How to Clean Your Couch Upholstery

Life happens, and wear and tear happens, but these tips will help keep your couch upholstery looking brand new.

Like everything you own, including yourself, maintenance and care is the key to longevity. A couch is a major investment, so by regularly maintaining it, you can keep it in its original ’store-bought’ state. 

Cleaning Maintenance & Methods

Daily Cleaning

It is a good habit to regularly wipe down your couch with a clean, dry hand towel, or if it is fabric upholstery, with a lint brush. This actually helps to catch any dirt, dust, pet hair, or food crumbs that accumulate on a daily basis. It doesn’t require a lot of elbow grease, just a once-over of the surface and quickly checking any creases or corners for build-up.

Spot Cleaning

Wine, chocolate, crayons, Cheetos dust (big game debris)…all signs of a life well-lived. But you want to take care of those stains, as soon as they hit the surface, and before they become a permanent part of the upholstery.

  • Check the fabric tag. Many sofas will have a tag advising which is the best cleaning method. “W” for water-based cleaning solutions. “P” is for professional cleaning. “S” is for solvent-based cleaners. “X” is for vacuum cleaning only. If your sofa doesn’t have this tag, you should play it safe and clean it with a professional cleaning product.
  • Spot test the cleaning solution on the backside of a cushion or sofa, where it is not likely to be seen. Especially if you’re using a DIY solution, it’s best to check and ensure the cleaner doesn’t discolor the fabric and agrees with it.
  • Always clean during the day and in bright light to see every spot, stain, or surface interruption.

Deep Cleaning

Make it an annual, or semi-annual practice to deep clean your sofa. Even though on the surface it may look clean, regardless if you’re following the above two steps, you would be surprised at what deep cleaning can bring out. Because you see your couch every day, you might not notice how it is starting to lose its original finesse. Deep cleaning restores it to its former glory. In order to professionally clean your couch, use a steam cleaner in conjunction with an appropriate professional cleaning agent. This is the most effective method but be prepared to be without a couch for up to a day, while it dries and airs out.

Cleaning Different Upholstery Types

Based on the upholstery type, the maintenance, and the cleaning agent slightly differs. There are four types of upholstery primarily used in couches. Leather is an animal hide that requires almost the same skincare regime that ours does–moisturizing, nourishment, and cleaning. Faux leather or vinyl is an animal-free alternative to its genuine counterpart, and because it is synthetic, moisture isn’t as much of a factor, as is finding a compatible cleaning solution. Fabric upholstery is a woven textile product and can be either natural or synthetic, and both tend to be more sensitive to harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaning methods.

Below breaks down how to clean and care for each type of upholstery: 


Once a week, grab a clean, damp cloth and use it to wipe or buff away noticeable stains. Use a brush vacuum attachment to clear up debris and crumbs from tufts, seams, and corners. Doing this regularly keeps debris from caking into hard-to-reach areas.

If you spill on your leather, cover it with a soft, dry cloth to soak up the liquid.  Take special care not to rub the stain, as this will just aggravate it.  Once the initial spill is soaked up, gently clean the area by wiping it with a damp cloth. If the stain is still there, wash, rinse, and repeat. And if you don’t see any progress, call a professional. 

Deep cleaning leather is done by vacuuming the couch first, wiping it down with an appropriate professional cleaning agent, and applying a leather conditioner/oil to make it all shiny and new.


Vinyl can be cleaned with a damp cloth which will easily erase any marks, scuffs, or stains A vacuum brush can suck up debris and crumbs from its tufts, seams, and corners. Because vinyl is synthetic, manufacturers design it for their end-use, so many come with built-in “stain and spill-resistant” properties and can withstand excessive wear and tear. 

If you do spill on your vinyl, you can just wipe it off, and/or use a professional cleaning agent, if needed.  

Deep cleaning vinyl is done by vacuuming the couch first, spot-cleaning it, using a damp cloth with an appropriate cleaning agent, and then drying it with a dry cloth.


Fabric upholstery is best maintained with a vacuum on a daily or weekly basis.  Give your fabric furniture a once-over, paying special attention to seams, crevices, pleats, and any tufts. A lint roller is also an easy and effective way to remove all pet fur or fluff, fast.

If you stain or spill the fabric, because it is the most absorbent type of upholstery, you must attend to it — immediately. Grab a clean absorbent cloth or paper towel–but instead of scrubbing, simply place the cloth over the spill, allow it to absorb, and blot it till clean. Then once the stain is removed, you can use a hairdryer on it. If the stain is still there, use dish soap on it. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to bring in a professional. Hopefully, you don’t get there.

For deep cleaning your fabric upholstery, you can steam clean it using the appropriate professional cleaning solution. Consult with your furniture store.


Velvet has its own special category of care. While it is a fabric, it has a luxurious pile that is quite delicate. Vacuuming keeps velvet looking regal and keeps the pile upright, which maintains its luminosity. Velvet can occasionally develop what is known as “crush marks” from prolonged sitting or sleeping. If this happens, just use a steamer and brush out the wrinkles.

If you spill on velvet, “time is of the essence,” as with other fabric, so the minute you see a spill, use a clean damp cloth and soak up the spill. Avoid scrubbing; wait for the spill to absorb and dry. Once the stain is removed, you can use a hairdryer on it. (If the stain is still there, use dish soap on it, and if that doesn’t work – it’s time to bring in a professional.)

Deep cleaning can be done with a steam cleaner and the appropriate professional cleaning solution. Consult with your furniture store.

NOTE: The most important thing is if the couch belongs more to your dog than you. Make sure you find a secondary spot that meets his standards while you are cleaning and while it is drying/airing out.

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