Your Guide on How to Clean a Couch

Sofa and upholstery cleaning can be a challenge. Unless you cover your couch in plastic or other covers, there’s no full-proof way to avoid spills and messes on your furniture. It’s best to be prepared and know how to clean your couch at a moment’s notice.
Woman with rubber gloves and apron on spot cleaning a couch

Before you start to clean your couch make sure you check the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions, which can usually be found on the tag. Your couch’s tag can answer a lot of questions for you. Typically, the tag will have one of four different letters on it.  

  • W — Code W means you can clean this material using water. To err on the side of safety, you should still use as minimal water as possible and never overwet your upholstery. 
  • S — Code S means you’ll need to purchase a special solvent-based cleaner. No water can be used on furniture with this label. Solvents are waterless cleaning agents that will not cause damage, unlike water. Using water for this code can lead to fabric shrinking, water ring stains, and ruin fabric dyes.
  • WS — Code WS means you can use water or a solvent-based cleaner on this sofa. Although it seems like this upholstery is the easiest to clean, this label can actually make it trickier. It’s important to note that you should still test a small area on the upholstery before using one method over the other. Most recommend calling a professional upholstery cleaner to ensure a trusted clean for your investment. 
  • X — refers to furniture that cannot be cleaned by water, solvent-based or foam cleaning agents. This type of upholstery is extremely delicate and cleaning can damage cushions, cause shrinking, ruin fabric dyes, or destroy the backing. For this upholstery, vacuum only.

If you can’t locate a tag or are unsure of which code your upholstery has, contact the manufacturer who can identify the proper cleaning agents to apply. Otherwise, test a small, unseen spot on the fabric before applying all over. 

Overall, couch cleaning can vary greatly based on the material of your couch. Here are our expert tips to help you clean the three most popular couch fabrics.



Cleaning a couch can vary greatly based on the fabric of your couch. Here are tips to help you clean the three most popular couch fabrics.

Most fabric couches are Code X which means you have to be extra careful with how you maintain and clean it. Check out these trusted instructions on how to clean fabric couches:

  1. Gently Brush - Using a gentle brush, lightly brush off dust and dander from the couch. This also helps loosen up any hair or debris for easier vacuuming.
  2. Vacuum Up - Vacuum all of the excess and leftover debris from the upholstery!
  3. Be Cautious of Baking Soda - A lot of DIY blogs recommend using baking soda on upholstery as a deodorizer. However, it’s important to note that different fabrics react differently to moisture and various levels of pH -- acids or alkaline. The biggest concern with baking soda is that it has a pH of around 9 which could lead to cellulosic browning on natural fiber fabrics such as cotton, linen, rayon, and more. If you still plan to use it on your upholstery, be cautious and always pretest on an inconspicuous part of your couch. Quickly dry the area with a hairdryer to determine the results. 
  4. Call the Experts - As you can tell, cleaning upholstery is not as black and white as it may seem. On trickier fabrics, call on our professional upholstery technicians who have the knowledge and expertise to analyze the proper cleaning method -- even for code X. We always spot test fabric to ensure a cleaning method is safe and will not cause damage.



Before you clean your leather couch, be sure to read the label and see if you can clean with water or solvent (WS). Also, double-check that your couch is real leather and not faux leather or imitation leather before following this guide. If both of these are the case for your leather couch, here’s how to clean it:

  1. Vacuum Up - Vacuum your couch using a soft brush attachment. Make sure you get into the crevices and corners.
  2. Create a Cleaning Solution - Mix a solution of equal parts water and vinegar into a clear spray bottle or bowl.
  3. Wipe Down - Apply the solution to a white, microfiber cloth and wipe down the entire couch. Using a white towel ensures that no color or dyes will transfer to the couch.
  4. Blot Dry - Dry the couch using another clean towel.
  5. Create Another Cleaning Solution - To condition your leather couch, mix one part vinegar with two parts flaxseed oil. Using a soft cloth, apply this mixture in circular motions and leave overnight.
  6. Buff Couch - In the morning, buff your couch with a clean rag to restore shine.


Being a natural material, leather is durable and long-lasting. To preserve the quality and condition of your leather sofa, try using these leather couch care tips:

  1. Dust & Vacuum Regularly - Keep your leather sofa well-maintained by vacuuming and dusting around once a week. This makes it more manageable to clean since you’re not letting dust and dander build up.
  2. Avoid Sunlight if Possible - Having your leather couch sit in direct sunlight can cause fading. Avoid placing your couch in direct sunlight, if possible because of fading. You can also use window blinds or curtains to block out the sun or rotate your couch regularly to even out the effects of fading.
  3. Clean Spills ASAP - Similar to your other upholstery and furniture, it’s important to clean up spills and messes as quickly as you can. This will be your best method of preventing stains from setting into the leather.
  4. Stay Away from Heat - Place any leather furniture at least a foot away from any heat sources like radiators. This will help prevent any drying or cracking that could occur when leather is exposed to heat. 
  5. Condition Your Leather - Even without heat sources, leather is known to dry out and naturally crack. Every six months, condition your leather as we noted above! Stanley Steemer actually applies heat during our conditioning process to make the material more porous and absorb more of the conditioner within it.



Sofas can be a nightmare to clean. Here's some DIY tips for the three most common types of couches.

Microfiber couches are very popular for their affordability. Depending on your specific microfiber couch, you may have a W or S code. Remember to check the tag so you don’t clean your upholstery with the wrong solution. Here’s a step-by-step on how to clean a microfiber couch:

  1. Create A Cleaning Solution - If you have a (W) microfiber couch, mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water into a clear spray bottle. If you have an (S) microfiber couch, simply fill your clear spray bottle with rubbing alcohol. Spray bottles help to not oversaturate your upholstery in the cleaning process.
  2. Spray & Blot - Lightly spray the spot you’re hoping to remove and using a clean, white towel, blot the spot in a circular motion. 
  3. Gently Brush - Once the fabric is dry, use a soft scrub brush to gently rub it. This will help fluff the fibers making it look new again.

Thinking of getting your couch professionally cleaned? Cleaning fabric, leather, microfiber, and suede couches are no challenge for a Stanley Steemer upholstery cleaner. Call 1-800-STEEMER or schedule online for furniture and upholstery cleaning near you.