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Want to clean your sofa naturally? It can be done

From a white vinegar solution to a sanitising steam clean, here’s how to get your sofa good as new, the DIY way.


gray fabric sofa with pink blanket and colorful cushion

Is your sofa looking grubby? If your cosy place to chill out is in dire need of some TLC (think nasty stains and deeply ingrained dirt), there’s no need to call in the upholstery pros (just yet). That’s right – there are many ways to clean sofa upholstery at home (and save money in the process).

Cleaning a sofa at home – how to get started

Cleaning a sofa can be a little daunting, even if you’re an experienced cleaning pro. And that’s understandable – after all, it’s your living room’s pièce de résistance, and the first place for visiting guests to settle. So it’s worth taking the time to carefully plan its clean up.

Step 1. Check the manufacturer’s instructions

Before getting started, it’s important to check the manufacturer’s instructions and advice on cleaning the fabric. Long since thrown these away or can’t find them? 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.
  • SW 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.


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Step 2. Vac up the dirt

Using the brush attachment on your vac, suck up any dirt, dust or crumbs from your sofa, sliding in between cushions and tight spaces using the crevice attachment. Finish off by brushing along the seams and edges.

Step 3. Clean the frames, feet and cushions

If your sofa has metal or wooden arms, frames or feet, then give them a good wipe down with a warm mild soapy solution and a soft cloth. If you have removable cushions and covers, remove these. Check the manufacturer’s instructions, and, if it’s safe to do so, pop the covers in the washing machine.

Step 4. The patch test

Whatever the fabric of your sofa, it’s important to carry out a patch test using your preferred cleaning solution. Choose a small spot that’s hidden around the back or underneath the sofa. Red flags to watch for include signs of discolouration, shrinkage, water marks or colour run.

Step 5. Choose the right cleaning method for your sofa upholstery

If you want to clean your fabric sofa naturally, a distilled white vinegar solution will remove any stains. Simply mix one cup of white vinegar and a cup of water in a spray bottle. Then spray the solution directly onto the stain. Using a clean cloth, blot the stain from the outer edge towards the centre, repeating the process until the stain is gone.

To clean and remove more stubborn stains on your fabric sofa (without the need for harsh chemicals), use a steam cleaner on its lowest setting. Remove your sofa’s cushions and then steam the sofa’s fabric from top-to-bottom, in the same way you’d vacuum it. Steam cleaning also deodorises and sanitises the upholstery. New to using your device? Here’s a nifty guide to steam cleaning.

When it comes to cleaning a leather sofa naturally, it’s important to know that there are two types of leather sofa: protected and unprotected.

Protected leather is more durable in nature, making it more suitable for regular cleaning. Take care with unprotected leather, particularly if it’s stained; it’s better to call in an expert.

Like fabric sofas, you can usually use either a white vinegar solution or mild soapy solution to clean your protected leather sofa. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a sizeable bowl, immerse a soft cloth in the solution and wring it out before wiping down the whole sofa, top to bottom.

Once done, dry off with a towel.

If your leather sofa is stained, follow the care instructions or ask a professional upholstery cleaner for some advice.

black leather sofa and spray with blue cleaning cloth

Looking for more sofa and furniture cleaning cleaning tips? We’ve got you covered.

Originally published