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how to clean a couch because it's time to

In your mind’s eye, picture your couch for a moment. It’s been your faithful companion as you laughed or cried through a thousand TV programs and feature films. Remember the nacho parties while you and your friends binged on Game of Thrones? Or the Super Bowl chili party, or Oscars night, toasting with champagne, and those crumbly canapes and crostini? How about when your friend needed a place to “crash” for a week? Now that you think about it, wouldn’t you feel better if you gave your couch a good deep-cleaning?

Our Professional Upholstery Cleaners

We spoke with Ryan and Trevin Christensen of All-American Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning for advice. “Your upholstery is a fabric, like all of your clothes,” Trevin said. “How long would you go before washing a shirt you let several friends wear? We recommend having your upholstery deep-cleaned by a professional every 18 to 24 months or as needed. This will help to not only sanitize the couch but extend its life as well.” In between professional cleanings, it’s easy, and not expensive, to keep your couch looking good.

Avoid This Mistake

how to clean couch - vacuum

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Ryan adds, “One common mistake people make is to remove the fabric covers from the couch’s cushions or pillows and toss them in a washing machine. This is a bad idea and often results in damage and/or shrinking of the fabric, thereby ruining the appearance of the couch.” Instead, clean the fabric while its on the cushions.

How to Clean Your Fabric Couch

Before you begin, pull off the cushions and vacuum underneath. Besides last year’s Cheetos, you might even find a few lost “treasures.” Next, vacuum the cushions and back.

how to clean couch - spray bottle

Get it on Tophatter for around $3

Here are the professionals’ best basic maintenance recommendations for cleaning on most fabrics: 

  • Less is best. 
  • Always pretest the cleaner in an inconspicuous area for color fastness. 
  • Use a 50/50 mix of distilled white vinegar and a white towel. 
  • Light maintenance cleaning can be accomplished by spraying the couch with the vinegar mixture, being careful not to over-wet it. Use the towel to wipe off lightly soiled areas. The vinegar smell will dissipate when the fabric dries. For more cleaning power, add a tablespoon of liquid dish soap to the mixture.

Deeper Cleaning for Larger Spots and Spills:

how to clean couch - wet dry vacuum

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  • Quickly blot up moisture with paper towels or use a wet/dry vac or a portable upholstery cleaner for extraction of more heavily soiled areas. Remove as much of the spill as possible. Rub away the stain with the water/vinegar solution mixed with 1/4 cup dish soap. Then extract again. Usually that is enough to remove spots on most modern fabrics.

For Oily Spots and Spills:

how to clean couch - upholstery cleaner liquid

Get it on Amazon for around $18

You can speed the drying time by pointing a fan at your couch, but don’t use a hair dryer (too much direct heat). 

Don’t Throw on the Towel

how to clean couch - new couch

Get it on Tophatter for around $425

Finally, is your couch cover beyond repair, but you don’t want to buy a new couch? Don’t just throw a towel or blanket over it. Investigate new couch covers or sofa arm covers instead. Couch protectors help prevent damage from pets and kids.

How to Clean a Leather Couch

how to clean couch - leather cleaner

Get it on Amazon for around $28

Leather needs love, too. Leather couches can become dingy and soiled, and they can dry out and crack. First, apply a leather cleaner to your couch according to the directions on the cleaner, using an old sock or a T-shirt. Wipe with a clean cloth and repeat if necessary. Once your couch is clean, you can treat the leather with a moisturizer, which will restore luster. Let it sit overnight and then wipe thoroughly again with a dry cloth before sitting on the couch. Some formulas combine cleaner and conditioner in one bottle.

Now you’re ready for your favorite program! Pass the popcorn!

Shop for your couch:

Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.


Crista Worthy writes about aviation, travel, wildlife, and more from her home in Idaho.

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