Cleaning

Your Couch Is Calling for a Clean (& You Must Go)

Everything you need to know about getting rid of cookie crumbs, wine stains, pet hair—and worse.

November 18, 2020
Photo by Julia Gartland

When it comes to cleaning your house, you’re mostly on the ball. You’re cleaning your sheets weekly, vacuuming your curtains and blinds, and making sure all of your surfaces are sparkling clean.

But what about your couch? You can’t toss the whole thing into the wash and call it a day, unfortunately. Your sofa is likely very large, possibly made of a finicky material (hello, linen), and probably an absolute magnet for pet hair and little colonies of crumbs. But no one likes sitting on a musty, stained, smelly couch, so take a deep breath and heed the advice of a few pros we’ve assembled for the job. Meet Angela Bell and Georgia Dixon, the Grove Guides at Grove Collaborative, a natural and sustainable cleaning company, and Bailey Carson, the Head of Cleaning and Home Improvement at Handy.

How to clean a couch: remove pet hair, crumbs, and debris with ease

Before we dive into the deep end of our couch cushions, let’s survey the surface. There might be a few stray pet hairs (or many, no shame) and some crumbs from your afternoon snack breaks. These are no biggies and can be handled in a few ways, depending on how you like to clean, plus each tactic is simple enough that it can be done every few days, as needed.

“Using a vacuum with an upholstery head attachment is a great way to remove food particles so that they don’t smudge any grease or food into the upholstery,” Bell and Dixon say. “A good lint brush can be great for removing pet fur and dander, too, and a dustpan and brush can come in handy for larger debris on sturdier fabric.” We like Grove Co.’s Full Circle Clean Team Dust Pan & Brush with it’s hefty bristles for this exact task.

For a deeper-clean version of this quick fix, do a weekly sweep under each pillow and cushion with your vacuum to make sure you leave no popcorn kernel behind.

1. Take a crash course in manufacturer tag language

Before you try and tackle a stain, it’s important to read and understand those upholstery tags on your furniture (that you definitely didn’t cut off...right?), Carson says. They can be a bit intimidating, but if you somehow didn’t major in manufacturer lingo, fear not, our pro has a cheat sheet.

“W stands for water, and means the furniture can be cleaned with water-based cleaning products. S stands for solvent, and means it should only be cleaned with a water-free product like a dry-cleaning solvent,” she says. “WS or SW means that the product can be cleaned with either water- or solvent-based cleaning products. X generally means that this product is challenging to clean and should be taken to an upholstery-cleaning professional.”

2. Pay close attention to the material you’re working with

Our couches come in many different shapes, sizes, and fabrics, but this doesn’t necessarily mean we need an equal number of cleaning products and techniques.

“Using an enzyme-based stain remover can be great for many materials,” Bell and Dixon advise, “just be sure to use a clean, damp cloth to gently blot or rub the fabric.” This technique might do the trick on its own, but it also doubles as a pre-treatment for set-in stains on removable cushion covers that need to head to the laundry room.

Amazon shoppers in the tens of thousands love this Rocco & Roxie Supply Professional Strength Stain and Odor Eliminator, especially for pet stains. And blotting with OxiClean Laundry Stain Remover Spray as a pre-treat before your covers take a whirl in the wash has also given many of us wonderful results. Both are suitable for common couch materials like cotton, wool, or poly-blends.

It’s no surprise, however, that “materials like leather and suede require more care and specific cleaners,” the duo says. So be sure to look for products that specify these fabrics on their labels, like this cleaner from Leather Honey (which also cleans your leather-passing vinyl and plastic furniture).

3. Do a test-run for any liquid cleaner

Now that we know what we’re working with, we can get at those unsightly marinara stains on your taupe couch that totally kill the vibe of your living room, right? Not so fast.

When attempting to get a stain out of your couch with a liquid cleaner, Carson has one key piece of advice: “Always test cleaning products on an area you can’t see before jumping right to spot-treatment,” she implores. The best place for this can usually be found underneath your couch where the upholstery is pulled tight and stapled to the frame where no one will ever see it.

4. Make your own non-toxic cleaner

If you still aren’t sure which cleaning product is best for a specific stain or material, “mixing one cup warm water with one-quarter cup dishwashing soap is a great, non-toxic upholstery cleaner” for most fabrics, Carson adds. “Skim excess foam off the top, keep the solution away from wood accents, and be careful not to use too much water, as this can cause further staining and fabric shrinkage.” And as always, do a spot test first.

5. Deep clean in your washing machine

After you’ve de-crumbed, spot-treated stains, and vacuumed up every corner of your couch, the last, monthly step is to head to the laundry. If your sofa has removable cushions, which most do, one of the best ways to ensure a fresh smell and feel is to take those off and toss them into the laundry—on the correct settings, of course.

“The best way to wash removable cushion covers is to run them in a separate, delicate cycle, with normal detergent in cold water,” Bell and Dixon tell us. “Using a cold-water cycle will prevent the fabric from shrinking and will avoid setting any stains that you may be trying to remove.”

Be sure that any zippers, buttons, or ties are “securely fastened before beginning the wash cycle so that there are no rips or damages,” Carson adds. “Always air-dry cushions, as a machine dryer tends to damage or shrink cushion cover materials.”

6. Get your hands wet when need-be

If your cushion covers are vintage and delicate or a less sturdy fabric, like linen, utilizing your bathtub is a great alternative to the power of a washing machine. Simply fill the tub with enough cool water to submerge cushion covers and use a delicate detergent, like Tide Free and Gentle or Grove Co. Care & Renew. “Let covers soak in the water and gently move them around to release dirt and odors,” Bell and Dixon say. “After soaking, covers can be rinsed by hand in warm water, squeezed gently, and hung to dry.”

After a few hours’ drying time, your couch will be ready for reassembly and some much deserved lounging time. You’ve earned it!

How do you keep your couch looking so-fresh, so-clean? Tell us in the comments.


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Ariel Scotti

Written by: Ariel Scotti

Writer who’s never met a book, pasta or pup she didn’t love.

1 Comment

abby.fields November 18, 2020
Why do I always forget to clean the couches! Furniture cleaning is so important!