soda at a later date to ensure that it smells good.

A word of caution pertains to the fact that a area wherein the spill has occurred should never be scrubbed. Instead of cleaning up the portion, this would only push the particles deeper into the fabric, thus rendering extraction even more difficult.

Fluffing – You need to bear in mind that upholstery tends to lose shape with usage and your sofa and its cushions are no exceptions to this rule. Regular fluffing of seating cushions not only ensures that they maintain their shape but also appear fresh and new. Since it only takes two minutes of your time, this is one of the DIY upholstery maintenance tips which is effective as also the easiest.

Before embarking on the cleaning, you must make it a point to read the tags attached to the sofa and decode the instructions printed on it. This would provide you with sufficient guidelines as regards the dos’ and don’ts and enable you to take good care of your sofa. Another fact you must bear in mind pertains to leather sofa – as compared to fabric, leather needs to be treated differently and is also more prone to suffer damage. Therefore, you need to be more careful with leather and pay extra attention to cleaning details as compared to fabric.

Just like the way a stitch in time saves nine, practicing these simple and easy guidelines would ensure that your sofa is maintained on a regular basis and as a result appears presentable at all times.

Fluffing of Sofa Cushions
Fluffing of Sofa Cushions

Is it Possible to Wash a Sofa At Home?

Even though you might have laid down strict rules about eating only at dinner table and leaving footwear at the entrance, spills and accidents are inevitable and so is the entry of dirt and germs through open windows. Rather than fret over the natural course of events, you would do well to learn how to wash your sofa so that its neat appearance can be duly restored.

While there are service providers that are trained in washing sofas, it is also possible for a home owner to undertake this task by simply following these guidelines -

Step 1 – Remove all the loose cushions from your sofa and keep them aside for being washed later. Cushions that are attached should be left on as attempting to pull them out might rip the fabric and cause irreparable damage.

Step 2 – Run your vacuum cleaner all over the sofa including corners, crevices and cracks which are normally dark and remain hidden behind cushions. If you find it difficult to clean within the crack or a corner with your usual attachment, it is time to explore the various attachments that come with the machine till you find one which is flexible and has maximum reach.

Step 3 – Next it is time to apply the cleaning agent on to the fabric and while there is nothing wrong in buying commercial upholstery cleaner, an ordinary laundry detergent can also serve the purpose. Prepare a solution by adding lukewarm water to approximately one-fourth cup of detergent and stir it till it starts foaming.

Step 4 – Before you apply it on the sofa, it would be prudent to first check whether or not it is suitable for the fabric. Select a corner of your sofa which is hidden from view and dab a small amount of cleaning solution on to the fabric. For the next few minutes watch the area carefully for any signs of discoloration, fading, tearing or any other form of reaction.

Step 5 – Everything depends on how the fabric reacts to the solution. If there is even the slightest hint of an adverse reaction, you must immediately discard the idea and start looking for a replacement. On the other hand, absence of any reaction implies that you can indeed apply it on the entire sofa for cleaning the dirt and grime.

Step 6 – Having covered the fabric in solution, you can use a scrapper to remove the dirt and grime as it rises with the foam. This takes plenty of time and patience but is truly effective in removing all kinds of stains, mould and dust particles that might have been nestled on the fabric.

Step 7 – Lastly, it is time to use a damp wiping cloth to rinse the fabric so that all the soap is washed away, carrying the dirt with it.

Chances are that the fabric of your sofa might be a bit damp after the procedure and hence quick drying is a must. This can be facilitated by ensuring adequate ventilation by opening the doors and windows and letting the fans work their magic for a couple of hours. In case you feel that your sofa needs further cleaning, it is time to consider hiring a professional service provider.

Cleaning Your Sofa By Yourself


How you clean your sofa depends on what it is made of wherein leather would need to be treated differently than what is used on fabric. The logic of prevention being better than cure is equally applicable to sofa cleaning as it is to other aspects of home interiors and all you need to do is practice preventive maintenance for your sofa to look and feel good.


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