How To Clean Couch Cushions (Removable And Non-Removable)

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A UNICEF study found that there are typically more germs on the family sofa than on a toilet seat, so regular cleaning is important. Keep reading to learn how to clean couch cushions — including machine washing your cushion covers, spot-cleaning, removing urine, eliminating odors, and more.

Table Of Contents

Couch Cleaning Codes

Before you start, check the tag under your couch cushions for your upholstery cleaning code. Here are the most commonly used cleaning codes:

  • S: solvent-based cleaner (dry clean only)
  • W: water-based cleaner only for this fabric
  • W/S: water-based or solvent-based cleaners are both okay
  • X: vacuum or brush clean only; no water- or solvent-based cleaners
couch cleaning code

Before Starting

When cleaning up a spill, get to it as quickly as possible. The faster you start removing the stain, the less you have to work at eliminating it. Don’t scrub the stain, though, because that could set the stain, making it harder to remove.

Before you start cleaning your cushions, find out the answers to the following questions by checking the upholstery cleaning code and searching the internet for your manufacturer and cleaning code:

  • Can the covers be removed?
  • Can the covers be washed by hand?
  • Can they be machine-washed, or can they only tolerate spot-cleaning?

To be machine-washable, couch covers must meet two requirements: they must be preshrunk (or they might not fit back onto the cushions), and they have to be colorfast. You can test for colorfastness by using a damp, white cloth to gently rub the cushion fabric on an inconspicuous area. If the fabric’s color comes off onto the white cloth, the fabric isn’t colorfast, and it’s better to have a professional clean it. Remember to zip them shut before cleaning them.

Stuff You Need

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 spray bottle
  • Several clean, dry cloths
  • Mild enzyme detergent, like dishwashing liquid
  • 1 sponge or soft bristle brush
  • 1 pair of rubber gloves

Directions On How To Wash A Couch Cushion

Spot-Clean Non-Removable Sofa Cushions

Step 1: Remove Dust And Hair

Put on the rubber gloves and brush them over the fabric to loosen any human or pet hair — this will make it easier to vacuum.

Step 2: Vacuum Upholstery

Move the upholstery attachment on your vacuum from left to right in short, overlapping strokes. Switch to the crevice nozzle and vacuum under the cushions and between the sofa seams.

Step 3: Treat Stains

Depending on your fabric’s care instructions, you can use water or a solvent-based cleaner. Allow the solution to soak in, and then use a microfiber cloth to blot the stain. Be careful not to scrub the stain because this can cause the stain to get deeper into the fabric.

The type of stain will dictate how many cleanings you need. For example, grease, blood, and ink stains may require more cleaning.

To remove urine stains, you can use an enzyme cleaner. Make sure to test it first on an inconspicuous spot. You can also make a DIY cleaner with 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, and 2 teaspoons of dish soap. Next, dip a clean, white cloth into the cleaning solution and gently blot the spot. Then, use a sponge or a different clean cloth to rinse the area with clean water. Allow the area to air dry.

Step 4: Wash the Fabric

In a bowl or small bucket, combine a teaspoon of dye-free dish soap and warm water. Stir the mixture until it becomes sudsy. Dip an upholstery brush into the suds and then gently brush the brush across the fabric. Use a damp, clean cloth to wipe the fabric. Let the upholstery dry completely before anyone sits on it.

Cleaning Removable Couch Cushions (Washing Couch Cushion Covers In Washing Machine)

Step 1: Verify You Can Machine-Wash The Cushion Cover

If you know the cushion cover is machine-washable and has a “W” label (meaning it takes water-based cleaner), you can remove it and machine-wash it.

Step 2: Treat Stains

Remove the covers and then spot-treat them with a stain remover. Use a microfiber cloth to blot up as much liquid as you can. To avoid setting the stain, don’t press too hard or scrub. 

Step 3: Machine-Wash The Covers

Close the zippers on your cushion covers so they don’t get tangled in the washing machine, and then wash them in a cold-water, delicate cycle with one cup of vinegar. Next, wash the cover with detergent in another cold-water, delicate cycle. Finally, let the fabric air dry in the shade (direct sunlight can fade the color).

Note: Use a dye-free detergent even if your fabric is colorfast. This will ensure that the dye in colored detergents doesn’t transfer to your fabric couch covers.

More Tips For How To Clean Couch Cushions

If a stain is especially tough, dab it with club soda. Some people find that the carbonation helps lift stains. Another thing you can dry is patting and mopping up spills with baby wipes.

How Do You Clean Foam Cushions?

To wash foam sofa cushions, follow the steps below:

  1. If the cushions have covers, remove them.
  2. Ensure your bathtub is clean and fill it with soap and warm water.
  3. Submerge the cushions and work the soapy water into them.
  4. Empty the bathtub and refill it with clean water. Squeeze the cushions to rinse them. Repeat this process until the bathtub water stays clear.
  5. Once done, wrap the cushions in clean, dry towels and squeeze to wring out the water.
  6. Wrap the cushions in clean towels to dry. If possible, put them in the sun to air dry.

How To Dry A Couch Cushion?

Don’t put the covers in the dryer because this will probably shrink them. Instead, hang them indoors or on a line (as long as they’re not in direct sunlight). Hang the covers close to a fan or blow dryer for speedy drying (low heat only).

It can take some time to dry cushion covers, so you can use that time to clean the rest of your couch or vacuum underneath the sofa.

How To Clean My Couch Cushions If I Can’t Wash Them?

The best way to clean sofa cushions that you can’t wash (for example, if they’re not removable) is to steam-clean or spot-clean them.

How Often To Wash Couch Covers?

Wash your sofa cushion covers once or twice a year.

How To Bleach Covers?

If your slipcover is made of cotton or cotton/polyester, you can wash it with bleach. Here’s how to clean sofa cushions with bleach:

1. Run through a hot-water cycle in your washing machine with 3/4 cup bleach.

2. For dirty slipcovers, first soak them in a solution of 1.4 cup bleach per 1 gallon of water for five minutes. Then drain the solution and machine-wash the covers.

3. Avoid shrinkage by keeping the covers out of your dryer; instead, let them air dry.

4. If you’re washing couch cushion covers made of nylon or rayon, they may be bleach-able, but you should do a bleach test first. To do this, mix two teaspoons of bleach with 1/4 cup water and put a drop of this solution on an inconspicuous part of the covers. Wait a minute, blot dry, and then see if there’s any color change. If there’s no color change, bleaching the entire cover should be fine.

How To Get Pee Smell Out Of Couch Cushions?

dog on couch

New Urine Stain

Here’s how to clean dog pee out of couch cushions (or kid pee!). This method works best for upholstery marked with a “W,” like cotton, polyester, and linen. Don’t do this on suede because it’s sensitive to water. Here are the steps to eliminate urine smell:

  1. Soak up as much urine as possible with paper towels. 
  2. To make a cleaning solution, combine 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of dish soap, and 1 tablespoon of vinegar.
  3. Spot-check this cleaner on a small part of the cover, ensuring the fabric doesn’t discolor or fade.
  4. Dip a clean, white microfiber cloth into the cleaning solution, and then dab it gently onto the urine-soiled area. Repeat this process a few times.
  5. Use a clean, damp cloth to rinse away the cleaning solution.
  6. Use a dry towel to dry the area as best as possible. Let the couch air dry completely before letting anyone sit on it.

Old Urine Stain

For “W” upholstery, take the following steps:

  1. Mix 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide, a few squirts of dish soap, and 3 tablespoons of baking soda in a spray bottle. Shake until the baking soda is dissolved.
  2. Spot-test the spray in a small area. If the fabric isn’t discolored after a minute, proceed.
  3. Spray the urine-stained area and let it sit for at least an hour.
  4. If the stain is still there, spray and let sit for an hour again. If the stain is gone, blot the area with a clean, damp cloth. Make sure all the cleaning solution is gone.

Cat Pee

For cat urine, you’ll need a special enzymatic cleaner. Make sure to get one compatible with the cleaning code for your type of upholstery, spot-test on an inconspicuous part of the cushion cover, and then follow the instructions that come with the enzymatic cleaner.

cat on couch

Stubborn Smells

If you’ve gotten the urine stain out, but it still smells, follow these steps:

  1. Sprinkle baking soda generously on the cover. Allow it to sit for several hours. (If it’s a leather cover, put a towel over the cover and then sprinkle the baking soda onto the towel.)
  2. Vacuum up the baking soda.    
  3. Repeat as needed until the pee smell is gone. 

Can You Dry Clean Couch Cushions And Covers?

You can’t dry-clean couch cushions, but if the covers are removable, you can take them to the dry cleaners.

Can You Power Wash Couch Cushions?

No, because power-washing upholstery can rip apart the seams and destroy the fabric.

How To Clean Microfiber Couch Covers?

  1. Vacuum the covers.
  2. Pre-treat stains.
  3. Machine-wash the covers in warm water and mild detergent (no bleach or fabric softener).
  4. Let the covers air dry (don’t machine-dry).

How To Disinfect A Couch Cushion?

To sanitize couch cushions, follow the same steps for disinfecting a couch.

Photo of author


Lucy Henderson is a Seattle-based home décor expert and creator of Palladio Interiors. She loves writing about design trends, home-interior inspiration, and home-decorating tips. She's a fan of coziness and simplicity.