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Sofa-pedia: How to disinfect (and how to clean) a sofa

From how to clean a leather sofa, to washing sofa covers, welcome to the world of Sofa-pedia! Prepare to be enlightened...

Updated By Cleanipedia Team

person wearing a pink glove cleaning a grey sofa with a blue brush
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Whether you need to know how to clean a fabric sofa naturally, disinfect a second-hand sofa you’ve purchased or simply want a guide to cleaning it, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover our guide to cleaning and disinfecting every part of your sofa, regardless of the fabric type! Surf disinfectant is a great disinfectant

How to disinfect a sofa: The dos and don’ts

Here we’ll dos and don’ts for when and how to clean and sanitise a used couch or the sofa you currently have in your living room.

  • DO check the manufacturer’s instructions for care, especially if your sofa is still under warranty.

  • DO carry out a patch test in an inconspicuous spot to ensure there won’t be any discolouration, shrinkage, water marks or colour run.

  • DO consider getting your sofa professionally cleaned as they are often able to use stronger products.

  • DO use hot water when cleaning as this is more likely to kill off germs.

  • DO treat spillages immediately. Fresh stains are easier to remove than those which have set into the fabric fibres. Food and other spillages can also be a breeding ground for germs, so it is important to ensure they are removed.

  • DO vacuum your sofa weekly. This will prevent a build-up of dirt, dust and grime as sofas are in constant use. This in turn will prevent a build-up of nasty bacteria which could make you ill.

  • DON’T use rubbing alcohol or bleach as these could lead to damage such as discolouration.

  • DON’T use paper towels when cleaning and disinfecting as this could leave paper fibres on your sofa.

  • DON’T oversaturate your sofa when cleaning or disinfecting as this could cause permanent damage.

  • DON’T use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process. Instead use a towel to soak up excess moisture and leave it to air dry.

Knowing how to clean a sofa is easy with our guide, but did you know baby wipes are great for spot cleaning? They’re gentle which prevents damage and won’t oversaturate the fabric.
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How to clean a leather sofa

Here are some easy steps for to follow for how to disinfect a leather sofa and clean the material.

  1. For your regular cleaning, begin with a soft brush.

    Once a week vacuum and brush your leather sofa, particularly if your skin comes into a lot of contact with the material. Pay special attention to the seams and cracks of the furniture where dirt gets trapped.

  2. Next use a clean, soft cloth to wipe down the furniture.

    Dampen the cloth with warm water before use. This should be done as part of your basic leather care routine.

  3. If you spill something, there are a few key points for how to clean the leather couch surfaces.

    Take care to blot the spillage. Wiping can push stains into the fibres and discolour or permanently stain the leather. Use a specialised leather cleaner. For serious spillages, use a leather cleaner always following the manufacturer’s guidelines. Finish with a leather preservative.

  4. To prevent germs and bacteria, here’s how to disinfect a leather couch.

    Mix a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar. Dip a clean, soft cloth into the mix and use it to wipe down the leather.

  5. Ensure you finish with a leather conditioner.

    Always check the label before use and test on a discrete part first.

How to clean a suede sofa

Here are our top tips for how to clean suede couch cushions and covers.

  1. Remove the cushions and vacuum your sofa weekly.

    Take care to vacuum both sides and any creases in the fabric, cushions and sides.

  2. Brush your suede sofa.

    Use a soft bristled brush and only work in circular motions.

  3. Use a cleaner designed specifically for suede.

    Check the label and always follow the steps provided.

  4. If you spill something, there are a few key points for how to clean suede couch surfaces.

    Pat talcum powder or corn starch into grease stains, leave overnight and brush off in the morning. Invest in a suede eraser to remove lighter stains.

How to clean a velvet sofa

  1. Vacuum the velvet regularly,

    especially if crumbs are dropped on it.

  2. For a deeper clean, steam cleaning is best.

    A handheld steamer works, or simply pop your iron onto the steam setting and away you go! Here’s a nifty guide to steam cleaning.

  3. Flip and fluff the cushions regularly.

    This will help to prevent colour fading.

For more information on cleaning a velvet sofa, read more on Cleanipedia.

How to clean fabric sofa, cushions, and more!

Always check the manufacturer’s instructions and advice on cleaning the fabric before beginning to avoid using the wrong products. Lost the instructions in the ‘miscellaneous draw’ in the kitchen? Threw them out long ago? No stress – simply drop the retailer or manufacturer an email, or look for the fabric cleaning code on your sofa.

The fabric cleaning code is usually printed on a sticker, tag or label and can often be located under the seat cushions. Here’s a helpful guide to the main upholstery cleaning symbols:

S: Dry clean only using a solvent-based cleaner – it’s time to call in the pros.

W: Only clean with a steam cleaner or a water-based detergent.

W or WS: You can use either a water-based detergent or a dry-cleaning detergent.  

O: This material is organic and you should wash it using cold water.

X: Your sofa needs to be professionally cleaned, as washing with water or detergents could damage the material.

If in doubt, it’s worth speaking to an upholstery expert.

  1. The first step in how to disinfect a fabric sofa is to create a cleaning solution.

    Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a bowl. Alternatively add a few drops of mild detergent to warm water and create a soapy solution.

  2. Dip a soft cloth into your chosen cleaning solution.

    Wring it out to remove excess moisture to prevent saturating your sofa.

  3. Use the cloth to wipe down the whole sofa,

    top to bottom.

How to clean a natural leather sofa

Natural leather sofas and chairs are great for their unique look but they are more susceptible to damage and so it’s important to take care when looking for how to clean leather couches made from natural leather.

  1. Mix vinegar and oil.

    Mix two parts white vinegar with 1 part olive oil in a bottle. Make sure to shake well to ensure the two mix.

  2. Use a dry cloth.

    Use a dry cloth to clean the material to ensure no dye is transferred.

  3. Then, use a separate cloth.

    Use a separate, clean and dry cloth to get rid of any excess moisture.

If you are unsure, speak to a leather expert.

How to condition a leather couch naturally

If you’re looking to restore leather furniture naturally, products such as coconut oil are a great way to restore shine. Simply follow this step-by-step guide on how to condition leather couches naturally.

  1. Use circular motions.

    Using a clean, dry cloth, rub coconut oil into the sofa in circular motions.

  2. Allow time.

    Allow the oil to penetrate the leather for around 10 minutes.

  3. Have another cloth to hand.

    Use a different, clean cloth to then buff out excess oil.

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Your ultimate guide on how to disinfect furniture and clean each part of your sofa

Here you can find answers to your questions on how to disinfect couch cushions and more, and with a few simple steps, we’ll show you how to sanitise your furniture.

How to wash sofa covers

  1. Always check the care label first, for any specific instructions.

  2. If your sofa covers are removable, unzip them and remove them before cleaning.

  3. For those that can be machine washed, always use a cold, gentle cycle along with a mild detergent.

  4. If the covers cannot be removed, use the above instructions relevant for the fabric of your sofa.

How to clean sofa arms and framework

  1. For metal or wooden arms, frames or feet mix up a warm, soapy water solution. A mild detergent works best.

  2. Use a soft cloth dipped in this solution to wipe them down.

  3. For suede, leather or other fabrics, use the relevant instructions from our guide above.

How to clean sofa cushions

  1. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush off any debris on the cushions.

  2. You could also use the brush attachment on your vacuum.

  3. Don’t forget to clean both sides and along the seams and edges.

With this go-to guide, we’ve now shown you how to clean a fabric couch, and how to disinfect a fabric couch from the arms to the covers and every other material type too! To give your furniture a further lease of life, have a look at these different ways you could upholster.

Originally published