Knowing how to properly clean upholstery is so useful when you have pets and kids! You can do it with things you probably already have in your home!
I used to own a white couch and even though I hadn’t yet learned how to clean upholstery, I loved it. That thing really did get quite dirty but I was always able to get it clean again, not because I had some top secret cleaning recipe, but because it had removable slip covers! Such a lifesaver! If you love the look of a white sofa, you should know that even when they’re pretty grubby in real life, they still look almost perfect in photos. So they’re blogger-friendly. As long as you do a lot of laundry and rarely let people see it in real life. 🙂
When we finally decided it was time to retire that old IKEA couch, we ended up getting a custom sectional made and we’ve loved that sofa even more than the last one. A good, comfy couch is like a member of the family, isn’t it? Well, we were smart enough to have our sofa made with really dark, durable fabric, but having two kids in the house, and one of them being a younger one, has put our new sofa through the wringer on a regular basis. I think at first glance our couch appears to be mostly clean, most of the time, but if you give it a closer look…. well, it can get pretty bad sometimes.
We had our last sofa for about 10 years and the way things have gone a lot of the time, it seems like we’d be lucky if this one lasts half as long, even though it’s a much higher quality piece. I’ve really had to test my cleaning skills on this one, but I think I’ve come up with the perfect spot-cleaning method to finally be able to keep this sofa in the kind of shape that it deserves to be in. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to test this method to clean upholstery out over….and over….and over again and I think it’s juuuuust right!
How I Clean Upholstery
So here’s what I do!
Start with a dirty couch, or some other couch-like piece of furniture. We get most of our messes from Jack, but these other two contribute quite nicely as well by their constant use of all the furniture:
The first thing you’ll need to do is vacuum. Vacuuming with a good vacuum will make a huge difference and you’ll see the color of your furniture brighten up almost immediately, even if it seems like that one little step couldn’t do much more than remove some surface dirt, dust, and hair. Vacuuming your furniture regularly will also help to keep any debris and dirt from traveling deeper into the cushions, so keep that up on a regular basis! Make sure you vacuum the surfaces of the cushions, as well as under any parts of your furniture that are removable.
Don’t worry, that fur and dust didn’t all come off of my couch! I was doing the floors in the living room and dining room a little bit too just before this. Three pets create a whole lot of fur! But we’ve talked about this before and how I deal with that. 🙂
Next you’re going to make your cleaning solution!
The Cleaning Solution to Clean Upholstery
Combine about 2 cups of warm water along with 3 tablespoons of dish soap and 3 tablespoons of vinegar in a slightly-larger-that-what-seems-necessary bowl.
Next you’re going to whisk with all your might! You can see now why I suggested the bigger bowl. I used a big measuring cup and it was perfect.
Whisk until your little arms can whisk no more… or until you have a good amount of foamy bubbles worked up. This should probably take you about 20 seconds if you’re doing some serious whisking, so don’t get too worried.
Next, scoop out just the bubbles and spread them over the area of your couch that you want to clean. Make sure to just get bubbles and leave the liquid in the bottom of your bowl behind. Spread it evenly over the entire surface of the cushion that you’re working on. Even if you only have one small stain on one cushion, make sure to cover the entire surface of that cushion with bubbles from edge to edge. We’re using just the bubbles here because this helps us get the maximum stain and gunk lifting abilities of the soap and vinegar while controlling the amount of liquid that we’re allowing to get on the cushion.
If you use too much liquid, then you risk creating ugly water spots, which is the same reason why we want to cover the whole cushion evenly with the bubbles. If we can make sure that we aren’t creating any wet spots with visible defined edges and we can keep the amount of liquid down that we’re using in the first place, then we’re going to end up with a very nice, fresh-looking cushion and a waterspot-less end result!
You can gently use a medium to soft bristled brush on any stubborn or crusty stains if you need to.
Removing the Dirt
Once you’ve got your cushion or cushions covered, grab a soft, really absorbent cloth and dampen it very lightly with warm water. Something like a basic white bar cloth or an inexpensive wash cloth works well.
Begin wiping the entire cushion down completely from one side to the other, picking up the dirt out of the cushion and transferring it to the cloth. Just take a look at that cloth when you’re about halfway through the first cushion. You’ll be amazed at how much dirt comes up out of the fabric with just this simple cleaning routine. I like to rinse the cloth out or even just grab a fresh one for each cushion that I do.
When all the cushions are wiped, you’ll want to make sure that the cushions dry as quickly as possible. Again, we’re all about reducing the risk of water spotting here. Even though we used very little liquid, it’s a good idea to bring a fan in and aim it at the area you were just cleaning.
Ha! Who can resist a good fan joke? 🙂
So that’s all there is to knowing how to clean upholstery! I usually do at least a couple of cushions once a week or so because, well, we’re filthy people around here I guess! There always seems to be some little spot or stain that’s bugging me and this method really does pull them right out!
Give it a try if you’ve got some spots on your upholstery that are bugging you too!
How do you keep your couches looking clean? Tell me all your tricks! I have enough stains to test them all! 🙂
More tips and ideas you’ll love!
- The right way to mop your floors
- DIY cleaner for stubborn carpet stains
- The trick to keeping your faucet free from water spots for longer
- 12 hot glue gun hacks for home decor
- The simplest, most straightforward closet organizing ideas that no one’s using
- How to clean your pet beds quickly and naturally
- The Creek Line House homekeeping tips and tricks archives
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.