How to clean a fabric sofa? - A complete guide

A fabric sofa can be a cosy and stylish addition to your living room, but it can also be a magnet for dirt, stains, and general wear and tear. Regular maintenance and the proper cleaning techniques can keep your fabric sofa looking fresh and new. We will take you through the steps to clean your fabric sofa effectively.

Steps for cleaning a fabric sofa

Step 1: Check the Manufacturer's Instructions

Before you begin cleaning, always check the manufacturer's label or instructions. Different fabrics require different cleaning methods, and using the wrong technique could damage your sofa.

Look for cleaning codes such as:

  • W: Water-based cleaner
  • S: Solvent-based cleaner
  • WS: Water or solvent-based cleaner
  • X: Vacuum only

Step 2: Gather Your Supplies

Depending on the cleaning code, you will need different supplies. Generally, you might need:

  • Vacuum cleaner with upholstery attachment
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • White cloths or sponges
  • Water-based cleaner (mild dish soap or fabric cleaner)
  • Solvent-based cleaner (dry cleaning solvent)
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar

Step 3: Vacuum the Sofa

Start by vacuuming the sofa to remove loose dirt, dust, and debris. Use the upholstery attachment to get into crevices and seams. This step is crucial as it prevents dirt from being rubbed into the fabric during cleaning.

Step 4: Spot Test

Before applying any cleaner:

  1. Conduct a spot test on a hidden sofa area to ensure it doesn't cause discoloration or damage.
  2. Apply a small amount of the cleaner and let it sit for a few minutes before blotting it away with a white cloth.
  3. If there's no adverse reaction, proceed with cleaning.

Step 5: Clean Stains

For water-based cleaners:

  1. Mix a small amount of mild dish soap with lukewarm water.
  2. Dampen a white cloth or sponge with soapy water.
  3. Gently blot the stain, working from the outside to prevent spreading.
  4. Rinse the cloth and blot with clean water to remove the soap residue.
  5. Use a dry cloth to blot and remove excess moisture.

For solvent-based cleaners:

  1. Apply a small amount of the cleaner to a white cloth.
  2. Gently blot the stain without rubbing.
  3. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying.

Step 6: General Cleaning

For overall cleaning, follow the same method as stain removal but work in sections. Avoid soaking the fabric, as excess moisture can lead to mould and mildew.

Step 7: Deodorise with Baking Soda

Sprinkle baking soda evenly over the sofa and let it sit for at least 15 minutes or overnight for solid odours. Vacuum the baking soda thoroughly to remove any lingering smells.

Step 8: Drying

Allow your sofa to air dry completely. Avoid using heat sources like hairdryers, as they can damage the fabric. Ensure proper ventilation in the room to speed up the drying process.

Step 9: Brush the Fabric

Once the sofa is dry, use a soft-bristled brush to restore the fabric's texture and appearance. Brush in one direction to maintain a uniform look.

Step 10: Regular Maintenance

To keep your fabric sofa looking its best, vacuum it regularly, address spills immediately, and rotate cushions to ensure even wear.

Additional Tips

  • Use Slipcovers: Protect your sofa with washable slipcovers to make cleaning easier.
  • Professional Cleaning: Consider hiring professional upholstery cleaners for deep cleaning once or twice a year.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: Prolonged exposure to sunlight can fade the fabric, so position your sofa away from direct sunlight.

Following these steps and maintaining a regular cleaning routine can keep your fabric sofa looking fresh and inviting for years to come.

What's the best way to remove stains from my fabric sofa?

First, the best way to remove stains from a fabric sofa is to check the manufacturer's cleaning code. Mix a small amount of mild dish soap with lukewarm water for water-based stains, then blot the stain gently with a white cloth or sponge, working from the outside to prevent spreading. Rinse the cloth and blot with clean water to remove the soap residue.

Use a solvent-based cleaner for oil-based stains and blot the stain without rubbing. Always perform a spot test in an inconspicuous area before completing the application. After treating the stain, blot with a dry cloth to remove excess moisture and allow the area to air dry completely.

How often should I clean my fabric sofa?

It would help if you vacuumed your fabric sofa weekly to remove dust and dirt and perform a deep cleaning every 6 to 12 months, depending on how heavily it is used and its exposure to spills and stains. Regular maintenance, including prompt attention to any spills or spots, helps keep the fabric looking fresh and extends the life of your sofa.

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Cleaning a fabric sofa may take a lot of effort, but it can be straightforward and effective with the proper techniques and regular maintenance. By following the steps outlined in this guide—checking the manufacturer's instructions, vacuuming regularly, treating stains promptly, and using appropriate cleaning solutions—you can keep your fabric sofa looking fresh and inviting for years to come.

Conduct spot tests before applying any cleaner, and consider professional cleaning for deep stains or annual upkeep. A well-maintained fabric sofa enhances the aesthetic of your living space and ensures a comfortable and hygienic seating environment for you and your family.


Can I use a steam cleaner on my fabric sofa?

Steam cleaning can be effective for some fabric sofas, but checking the manufacturer's label first is essential. You can use a steam cleaner if the couch is labelled with a 'W' or 'WS' code. Always do a spot test in an inconspicuous area before completing the cleaning.

How can I remove pet hair from my fabric sofa?

To remove pet hair, use a vacuum with an upholstery attachment. A lint roller or slightly damp rubber glove can help lift stubborn hair from the fabric.

How do I deodorise my fabric sofa?

Sprinkle baking soda over the sofa and let it sit for at least 15 minutes to absorb odours. Vacuum thoroughly to remove the baking soda. For more pungent odours, a mixture of white vinegar and water can be lightly sprayed onto the fabric, followed by air drying.

Can I use household cleaning products on my fabric sofa?

Only use products safe for your sofa's specific fabric type. Household cleaning products not designed for upholstery can cause discoloration or damage. Always check the label and do a spot test first.

What should I do if my sofa cushions are not removable?

If your sofa cushions are not removable, vacuum them thoroughly and clean stains using the same method as the rest of the sofa. Be cautious not to over-saturate the fabric with cleaning solutions.

How do I prevent my fabric sofa from fading?

To prevent fading, keep your sofa out of direct sunlight. Use curtains or blinds to block sunlight during peak hours. Additionally, consider using fabric protectors or slipcovers to shield the upholstery.