Living room couches are typically the social epicenter of any home. Whether your couches are holding movie night guests or children cuddled up next to their furry pets, your couch probably gets a lot of use. Despite not wanting to miss out on making any memories, most people still want their couch to look and smell clean and fresh.
When cleaning your sofa cushions, always check the manufacturer’s care instructions. If you have removable, machine-washable couch cushion covers, you can toss them into the washing machine with a mild detergent. If your cushions or covers are not removable or machine-washable, there are other options to suit your washing needs.
Read on for tips and tricks for different washing techniques and some basic steps to follow for a thoroughly cleaned couch, no matter what type of fabric your couch is made of.
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Check the Tags
Couches go through a lot. They get used in areas such as a living room, family room, bedroom, TV room, basement, loft, playroom, office, and so many more. They are used in homes, at commercial offices, in churches and schools; basically, anywhere that there’s a need for a comfortable seat, there are couches.
The general wear and tear factors in a home come from everyday activities that we do on them, such as:
- Eating snacks or meals
- Sipping drinks
- Taking naps or sleeping overnight
- Pillow fighting
- Cuddling pets
- Playing with kids
These activities are some of the staples in a home for daily memory making and recreation, and they also can leave your couch with food stains, drink spills, footprints, pet fur or slobber, and more.
Although you may be tempted to get out your cleaning chemicals and a sturdy scrubbing cloth and go to town sanitizing and scrubbing away all those stains, there is something you should always do before attempting to clean a couch.
Always check the couches’ manufacturing care instructions on the tags. Do this before using any water-based solutions, solvent-based solutions, steam cleaners, vacuums, or anything else. This is important because even though you may think that a bit of water sprayed onto a stain can only improve it, the opposite could be true.
According to Merrymaids.com, some fabrics are not made to be cleaned with water, and using a water-based cleaning solution of any kind can actually leave a stain on your couch immediately that may not be able to be removed.
They even advise double-checking on the tag if the couch can be steam cleaned because, although some fabrics can handle the water, they aren’t made to withstand that kind of heat and it can damage the fabric in other ways.
How to Read Cleaning Labels
When checking your care instructions for your couch cushions and covers, the symbols might look like a different language. You may be confused by the one- or two-letter codes that indicate your fabric’s cleaning instructions.
At Mollymaid, they break down the codes for us:
- W = Can be cleaned with water
- WS = Can be cleaned with water or a solvent-based cleaner. This includes dry cleaning detergent and other mild detergents or a steam cleaning.
- S = Clean with a solvent-based cleaner or dry clean only.
- X = No water or cleaners, vacuum only
These can help determine what products to use to clean your couch. Pay close attention to your care instruction labels so as not to damage your couch in the attempt to clean it. Never go against those instructions, and if you have any concerns or questions about the care of your couch, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturers to gleam clarification.
Always better safe than sorry when you’re dealing with expensive and valuable furniture.
How to Wash Your Cushion Covers in the Washing Machine
Suppose you are lucky enough or have planned ahead when researching and purchasing your couches, and your cushions have removable covers that are also machine-washable. In that case, your cleaning process will be quick and somewhat painless.
Follow these steps from Revolutionfabrics to ensure a thorough and safe machine wash:
- Vacuum all cushions and covers with a brush or upholstery attachment.
- Remove the cushion covers.
- Zip the covers closed to protect the interior fabric and maintain the shape of the cover.
- Put the covers in the washing machine with a dye-free mild detergent.
- Wash on a gentle cycle with cold water to avoid shrinking or fading.
- If possible, air dry until slightly damp or tumble dry on low heat for a short cycle until slightly damp.
- Put the covers back onto the cushions while damp to keep them from shrinking.
- Allow them to dry completely before putting the cushions back on the couch.
If you can follow all of those steps and are allowed by the care instructions on your couch’s tags, then your process should take no longer than a few hours, minus the air-drying, if you so choose to forgo the machine drying.
Most swear by the technique of putting your cushion covers back on the cushions while they are still damp. They say that this prevents them from shrinking too much. Some fabrics will continue to shrink slightly with each wash and may end up too small for the cushions if they aren’t put back on when damp.
When the fabric is damp, it is still flexible enough to stretch onto the cushions and conform to their shape, so this is a step you might not want to skip.
However, if you find that your cushions’ covers have stretched and are loose on your cushions, you might prefer that they dry completely before putting them back on your cushions. They may fit more snugly and appear plusher.
It’s all about your preference.
A Trick to Machine Washing White Covers With Stains
If you have stubborn stains or are working with white fabric, My100yearoldhome shared their secret for immaculate cushion covers in the washer:
- Spray the fabric with a Resolve Spray before machine washing.
- Next, add in some Oxyclean Powder with mild detergent during the washing machine cycle.
- Use an air-drying method rather than the dryer. This helps maintain clean, white couches even with pets and frequent usage.
- They recommend repeating this process every 3-6 months, depending on how much traffic the couch sees.
Can Couch Cushions Be Machine Washed?
Some couch cushions, whether their covers are removable or not, can be tossed in the washing machine. Especially if you have a front or top-loading washing machine without an agitator or your cushions are relatively small.
According to Marthastewart, just like pillows, there are many kinds of couch cushions made of a material that can be machine washed to keep them smelling fresh and rid of any dirt or stains that may have accumulated over the recent past.
If your couch cushions are dirty and can fit into your washing machine, check the manufacturing tags to be sure it will not ruin the material or cause any damage. Then use a mild detergent and cold water.
If your machine has an agitator, which is the spinning mechanism in the center of the washer, you should consider keeping it on a gentle cycle or checking to see if there is a setting that keeps the agitator off.
Some people find that, after they put their couch cushions through a washing cycle in a machine, they come out a little bit deformed or misshapen from the spinning and agitation. This is something to be aware of before taking the risk to put your cushions in the washer.
How to Deep Clean Couch Cushions You Can’t Machine Wash
There are many reasons why your couch cushions or covers might not be machine-washable. Those include factors such as the upholstery fabric type, whether the covers are removable, or even whether the cushions themselves are removable.
If your couch cushions and covers cannot be machine washed, then Mollymaid can break down some great suggestions for how to give your couch cushions a deep cleaning without using a machine.
Test Your Fabric
They recommend always testing your fabric. Before using any cleaning methods or solutions, you can test it out on a small, inconspicuous section of the couch. This will ensure that you don’t completely ruin your couch using a solution that will accidentally stain it or damage the fabric texture.
Not only should you test it out, but you should also allow the test area to dry completely before continuing. Some solutions may look fine while wet but then dry a different color, or leave a stain once air-dried. Double-check by letting the test area dry first before you use it on the rest of your couch.
Vacuum and Brush
Before applying any cleaning solutions, take a vacuum to your couch with an upholstery or brush attachment and vacuum up any dust, crumbs, or dirt that may be present. Pigoli warns that you should never wet a dusty couch. It will only set the dust into the fabric and make it much more difficult to remove later on.
Once it is vacuumed, use a soft fiber brush to thoroughly brush the fabric of the couch. This can also be done with a tool made for collecting pet hairs or fur if that applies to you. Brushing along the fibers or grains, instead of against them, is recommended to keep your couch fabric in good condition.
Double-check that your couch can be cleaned with baking soda. Although it is safe for most couches, it never hurts to be sure.
Once you’re sure it’s safe, sprinkle an even coating of baking soda all over the cushions and let it sit for a minimum of 15-20 minutes. Some people prefer to let it sit even longer, perhaps 30 minutes or so.
The baking soda will absorb any odors or smells, as well as any current spills that may be present. It will leave your couch with a more neutral scent.
Tip: If you want a deeper clean, you can mix the baking soda with a dry cleaning mix.
Once the baking soda has been sitting for long enough, get your upholstery or brush attachment ready again, because you’re vacuuming! Get all of the powder cleaned off of the cushions, making sure to pay attention to the grains of the fabric and to follow them, if applicable to your fabric type.
Next up, you can go in and spot reduce once your couch has been deodorized and made dust and debris-free. You can use a homemade solution for both upholstery and synthetic fabrics.
For upholstery fabrics, use a solution of:
- ¾ cup warm distilled water
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 Tbsp dish soap
For synthetic fabrics, use a solution of:
- 1 cup warm distilled water
- ½ cup white vinegar
- ½ Tbsp dish soap
You can put this solution into a spray bottle and then spray the problem areas and scrub with a clean white cloth. Do this gently, scrubbing until the stain is gone.
You can also put the solution in a small bucket and then simply wet a clean white cloth with the solution and scrub the stains gently until gone.
Once the stain is removed, use another cloth that is dampened with distilled water to blot away the remaining soap. This helps to avoid any kind of residue that might attract dirt or grime after the rest of the solution has dried.
Shampooing Your Couch Cushions
Perhaps you want a deeper clean than the baking soda and stain removal can offer you. Many fabrics allow for shampooing to take place to get your couches smelling and looking fresh and clean.
This can be done using a basic steamer or carpet cleaner. To complete this, you can follow these steps:
- Vacuum your couch with a brush or upholstery attachment to remove any dust or crumbs.
- Fill the machine with as much water as it requires.
- Add in a cleaning solution that is suitable for your fabric type.
- Pull in a single direction with the machine, following the grain of your fabric if applicable.
- Allow cushions to completely dry before sitting on them again.
This can be a fantastic option if your care instructions for your specific couch allow for the water and the heat of the steamer. Make sure that the solution you choose to add in as a cleaning agent is one that is safe or recommended for your fabric type.
Steaming and shampooing are not suitable for all fabrics, especially suede fabrics.
How to Wash Foam Cushions With Removable Covers
It’s no secret that pets and kids are especially hard on couches. Babies are known to spit up, drool, get boogers, and leak out of their diapers. Toddlers are notorious for spilling milk or juice from their sippy cups or having potty training accidents. Like on a couch.
Luckily for most couch owners, many cushions are made of foam. According to Hunker, foam is easily washable!
They have provided some steps you can follow to help you clean those undesirable accidents and soaked-up stains out of your couch cushions. If your cushion covers are removable and your cushions are made of foam, this is for you.
To do this, you need to:
- Remove any couch cushion covers and set them aside to wash separately.
- Fill your bathtub partially with warm water.
- Place one foam cushion at a time into the bathtub.
- Get it completely saturated with water.
- Use a mild detergent, such as dish soap, to cleanse the cushions.
- Scrub and lather, getting it really sudsy.
- Use a spray hose to thoroughly rinse out the foam until all the suds are gone.
- Wring it out completely, until it is just slightly damp.
- Leave it laid out flat in the sun or a warm, dry area until completely dried.
- Replace cushion covers and reassemble them on the couch.
This can get out pet urine stains and more, leaving the cushions smelling fresh and feeling clean as new. The cushions will need to be washed one at a time, so this may be slightly more time consuming, but it is worth it to get rid of unwanted smells and spills.
How to Dry Clean Your Couch At Home
Some couches specify that they are dry clean only. If this is the case for your couch, you might be looking for other options. Maybe you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person and are feeling up to the challenge. Maybe you prefer to be self-sufficient. Maybe you just don’t want to fork over the fee.
Whatever the reason is, if your couch is dry-clean-only and you would prefer not to get them professionally cleaned, you can follow these steps for an at-home dry cleaning.
Hunker recommends that you:
- Remove cushions if possible and sprinkle them with baking soda.
- Allow it to sit for a minimum of 15 minutes.
- Vacuum thoroughly with an upholstery or brush attachment.
- Spray any stains with an upholstery dry cleaning product that doesn’t contain any water.
- Allow it to set for the directed time.
- Use a clean white cloth to wipe it thoroughly.
- Allow it to dry completely.
This will leave your couches smelling fresher and looking cleaner without having to pay for a professional dry-cleaning service.
Do Dry Cleaners Accept Couch Cushions?
There are many reasons why someone wouldn’t want to attempt the dry cleaning process on their own. These include:
- Not wanting to risk any damage
- Not having the time to do it yourself
- Not having the materials needed at home
- Not wanting to put forth the effort to do it yourself
- Not feeling confident you could clean it as thoroughly as you would prefer it to be cleaned
All of these reasons are entirely valid. If you prefer to have it professionally cleaned and your couch needs to be dry cleaned only, then there are options for you.
According to Hangersar, some dry cleaners will accept removable couch cushions to be cleaned at their facility. Especially those cushions that have covers that cannot be removed or machine washed.
There are even some dry cleaners who will accept a whole couch at their facility in order to get not only the removable cushions cleaned, but also the pads and cushions that are not removable, cleaned.
Call your local dry cleaning facility to check on their policy for accepting couches or couch cushions for professional cleaning.
How Much Does it Cost to Send your Couch to the Dry Cleaners?
Sometimes it’s just easier and more convenient to get your couch professionally cleaned. Whether it’s just your love seat cushions that need to be cleaned or your entire large living room sectional, the prices vary.
Prices for dry cleaning a couch can vary based on a few different factors, including:
- The size of your couch
- The material of your couch
- Your dry cleaners’ rates
- Transportation for the couch
If you are going to need your large couch transported from your home to the dry cleaners, and then a thorough clean of the entire couch and all the cushions, you could be looking at a few hundred dollars.
However, if you just need a few cushions cleaned from your loveseat couch or chair, it can be as little as $30-$50, according to Askinglot.com. You will need to check with your local dry cleaners to see what their rates are or if they will accept a full couch versus a few removable cushions.
How to Maintain Your Couches Between Washes
Although an occasional wash of your couch cushions is probably necessary, there are a few things you can do between these time-consuming and dreaded sessions of deep cleaning your couch to keep your couches looking and feeling cleaner.
Whether you have pets, kids, or just like to have popcorn with your nightly TV show, crumbs and dust are just a part of a couch’s life. They are virtually unavoidable. Even for those people who spend their days kicking people out of the formal living room and fluffing the pillows before each visitor to keep it all looking pristine.
Dust and debris still manage to make their way onto every couch. If left to sink in, it will become a part of the fabric and be much more difficult, if even impossible, to remove later on.
Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum
The trick is to keep it dusted and de-crumbed regularly. This is an easy, quick task that only requires, you guessed it, a vacuum. Get your upholstery or brush attachment ready in an easy-to-reach place, because you’re going to be using it a lot.
Brush It Out
A soft fiber brush can also do a lot of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to maintaining your couch. Brush the couch regularly before or after vacuuming to keep the fabric feeling soft and looking in excellent condition.
If your couch has a fabric with grains going in a particular direction, be sure to keep your brushing with the grain lines so as not to cause any damage or additional wear.
Brushing your couch can remove pilling, dirt, crumbs, hair, pet fur or hair, and a plethora of other things. Not to mention making it look smooth and new again.
Flip Them Or Switch Them
Another option for keeping your couch in good condition between deep cleanings is to flip your cushions. You can simply turn them over, if the fabric design allows it, to get equal wear on both sides.
This can prevent imprints or wearing down from happening on one or more specific and noticeable areas on the couch. You can also switch your couch cushions around, if they are all made to be the same size to avoid one cushion becoming significantly more worn down than others.
Beat It Out
If you find yourself needing to refresh your cushions and the sun is shining on your patio, you can also take the cushions out there, one by one, and give them a decent beating. This can rid them of some dust and crumbs.
If they are in the sun for more than a few minutes, you can also get the disinfecting properties of those beautiful UV rays shining down on them.
No matter how you get your couches clean, there’s no better feeling than sinking into a freshly cleaned couch. It smells great, feels good, and looks fantastic. It can amp up your living room’s enticement factor a lot and make your space inviting, calming, and clean. It’s worth it to keep your couch looking fresh with some weekly maintenance, and don’t forget to put your feet up afterward and enjoy the fruit of your labors. You’ve earned it!