What Is the Best Way to Clean Fabric and Leather Couches?

Couches are a great versatile seating option in any living room for family time, movie nights, or relaxing after a long day at work. A survey shows that as of 2023, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home, so it’s not shocking to learn that as much as 45% of American teleworkers use their couch as a makeshift workstation.

Because of this heavy use, living room sofas can collect dirt from food crumbs, oil from your hands and feet, accidental drink spillages, or other stains. Regularly cleaning your sofa can maintain your couch’s condition and avoid dirt buildup. Although cleaning a couch might seem as straightforward as wiping dirt off a table, it isn’t.

These furniture pieces are often made of different upholstery materials, such as fabric or leather, making cleaning them tricky. If you want to find the best cleaning methods and products to clean your fabric and leather couches successfully, you’re in the right place. This article describes the factors you should consider when choosing cleaning products. It provides a step-by-step guide on cleaning your couch and washing off difficult-to-remove stains effectively without damaging them.

7 Steps to Clean and Preserve Fabric or Leather Couches

Although a vacuum cleaner regularly works well in removing surface dirt, occasional deep cleaning is necessary to remove stains, surface marks, or lingering scents. Below are seven cleaning steps you can follow to clean your fabric or leather furniture on your own:

1. Look For an Upholstery Cleaning Code Label

Manufacturers often attach a fabric care label with cleaning instructions for guidance on what cleaning products to use on certain fabrics or upholstery. W on the label indicates that you should only use water-based cleaners. S or P suggests using solvent-based cleaners. You may also find SW or X on the tag label. SW means that you can use either water or solvent-based cleaners. X indicates that you shouldn’t use water or solvent-based cleaners. Instead, consider a professional cleaning service.

2. Vacuum The Sofa

Before deep cleaning, vacuum the sofa to remove surface dirt, dust, or pet hair. Begin by removing any seat covers, throw pillows, and blankets to make the process easier. Connect the brush attachment to the vacuum to slightly agitate any stuck-on dirt. Remove or detach the couch cushions to access the undersides and sofa frames for hidden dirt or loose change. You can also use a crevice vacuum attachment to access spaces tight spaces.

3. Prepare Your Cleaning Solution

Although you can get wet wipes or leather cleaners commercially, you can also DIY a cleaning solution using baking soda and vinegar from your kitchen cabinet. Mix white vinegar with warm water in equal parts, two tablespoons of baking soda or cornstarch, and one tablespoon of mild dish soap to the solution. The vinegar in your cleaning solutions removes any odors from the couch, and once it dries, the vinegar smell resolves.

If removing deep stains such as ink and grease stains, you can prepare a rubbing alcohol cleaning solution. Mix half a cup of rubbing alcohol with half a cup of white vinegar and about a cup of water and shake well.

4. Wipe Down The Couch

Wet a clean, soft cloth in your soapy cleaning solution and wring it to remove most of the water, leaving it damp. Soaking the sofa with a wet cloth leaves water marks that may ruin the sofa, so a wrung-out cloth is important. Start by spot-testing your solution on a hidden area, such as under the cushion. Using a circular motion, lightly wipe down the couch from top to bottom with the damp cloth. Repeat this process until the couch gets clean.

5. Focus on Stains

Another option for tough stains that remain after wiping down the sofa is rubbing alcohol or baking soda solutions. Remember to perform a spot test on a small area that’s not often seen to ensure the rubbing alcohol solution doesn’t damage the material. Dab your rubbing alcohol onto the stain or spray using a spray bottle and let it rest for about two minutes. You can modify the solution’s concentration by using less water to remove tough stains or more water to dilute it if the upholstery material is sensitive.

For grease stains, grime, or other dark stains, prepare a baking soda paste using half a cup of baking soda and add tablespoons of water gradually as you mix to form a spreadable paste. Apply your paste on the stained area and let rest for about two minutes. Use a microfiber cloth to scrub the stain in a circular motion until it’s all off. You can wipe off the rubbing alcohol or baking soda paste using the instructions in step four above.

6. Apply Leather Conditioner

Review the manufacturer’s guide to identify a leather conditioner that matches the type of leather on your couch or sofa. The leather conditioner prevents your couch from cracking and keeps it moisturized and smelling fresh. Thoroughly dry the clean leather surface with a dry cloth before applying the conditioner. Apply your conditioner onto a clean cloth and spread it over your leather furniture.

7. Air-dry The Furniture

Once you’ve completed the above steps, let the couch air dry. Direct sunlight can cause material discoloration or destroy the leather or fabric, so avoid leaving the sofa to air-dry in direct sunlight. The above seven steps can guide you in successfully cleaning your furniture for a clean and cozy living room feel.

How often you clean your leather or fabric couch depends on its color, the specific material or fabric, usage frequency, and who uses it. White and cream-colored sofas tend to get dirty faster and need more cleaning than dark-colored sofas. Vacuuming your couch at least once a week or more if you have young children and pets can help you maintain its appearance.