How to Clean a Couch? Cloth, Microfiber – 6 Steps

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The couch is one of the most used pieces of furniture in the home. Because of this, it is quick to get dirty with dust, grime, or stains from spilled liquids or food. How to clean a couch?

To clean your couch, follow these six steps:

  1. Examine the Couch for Stains
  2. Check the Cleaning Tag
  3. Optional: Check the Manufacturer’s Guidelines
  4. Pre-Clean including Vacuum
  5. Steam Clean (use light heat for a leather or suede couch)
  6. Alternatives to Steam Cleaning: Instead of steam cleaning, or in addition to it, depending on the material of the couch, you can use liquid detergent, baking soda, or rubbing alcohol.

Whether your couch is made of cloth, microfiber, suede, or leather, pre-treating it with a vacuum or brush sweep is a must! Getting rid of dirt, pet hair, and food debris is already half of the process.

A good vacuum and steam cleaner can help you along the way, but you can also DIY your way through the help of some rubbing alcohol, baking soda, and even soap suds! Just remember to check on the care instruction manual first before you try anything for the first time.

Read on to learn more about how to clean a couch or sofa, including the best ways to make it look new again.

Also, to make cleaning the couch a breeze, take a look at the Shark Rocket Ultra-Light Hand Vacuum. This vacuum is powerful, portable, ultra-lightweight, and has an easy-to-empty dust cup.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

How to Clean a Couch? 6 Easy Steps

A trusty living room couch is one of the focal points of a house. It is usually where the family gathers to hang out, watch Netflix, have some snacks, or just play with pets.

So, there is a certain level of inevitability when it comes to the couch being filthy over time, especially when you have kids or pets around.

how to clean a sofa
How to clean a sofa couch in 6 steps

All the tips and tricks you need to know are right here. Let’s look at the 6 easy steps to cleaning your couch:

1. Examine the Couch for Stains

Check your couch or sofa for stains as well as easy-to-remove dirt and debris. Also, take note of deep-seated stains, as you might need more than simple home cleaning tools to get it cleaned. When examining your couch or sofa, look under the pillows and in all the crevices.

2. Check the Cleaning Tag

Don’t worry if you’ve already lost the manufacturer’s guide–just look for the tag, which is usually attached to the couch’s cushions. The cleaning tag contains essential information about your couch. It can show the following codes:

  • W – Means the material can only be washed with water and a water-based detergent.
  • S – Means solvent-based cleaner. Do not use water.
  • WS – Both water and solvent-based cleaner can be used to clean the couch.
  • X – Means only vacuum or brush cleaning is allowed.

Never veer away from what is advised on the cleaning/care instructions tag. If it specifically calls for only solvent-based cleaner, never use water to clean the couch or sofa. In this case, water may seem harmless, but it could leave a bad stain on your couch.

3. Optional: Check the Manufacturer’s Guidelines

The tag on the couch should give you the cleaning advice you need, but if not, you can check online for the manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines. It’s a useful step before attempting to remove any nasty stains on your couch. Skipping this step could potentially invalidate any warranties you have on your couch or sofa, or worse, ruin the overall upholstery.

You can search for your specific sofa couch online to find the manufacturer’s website. If it is a newer couch, there should be specific steps from the manufacturer on how to clean the couch.

Next, we’re going to vacuum the couch to remove all dust and debris.

4. Pre-clean and Vacuum

Pre-cleaning is the most important step in cleaning the couch as it can make or break your couch. This step works particularly well for couches and sofas that can be vacuumed and brushed.

Effectively remove any surface debris on the cushions, as well as all the crevices and down the base. A bristle brush can be used to break up any caked-on dirt or heavy dust and then vacuum away. Any hair and pet fur are best removed by using a lint roller. Make sure you go through the entire surface to ensure you won’t miss any particles.

For a more thorough pre-clean, you can check out the Shark Rocket Ultra-Light Hand Vacuum:

Click here to see it on Amazon.

This ultra-lightweight hand vacuum is a great tool for ridding your sofa couch of dirt and debris at a quarter of the time it takes to do a complete wipe down.

Its TruePet mini motorized brush and 15-foot power cord are just the perfect attachments to aid a swift and efficient cleaning every time. You can save time and energy when you use this hand vacuum for your weekly house cleanups!

Another very powerful vacuum is the Dyson V6 Trigger Pro Handheld Vacuum Cleaner:

Click here to see this Dyson vacuum on Amazon.

This Dyson vacuum is perhaps the best way to clean a couch of its dust and debris. It is lightweight, handheld, and cordless, which makes it a perfect companion for any kind of cleaning duty. 

Its powerful brush bar can swiftly rid your sofa couch of dirt and dander. It can even reach the tightest spots with ease. You will never need another vacuum tool again when you choose Dyson.

5. Steam Clean the Couch

Now that you have vacuumed the couch to get rid of dust, dander, and debris, it’s time to clean the sofa couch. Steam cleaning is perhaps the best way to clean a couch with ease. Depending on the material of the couch, whether it is cloth, microfiber, or leather, you can use a steam cleaner to give it a deep clean and make it look like new.

Use caution with a leather couch because if the heat is too high, you could damage the leather. Also, do not leave the steamer directed at the leather for too long, or it could damage the leather.

Follow the steps below to steam clean your couch:

  1. Read the Instruction Manual – This might sound obvious, but just like you should check the couch cleaning tag, you should also check the steam cleaning manual. There might be product-specific instructions that must be taken into account before you start steam cleaning. Be careful not to overlook any important instructions.
  2. Do a Spot Test – Do not get too excited to steam clean. Make sure that you perform a spot test first to see if the solution you are using is received well by the fabric. Be patient and let it dry to confirm. If it is successful, then steam clean away!
  3. Leave the Sofa Couch to Air Dry – Use a fan and open all windows in the room to promote air circulation. You can also use a dehumidifier to fast track the drying process. 
  4. Keep a Strong Breeze Circulating – It may take hours or even overnight for your couch to completely dry, so make sure enough air is circulating. Good air circulation will help prevent the buildup of moisture, which can potentially destroy your sofa couch for good. 
  5. Vacuum Sweep, Again – It pays to be meticulous when it comes to cleaning. You can do another vacuum sweep once your couch is fully dry to ensure that any dirt that might have been left gets removed.

A great tool to help your steam cleaning journey is the BISSELL SpotClean ProHeat Portable Spot and Stain Carpet Cleaner:

Click here to see this Bissell cleaner on Amazon.

It just might be the cutest yet most powerful portable steam cleaner in the market today!

With its patented Heatwave Technology, getting rid of deep-seated stains on your couch, carpet, and other furniture will be a breeze. Plus, cleanup and storage of the Bissell SpotClean are easy, too!

6. Alternatives to Steam Cleaning the Couch

How to clean a couch without a steam cleaner, you ask? Or what is the best way to clean a sofa couch without a steam cleaner? While a steam cleaner is very effective, there are many ways to clean a sofa couch without one. See the various couch cleaning options below:

Baking Soda

You can try an all-natural way to get rid of nasty odors on your couch. Bad odors on upholstery are caused by food spills, pet dander, and human sweat. Baking soda is a strong odor-removing home remedy, and it would work great for cleaning your couch.

Here are the steps:

  1. Remove surface residue by a quick vacuum sweep using the brush attachment. This way, any dirt buildup can be loosened and safely removed.
  2. Dust a thin layer of baking soda all over the surface of the sofa couch. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can make a 2:1 ratio of baking soda to water. Then apply the baking soda paste to the couch to clean stains and grime.
  3. Use your vacuum to remove any excess baking soda from the couch.

Rubbing Alcohol

Fill a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and prepare a light-colored sponge or cloth. Spritz enough amount onto the stain or watermark and rub cautiously to avoid damaging the fabric. Leave it to air dry completely. Then if you have a microfiber couch, use a nylon bristle brush to fluff up the fabric again.

  • Only use enough rubbing alcohol to saturate the stain or watermark.
  • It is important to use light- or natural-colored cloth or sponge to avoid any color transfers.
  • Applicable to sofa couches labeled “S” in the care instruction tag.

Dishwashing Liquid – Soap Suds Only

Check to see if your couch is water-safe (W). If so, you can clean it using soap suds.

Prepare a large bucket of warm water and squirt a liberal amount of dishwashing liquid to create a lot of soap suds. Use a light-colored sponge to rub the soap suds on the surface of the couch in a circular motion, then blot the suds away with a clean, white cloth.

  • Work in small sections to ensure that the couch does not absorb too much water from the suds.
  • Never dip the sponge into the water. Just use the soaps suds.
  • Pat dry the couch

How to Clean a Cloth Sofa Couch

A cloth or fabric couch is the couch of choice for many households. It is fairly affordable and can still be a classy addition to any room. Maintaining it for years of continuous use is relatively easy, too.

The best time to do a deep clean of your cloth couch or cloth sofa is every six months or so, of course, depending on how messy it gets. A simple vacuum sweep and wipe down can be done weekly or as needed.

The best way to deep clean a cloth couch is by steam cleaning. If you are intimidated by the sheer thought of steam cleaning, do not worry. Steam cleaning can be easy and enjoyable as long as you have the right tools. Follow the steps mentioned earlier to effectively steam clean your cloth couch or cloth sofa.

If you don’t have a steam cleaner, it is perfectly fine to follow the alternative steps outlined earlier. These methods include baking soda, rubbing alcohol, or liquid detergent.

ways to clean a couch

How to Clean a Microfiber Sofa Couch

Microfiber couches look and feel like suede, but they are actually made of nylon and polyester fibers, which can be 100x thinner than a human hair. That said, this kind of fabric is super sensitive to damage, especially to stains and watermarks.

The fibers are tightly knit together to prevent dirt from penetrating beneath. Despite the fibers being close together, it still helps to do a weekly vacuum sweep. Doing so will ensure that no dirt stays too long and gets embedded in the upholstery.

You can use a bristled brush attachment to remove dirt and brush the couch at the same time to keep its soft texture. If you prefer not to vacuum, you can also use a nylon scrub brush to dust of your couch.

Here are a few other considerations when cleaning a microfiber couch:

  • Always check the care instruction tag before cleaning your microfiber couch.
  • Do a patch test first, ideally at the back or a hidden portion of the couch, to check if a cleaning agent does not damage the fabric.
  • Never use acetone, bleach, upholstery cleaner, or carpet cleaner to clean a microfiber type of couch. 

How to Clean a Leather or Suede Sofa Couch

A couch made of suede or any type of leather looks and feels luxurious, which is why it can quickly become the highlight of any living space.

Cleaning and maintaining its beauty can feel like a daunting task at first, especially when the sofa couch itself has a hefty price tag. But the following tips below can help ensure that your suede or leather couch looks and feels new even after years of use:

1. Attend to Wet Stains Right Away 

  • To lessen the chance of the liquid seeping under the fabric.
  • Blot and spot treat a wet stain with a damp cloth.
  • Use a suede or leather-specific product to avoid further damage.

2. Erase Old Stains

  • Buff old stains with a pencil eraser.
  • After erasing the stain, brush the area with a soft brush to remove excess dirt and to return to its original texture.

These tips are just some simple hacks that can help you in cleaning a suede or leather sofa couch. But remember that some stains are best left for the professionals to clean. Here are a few considerations when it comes to this fairly sensitive upholstery:

  • Use soft-bristled brushes to buff the upholstery after cleaning to keep its original texture.
  • Suede and other leathers are water-sensitive, so constant steam cleaning and shampooing can potentially cause severe, irreversible damage.

For a more detailed step-by-step guide for cleaning a leather couch or suede leather couch, see my guide to cleaning a leather couch here: How to Clean a Leather Couch? Complete Guide.

To see other tips for cleaning your couch, see the below video:

Types of Sofa Couch Upholstery

There are five main types of material used in couch upholstery. A basic understanding of each type of couch upholstery will help you when cleaning your couch or will help you choose a new one if desired.

Each type of sofa couch material has its advantages and disadvantages, particularly when it comes to cleaning and maintaining the look of the couch.

1. Natural Fabrics (Cotton, Wool, Linen, Silk, and Rayon)


  • Hypoallergenic
  • Can withstand years of continuous use
  • Free of synthetic chemicals and dyes


  • Delicate fabrics compared to synthetics and leathers
  • Flammable if not pre-treated with flame retardants
  • Prone to wrinkles and stains 

2. Synthetic (Microfiber, Polyester, Acrylic, and Acetate)


  • Resistant to fading and stains
  • Better at resisting pet claws compared to natural fibers


  • Low-quality synthetics can pill with constant abrasion
  • Food particles and lint can embed in the weave

3. Leather (Suede, Cowhide, and Top-grain)


  • Endures 4x longer than other sofa couch upholstery
  • Does not absorb odors such as cigarette smoke


  • Difficult to repair if deeply stained or ripped
  • Upkeep is constant due to the easy transfer of hair and skin oils

4. Faux Leather (Polyurethane and PVC)


  • Budget-friendly upscale look
  • UV/fade-resistant 


  • PVC is harder to clean than other poly-leather variety
  • Surfaces can be easily damaged

5. Unique (Faux Fur, Hemp, and Contoured Carpet)


  • Can be from repurposed materials
  • One of a kind


  • No guarantee on resistance to stains, dirt, and damage
  • The upholstery of a unique material can cost more

Conclusion – How to Clean a Sofa Couch?

So, to revisit our initial question: how to clean a sofa couch? Or, what is the best way to clean a couch? To clean your sofa couch, follow these six steps:

  1. Examine the Couch for Stains
  2. Check the Cleaning Tag
  3. Optional: Check the Manufacturer’s Guidelines
  4. Pre-Clean including Vacuum
  5. Steam Clean (use light heat for a leather or suede couch)
  6. Instead of steam cleaning, or in addition to it, depending on the material of the couch, you can use liquid detergent, baking soda, or rubbing alcohol.

You must always do a pre-clean (brush or vacuum dirt, debris, and pet hair) before starting a thorough clean of your sofa couch, whichever type of upholstery you have.

Read the care instruction tag and/or manufacturer’s manual carefully, and take note of specific cleaning codes, such as:

  • W – Water-based cleaner 
  • S – Solvent-based cleaner
  • WS – Water- or solvent-based cleaners are safe to use
  • X – Brush or vacuum only

Rubbing alcohol, dishwashing liquid soap suds, and some careful brushing are simple ways on how to clean a couch without a steam cleaner.

It is still recommended to do a quick clean of your couch once a week to get rid of dirt and wet stains as soon as possible. It’s the only way to prevent stains from seeping into the fabric. If you have the time or really enjoy cleaning, this might be the only tip you need!

Related reading:

How to Clean a Microfiber Couch, Fabric Couch, or Cloth Couch

How to Clean a Leather Couch? Complete Guide

Is Bonded Leather Real Leather? What is Bonded or Blended Leather?

How to Clean a Stainless Steel Fridge?