Cleaning Guides

How to Clean Upholstery

The sofa is the centrepiece of any living room. For that reason, it’s also why it gets soiled the most frequently and easily. Fear not, as in this article you will learn how to maintain and spot treat your precious upholstery.

So if you:

  • Have a light coloured sofa which is starting to look a little dirty;
  • You want to spot clean your sofa and recliners, but don’t what kind of solution to use;

Then read along!

Table of Contents:

How to prepare sofa upholstery for cleaning

  • Remove cushions – if the cushions have removable covers, wash them separately according to the material. If not, then they can be cleaned along with the rest of the sofa.
  • Get rid of large debris – these include solid spills, rocks of any kind, popcorn kernels and any other kind of debris which can be picked up or scrapped with a spatula. Always remove them first.
  • Vacuum clean – this will remove smaller, harder to spot particles, such as bread crumbs. It’s important not to overlook this step, as otherwise, you will be rubbing in the dirt while cleaning. Don’t forget to vacuum the crevices and corners as well. For stubborn pet hairs use a clothing brush.

Check the label

Before starting any kind of cleaning, you need to know what material your sofa is made out of. Based on this knowledge you can determine the appropriate cleaning method. The label is usually located either under a cushion or at the edge of the sofa. In some cases underneath the item.

  • W – Water. It’s okay to use water for cleaning your sofa
  • S – Solvent. Use only a solvent-based cleaner and no water. A consumer dry cleaning solution or rubbing alcohol are the best in this case.
  • X – Neither. You shouldn’t use any solvents or water whatsoever. Only vacuum the surface to remove dirt. Serious soiling should be left to a professional cleaning technician.
  • SW – Solvent and water. You can use either of both as both are safe.

How to remove stains from upholstery

Always tackle individual stains before you start the general upholstery cleaning.


Never rub any fresh stains into the fabric. That will make them that much harder to remove later on. Instead, blot and then blot some more.

For fresh liquid spills, such as wine or juice, blot as much as you can with paper towels.

Solids such as cream or mayonnaise should be carefully lifted away with the edge of a dull knife. If you have dried spills, loosen them up with a soft-bristled brush.

You may also like:
Cleaning Guides
How to Get Red Wine Out of Sofa

Prepare cleaning solution

If your upholstery allows cleaning with a water-based solution, then mix some dishwashing liquid and warm water in a cup, then pour the mixture into a small bowl.

Clean the stain

Dip a clean cloth into the solution and gently blot the stain. Always use a clean side of the cloth, so the dirt would get transferred on it and not the other way around.

Rinse and dry the stain

Now you have to blot away any cleaning solution that might be left in the area you just cleaned. It’s easy, just dip a clean sponge in water and blot the cleaning solution. Give it time to dry on its own before proceeding to the next steps.

How to remove smell from sofa

Fabric sofas are more permeable than leather and vinyl ones, so they absorb smells more easily. Unless the furniture is heavily soiled, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to deodorise.

Remove smell from upholstered sofa

  1. Vacuum the sofa of any surface particles and debris;
  2. Sprinkle baking soda on the entire sofa surface;
  3. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes. For heavy smells, leave overnight;
  4. Vacuum with the brush attachment.

Remove smell from leather sofa

  1. Wipe away any spills as soon as they happen;
  2. Mix a tablespoon of a liquid neutral soap in a cup of warm water;
  3. Wipe down the sofa with the solution
  4. Wipe the solution off with a clean damp rag
  5. Wipe the sofa with a dry rag

Learn what other cleaning services we provide, by visiting our web page.

How to clean fabric sofa with water-based solutions

Always use white rags to avoid potential discoloration.


The market is full of numerous commercial cleaners for both W and SW marked sofas. Whichever you choose, make sure to test it out on a small hidden spot first, to make sure it won’t bleach the sofa colour. And always follow the instructions.


For this method, you would need baking soda and warm water. For tougher stains, you might try adding white vinegar to the mix.

  1. Mix one part baking soda and one part water, so it forms a paste;
  2. Apply the solution to the stain and leave it for about 15 minutes. During this time, the solution will absorb the stain;
  3. Vacuum the spot.

If the stain is still there, repeat this time by adding white vinegar. Mind you, the mixture will froth up as the two ingredients reach with each other.

Some stains can be quite stubborn and require special care, like blood stains, for example. To find out how to remove blood stains from upholstery items, check our dedicated post. 

How to clean fabric sofa with solvents


When you have a sofa with the S symbol, go with a water-free solvent. Make sure the room your couch is in is well ventilated. Apply the solvent onto a clean towel and apply it to the surface by blotting the stain. Do not rub. Turn the cloth as you go, so you’re always using a clean part. Repeat until the stain is gone.


  1. Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with ¾ cup warm water and add ½ tablespoon of liquid dish soap.
  2. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray it onto the stain.
  3. Right after that, scrub with a clean cloth in a circular motion.
  4. Do this until the stain is gone.
  5. Blot the cleaned area to get rid of any excess moisture.

Cleaning Leather Upholstery

Leather chairs and sofas come in a wide variety of finishes and each one requires a cleaning approach of its own. The methods discussed here are mainly for protected leather as it is the most common.


Generally, you don’t need a commercial product to clean stains off a leather sofa. However, one might come in handy for tough spots and really soiled areas. All you need to do is apply a small amount of leather cleaning solution to a towel and gently rub the dirty area. Afterwards wipe away the dirty foam and leave the spot to dry. That’s it.


  1. Vacuum your sofa to get rid of any surface dirt which can scratch the leather.
  2. Wipe the sofa surface with a dry, clean microfibre cloth
  3. Mix equal parts of water and white vinegar into a small bucket
  4. Wipe the sofa with a rag dipped into the solution. It should be damp, not wet.
  5. Wipe the sofa and rinse the rag regularly. Try to use as little liquid as possible.
  6. With a clean microfiber cloth, dry the sofa.

If you have a sofa with unprotected leather, see the manufacturer’s suggestions for cleaning. Also, be sure to apply leather conditioner cream every 6 to 12 months, to keep your sofa soft to the touch.

You may also like:
Cleaning Guides
10 Simple Steps to Clean Leather Chairs and Restore Their Shiny Look

How to maintain upholstered furniture

  • Treat spills and stains as soon as they happen – the longer you wait, the harder it will become to remove them later on. Maybe even impossible depending on what you spill and how long you wait.
  • Vacuum regularly – dust isn’t easily visible and that’s why there can be a lot of it on your sofa. Vacuum at least once a week. Bread crumbs and other food particles can scratch the surface of your sofa, especially if it’s leather. Remember to check for any coins between the cushions before vacuuming.
  • Avoid direct sunlight – once in a while is fine, but UV rays on a daily basis is a no-no for fine fabric and leather sofas. It’s always best to keep the sofa away from sunlight (either place it away from windows or install thick drapes)
  • Pet throws – pets are lovely, but they definitely leave their mark on your furniture. Purchase a throw which is machine washable and can withstand frequent washes. Avoid throws made from silk as they are both expensive and not made for frequent washing.
  • Don’t sit on the same spot all the time – the more you sit your favourite spot, the more it gets worn out. It also collects more dirt compared to the rest of the sofa. Also, flip cushions every once in a while so they get worn evenly on both sides.
  • Cover sofa when not in use – if you travel a lot and nobody else is at home, it’s best to cover the sofa in slipcases so dust and dirt won’t settle into the fibres.

Need help with cleaning upholstery?

If you feel like spot cleaning your sofa is not your thing and you’d rather spend your time on something else, then book a cleaner with Fantastic Services. The technicians we work with are experienced and always bring their own steam cleaning machines and detergents. All you need to do is point us to the dirty sofa and let us do the rest.

Need a professional to clean your upholstery sofa?

Fantastic Services is here for you!

Add a valid postcode e.g. SE1 2TH
  • We're certified:


  • Always check the label to see what kind of upholstery you have, before cleaning.
  • Make sure you treat a stain as soon as it happens.
  • Always use the appropriate means for cleaning each upholstery type.
  • Maintain the sofa on a daily or weekly basis to keep it fresh for a longer time.


Do you have your own tips and tricks for upholstery cleaning? We’d certainly like to know in the comment section

Image source: Shutterstock / Africa Studio

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x