How to Clean Every Type of Couch

Learning how to clean a couch is easier than you might think—as long as you follow these expert-approved instructions

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Out of all the furniture in our homes, couches experience the most wear and tear. We use them every day to relax, take a nap, cuddle or watch Netflix with a snack and drink in hand. We might even use them as a makeshift bed for guests. But all that activity can turn your favorite gathering spot into a hot spot for dirt, germs, allergens and more. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to clean a couch (and to clean it regularly).

How you clean a couch depends entirely on its material. Keep in mind that if you use the wrong solution or process, you could ruin the fabric. We have the simple step-by-step instructions, the best cleaning solutions and pet hair removers, and the expert tips you’ll need to clean every type of couch (microfiber, wool, leather, suede and more). And remember: If you’re only cleaning your couch when you need to remove a stain, you’re making a common cleaning mistake. Incorporate this task into your weekly cleaning schedule (once you learn how to clean your kitchen and how to clean your bathroom) to improve the look of your couch and make it last longer.

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How often should you wash your couch?

Couch-cleaning frequency is almost as important as how to clean a couch. To keep yours in tip-top shape, deep-clean it every three to six months, says Alicia Sokolowski, president and co-CEO of Aspen Clean. However, she adds, “I would recommend vacuuming your sofa at least once a week—more if you have pets—and spot-cleaning as required.”

Generally speaking, cleaning frequency should depend on how much you use your couch and who uses it. In addition to pets, young children tend to get things messier faster (as parents know all too well). The color of your sofa is also a factor. White or cream sofas, of course, tend to need more maintenance than darker colors. And if you do have pets, you’ll want to check out how to get rid of that dog smell on your couch.

Why is it important to clean couches?

According to Sokolowski, there are three main reasons couch cleaning is a must. The first, of course, is about protecting your expensive purchase. “Furniture is an investment, and therefore, it is important to maintain its appearance,” she says. “Regularly cleaning your sofa will keep it in good condition and [help it] last for years.”

But the other two reasons have to do with your well-being. “Allergens, such as fleas, mold, dust mites and bacteria can live in the fibers of your sofa, and if left for long periods of time, they can have a negative effect on your health,” Sokolowski says. Additionally, your sofa can hold enormous amounts of dust, and when you sit on the cushions, this dust is released into the air. Translation: If you don’t vacuum your couch regularly, you’re probably breathing in a lot of dust. A vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filter is one of the cleaning products professionals buy, because it also removes 99% of bacteria.

How to clean a couch

No matter what type of couch you have, start by reading the fabric care labels to see if the cushion covers are machine washable. Look for W, S, WS, X or D on a tag or label attached to the furniture. “This can be found underneath the frame of your couch or hidden under the couch seat cushions,” Sokolowski explains. Here’s how to decipher the codes.

W (wet): This stands for water-based cleaning. “When removing stains or dirt, use water only,” Sokolowski says. “For spot-cleaning, dampen a microfiber cloth and gently wipe away the dirt.” A couch with this cleaning symbol might be suitable for steam cleaning as well, but consult with a trustworthy cleaning service first.

S (solvent): “For this type of fabric, water should be avoided at all costs—unless you like your couch watermarked,” Sokolowski says. Instead, use solvent-based cleaning products. “Always make sure the product is suitable for your type of fabric, and make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation.”

WS (wet and solvent): This type of fabric might be suitable for wet as well as solvent cleaning, depending on the type of stain (water or oil-based). “With this type of fabric we would recommend consulting with a professional should you not be sure where the stains are coming from,” Sokolowski says.

X (do not clean): If you find an X on your couch label, this type of upholstery should not be cleaned with water or products and should only be vacuumed.

D (dry clean only): Do not clean this fabric in any other way but dry cleaning.

Step 1: Remove cushions and vacuum

No matter what type of couch you have, the first step is to remove the cushions and get rid of anything that might be lingering between or underneath them, including crumbs, dog hair and dust. “I would then use a vacuum to clean under and around the cushions,” Sokolowski says. “You can also use a dry natural-bristle brush to gently loosen dirt and dust.”

This is a good opportunity to use any vacuum accessory attachments made for couch cleaning, especially any natural-bristle brushes, which will loosen sediment and vacuum it up simultaneously.

Step 2: Clean the metal and wood details on a couch

After you are done vacuuming the couch, move on to metal or wood details. Follow these steps for easy cleaning.

  1. Create a warm-water solution with natural soap or dishwashing soap. While this works on both wood and metal, you can also use a glass cleaner on metal fixtures. (If your wooden furniture needs a little more TLC, here’s how to clean wood furniture to restore its luster.)
  2. Dip a microfiber cloth into the solution (or spray the glass cleaner on the cloth), and gently scrub at the dirt on the couch’s fixtures. Be careful not to get any solution on the cushions or fabric.
  3. Dry completely.

Step 3: Clean couch and cushions

Now it’s time to clean your couch and treat stains. While it might be tempting to grab a bottle of upholstery cleaner and get to work, remember that the type of cleaning your couch requires depends on the material and the symbol found on the fabric care label. Here are general cleaning instructions based on material.

Leather couch

pillow on leather sofaben-bryant/Getty Images

“This is perhaps the easiest couch to clean,” says Sokolowski. “It simply needs to be wiped down after each use or when there is a stain present.”



  1. Vacuum your sofa to remove all dirt and dust.
  2. Mix a solution of equal parts water to white vinegar in a spray bottle. Alternatively, you can use mild soapy water, made with natural liquid dish soap. “Patch-test your sofa first if you are unsure,” Sokolowski says.
  3. Lightly spray the solution all over the couch.
  4. Use a microfiber cloth to lightly rub the solution onto the couch in circular motions.
  5. Use a clean towel to dry it.

Pro tip: While you should never use harsh cleaners like Windex on leather, you can try using Leather Honey, a nontoxic leather cleaner and conditioner that has more than 30,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. Place a quarter-size drop of this fan-favorite leather cleaner on a lint-free cloth, spot-test it in a discreet area and allow your test area to dry. As long as everything’s fine, coat your leather in a thin, even layer of the conditioner.

Suede couch

A close-up of a fragment of an expensive beige textile sofa in the roomyanik88/Getty Images

Cleaning a suede couch is a little trickier, as suede can easily stain. “When cleaning or spot-cleaning your couch, make sure you have a clean microfiber cloth ready,” says Sokolowski. Also, avoid using bright-colored materials for cleaning, as the color of your cloth may bleed onto the surface of the couch.



  1. Vacuum your sofa to remove all dirt and dust.
  2. Read the care label of your suede couch to determine what solution you can (and cannot) use.
  3. Type of suede fabric permitting, dampen your clean microfiber cloth in water.
  4. Rub and wipe the stain on your couch.
  5. Let it air dry.
  6. For stubborn stains, you can prepare a cleaning solution of water and diluted white vinegar or use a product recommended by the manufacturer. In some cases, the surface might require you to softly brush off the residue after the cleaning. Make sure you’re using a soft fabric brush.

Pro tip: “Whichever product you decide to use on your suede couch, whether it is special cleaner or diluted white vinegar, always try the product first on a small hidden area,” says Sokolowski. “After application, wait about 15 minutes. If there’s no damage to upholstery, it’s probably safe to use on the rest of your couch.” She also suggests regular maintenance. “Don’t wait until professional cleaning is required. Take care of your suede couch regularly and keep it in good condition by frequently vacuuming and spot-cleaning with a damp microfiber cloth as soon as you notice the stain.”

Microfiber couch

A grey microfiber sofaPuripatch Lokakalin/Getty Images



  1. Vacuum your sofa to remove all dirt and dust.
  2. Read the care label of your microfiber couch to determine what solution you can (and cannot) use.
  3. Vacuum or brush your sofa to remove all dirt and dust.
  4. Depending on your couch’s care label, Sokolowski suggests using a natural cleaner, which you can make at home using 1 Tbsp. natural liquid dish soap and 2 cups of warm water in a spray bottle. Lightly spray the solution on stained areas, and then gently blot them with a dry cloth.
  5. If your microfiber couch feels stiff after cleaning, gently soften it by using a soft, natural-bristle brush to fluff the fibers.

Pro tip: Rubbing alcohol is also excellent for microfiber couches because it evaporates quickly and doesn’t leave water stains behind. If you go this route, Sokolowski suggests adding a little rubbing alcohol to your spray bottle, saturating the stain with the solution and then gently rubbing it away.

Fabric couch

modern cushion on grey sofa in living roomben-bryant/Getty Images

This could be any fabric blends, wool or anything marked “W.”



  1. Vacuum your sofa to remove all dirt and dust.
  2. Read the care label of your fabric couch to determine what solution you can (and cannot) use.
  3. Vacuum the sofa to remove all dirt and dust. You can also use a dry natural-bristle brush to loosen dirt and dust.
  4. Dampen a microfiber cloth with warm water. Gently scrub in a circular motion to remove dirt or dust.

Pro tip: Wool couches are generally labeled with a “W,” with the label specifying whether the fabric is a blend or 100% wool. Make sure you’re only cleaning wool couches with water.

Velvet couch

close up of a red velvet couchKypros/Getty Images

Overall, the best way to keep your velvet couch clean is to steam-clean it regularly with the best steam cleaners. “Gently apply your steamer to the sofa, and work your way down,” Sokolowski says. You can use either a clothes steamer or one made for upholstery, like Bissell’s Little Green Machine. To spot-clean, use the tips below.



  1. Mix 1 tsp. natural dish soap with 1 cup of warm water in a bowl. “Make sure you mix it together so there are bubbles,” Sokolowski says.
  2. Dip a microfiber cloth into the solution.
  3. Lightly blot your stain until you have removed most of it.
  4. Allow the cleaned area to dry for at least 30 minutes.

Pro tip: Sokolowski stresses that with velvet furniture, you should always spot-clean immediately after any type of spill. “Do this by placing a microfiber cloth or paper towel on the spill to absorb it. Leave it there until the entire spill has been absorbed.” Always start with a microfiber cloth, especially when dealing with velvet, she adds. Also, velvet material can discolor, so try to dry it out of direct sunlight.

Silk couch

Old vintage silk luxury sofa.Serjio74/Getty Images

When it comes to silk couches, check the care label—and then check it again. “Silk fabric can be a little trickier than other fabrics, as it can get damaged more easily,” says Sokolowski. “Sometimes when silk is wet, the dye can come off, so it is important to check first what solutions you can use.”



  1. Vacuum your sofa to remove all dirt and dust.
  2. Mix 1 Tbsp. mild laundry detergent with 2 cups of cold water in a bowl. Alternatively, you can mix water and vinegar. “I would recommend doing a patch test before using either,” says Sokolowski. “If there aren’t any color transfers, you can continue.”
  3. Dip a soft cloth into your solution, and gently blot at any stains. Avoid dousing the fabric, or you might ruin the sofa or discolor it.
  4. Use a hair dryer to dry the area and prevent any water stains from forming.

Pro tip:

If you are ever unsure about silk fabrics, you should get them professionally cleaned, and if you own other silk items, be sure you know what to do with silk sheets and how to wash silk clothing.

Step 4: Let dry

You know how to clean a couch, but remember that drying is an important part of the process. Sokolowski generally recommends air drying. “A common complaint, even with machine-washable covers, is that they tend to shrink in the dryer and then fit the cushions too tightly,” she say. “Air-drying might be a better option.” However, specific fabrics, such as silk, for example, should be dried with a hair dryer to avoid discoloring.

Best couch-cleaning products

Now that you know how to clean a couch, find out how to clean other tricky areas of your home, including your baseboards, your windows, countertops and more.


  • Alicia Sokolowski, president and co-CEO of Aspen Clean

Leah Groth
Leah Groth covers everything from cleaning hacks and consumer products to travel and pets for Reader’s Digest. When she isn’t working on a piece, you’ll find her chasing after her four children (two humans, a Vizsla and a German Shorthaired Pointer) or working on her 100-plus-year-old home outside Philadelphia.