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The Best Three Ways to Clean a Sofa

Cleaning HacksLiving Room

Inside: The best three ways to clean a sofa; whether you have an old sofa that’s showing wear and tear, or you’ve bought a second hand sofa that requires a deep cleaning.

For whatever reason, people seem to like to come to me for advice on how to clean things – this post on the three best ways to clean thrift store furniture might be helpful to you as well, depending on the intensity of your couch cleaning needs! Today, however, I plan to talk a bit about the three best ways to clean a sofa. Whether you’ve got an old sofa that you want to revive, a stain on an upholstered cushion or you’ve purchased a second hand sofa that you need to clean – I’ve got a tested solution for you. (This post contains affiliate links.)ways to clean a sofa

What Type of Sofa are you Cleaning?

Here’s one thing to consider before cleaning the upholstery on your couch or chair – how precious is it? Some cleaning methods can damage certain fabrics, so you’ll want to avoid those if at all possible. Microsuede and velvet are especially challenging to clean. Slipcovers are easy to clean but can be annoying to take off and put on and drying times must be accounted for. Second hand sofas can be a real challenge to clean because you aren’t always aware of what type of ‘dirt’ you’re dealing with. Read on and hopefully I offer some guidance to help you clean your couch!

Ways to Refresh your Sofa

So in my mind, there’s a difference between cleaning a sofa and refreshing the cushions. If you want to just give it a blitz once every couple of weeks without doing a deep down cleanse, then consider a spray refresher. Something like a Lysol Fabric Refresher or Febreze does pretty well – and if you want a chemical free solution, try this remedy for getting pet odours out of upholstery and carpets. I also sprinkle with baking soda and vacuum the cushions once a week.


Neutral Living Room
Neutral Living Room

We bought the grey couch within a week of moving into our house. It was dark grey microfibre and it never did well with our pets – AT ALL. There were always drool marks all over it. And the only real option for cleaning a microfibre couch is to spot clean it.  For the most part, I stuck to non-chemical sprays and every week, I would wipe it down with a hard rubber glove.`

How to Clean a Slipcover Sofa

I have owned quite a few slipcovered sofas in my time and I do appreciate how carefree they are when it comes to pets and kids. But there is a good way to clean slipcovers so they stay fresh longer. For the most part, my slipcovered sofas are from Ikea – they are cheap, cheerful, easy to clean and if push comes to shove, they are relatively easy to replace. New Living Room with White Slipcovered Couch

How to Wash a White Ikea Slipcover

When the stain first appears or if you catch it right away:

Say someone wipes Cheetos on the couch in front of you, just spritz with a non-toxic household cleaner and wipe with the direction of the fabric with a damp, clean cloth. Use a bit of force and it’ll hold you over until you actually launder it.

How to work with a white Ikea couch

For hard stains like tomato sauce, wine or chocolate:

Use a spot cleaning oxygen bleach solution on hard stains just before laundering. Make sure to dampen your slipcover before applying the stain remover and then rub it in gently into any and all spots. (By the way, oxygen bleach solution is also amazing at dealing with fruit flies.)

How to wash a slipcover in the washing machine

  1. Despite the label instructions, I wash my slipcover in WARM water and I add bleach crystals (NOT liquid bleach) to the washer.
  2. Tumble dry  on medium perma-press heat and put them back on while just a teensy bit damp.
  3. Do this every six weeks or so and if I’m pressed for time, I only do the cushion parts.

The alternative to this method is to use a steam or sanitary cycle on your washing machine and then steam dry the slipcover. This will release any allergens and pet dander and it’s not as hard on the fibres of the slipcover, so they will last a lot longer.
Simple Living Room with Rustic Wood and White Couch

Rustic Coastal Living Room with White Couch

How to clean a Second hand or thrifted sofa

This will be a bit more challenging because you likely aren’t sure what you’re dealing with. Is it general must, pet odors, smoke, water damage? Hard to know depending on the circumstances. In this case, you will want to be very clear on what type of fabric you’re using and how it will hold up, so I recommend doing a spot test of anything and everything you’re going to try before going all the way with any smell or cleaning solution.

With a second hand sofa, the first step to cleaning it is to really air it out. If you can remove all the cushions and lay them out in full sun for at least an entire day. (You can still do the other cleaning methods on this day, but the sun will help act as a natural cleaner and deodorizer.)

Unzip any zippers and make sure the insert or foam inlay is intact and not moldy or breaking down. If it is, you should consider replacing them.

Why we bought a white couch

If it’s delicate fabric, this deodorizing method will be your best first line of defense, followed by baking soda sprinkle and a good solid vacuum.

Put on rubber cleaning gloves and rub the upholstery vigorously to loosen any dirt or debris stuck in the fabric, sprinkle with baking soda, and vacuum it again. Repeat this a few times.

Lastly, try the chemical deodorizer like Lysol or Febreze. If all else fails, reupholstery might be your best option to clean a second hand sofa.

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