How To Clean Upholstery Yourself (Including Red Wine Stains, Blood Stains, and Grease)

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In most cases, you don’t need to hire a professional to clean couch upholstery. In this article, we’ll walk through how to clean sofa upholstery at home in just a few steps, even if you don’t have a stain-resistant couch. (As a bonus, you’ll also learn how to clean cloth car seats because the methods are the same.)

Table Of Contents

Be Aware Of The Cleaning Code Before You Start

In 1969, furniture manufacturers started adding tags to help you decide the best and safest way to clean your upholstery. Look under the cushions or couch for the tag, and then follow the cleaning instructions. Below are the fabric codes for cleaning.

Code S

How to clean S code upholstery? For cleaning code S fabric, you should only use a dry cleaning or water-free solvent. Ensure you’re in a well-ventilated room and not near an open flame like a fireplace.

Code W

Use water-based cleaning solvents on this fabric.

Code W-S

You can clean W-S upholstery fabrics with water-based or solvent-based cleaning products.

Code X

Only professionals should clean Code X upholstery.

If there aren’t any fabric codes for cleaning on your couch, you’ll need to test the fabric in an inconspicuous place. Never over-saturate fabric because too much water can lead to mold and mildew growth in cushions, which is almost impossible to remove.

How To Clean Furniture Upholstery: What You Need  

  • Dry cleaning solvent  
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Warm water
  • Baking soda
  • Sponge or microfiber cloth  
  • Vacuum
  • Electric mixer or whisk

Vacuum Couch

You can use a handheld vacuum to get rid of things like crumbs, but you’ll need a vacuum with more suction to really get it clean.

how to vacuum a couch

Step 1: Use The Right Couch Vacuum

Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to get as much dust as possible.

Step 2: Vacuum The Sides

Ensure you vacuum every part of your upholstery fabric couch — even parts that don’t get touched often — because dust sticks to everything.

Step 3: Vacuum The Cushions

You can use the vacuum’s crevice tool to reach between the couch’s frame and the cushions, vacuuming the couch and removable cushions.

Step 4: Vacuum Underneath The Sofa

If it’s safe or you have someone helping you, you can take this opportunity to tilt the couch and clean under it.

How To Remove Stains

Before doing an overall upholstery cleaning, spot-clean stains following the steps below:

Step 1: Blot Moisture And Remove Solid Crumbs And Debris

Blot moisture away using paper towels if the stain is liquid or fresh. To lift stubborn stains like mayonnaise, you can use a dull knife edge or credit card to remove as much as possible. Don’t rub the area because that can cause the stain to set deeper into the fabric. To loosen dried solids, you can use a soft-bristled brush.

Step 2: Get The Cleaning Solution Prepared

If your upholstered sofa can be cleaned with a water-based solvent, mix 1 cup of warm water with 1/4 cup of liquid dish soap. Whisk the mixture to make suds. 

Step 3: Blot Stain

Put a sponge into the cleaning solution and then use it to dab at the stain. As the stain lifts onto the sponge, move to clean parts of the sponge.

Step 4: Rinse And Dry

Dip the sponge or microfiber cloth into clear water to remove any remaining cleaner. This is important as any detergent you leave in the couch upholstery could attract more soil. Let the area air dry completely, keeping it away from heat or direct sunlight.

If your upholstered couch needs to be cleaned with dry cleaning solvent, follow the instructions on the solvent product.

How To Remove Different Types Of Stains

If the general method above didn’t work, here are some specific tips on how to remove upholstery stains that are tough to get out:

How To Remove Blood Stains

Here’s how to get blood out of upholstery: apply a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to the stain. The stain should be damp but not saturated with hydrogen peroxide. Rinse with a water-dampened clean cloth. Repeat as needed.

If your upholstery isn’t color-safe with hydrogen peroxide, then you can do the following steps instead:

  • Mix 1 tablespoon of dish soap with 2 cups of cold water.
  • Using a clean white cloth, gently blot the stain with this cleaning solution. Continue to dab the stain with this solution until the stain goes away. 
  • To rinse the spot, use cold water to blot the stain again.
  • Let it air dry.
  • Repeat as needed.

Here’s an even stronger solution for how to clean blood from upholstery: use a carpet cleaner designed to remove pet stains. These products are often made with enzymes that remove blood stains effectively.

The Best Method For Red Wine Stain Removal

Sprinkle with salt, blot with lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide, and then blot with clean water to rinse. Repeat if needed, and then let the spot air dry.

How To Remove Coffee Stains

Here’s how to remove coffee stains from upholstery: dab the stain with a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar, along with a bit of dish detergent. Rinse with clean water and repeat as needed. Let the area air dry.

How To Get Grease Stains Out

Sprinkle with salt, let sit, and then dab with soap and water. Instead of salt, you can also try rubbing alcohol. Using a clean white cloth, rinse with clean water. Repeat if you need to, and then let the spot air dry.

How To Clean Crayon Off Upholstery

Using a clean white cloth, gently work a little non-gel toothpaste into the stain and then rinse with clean water. Repeat as needed, and then air dry.

How To Clean Couch Upholstery: The Final Step

Now that you’ve addressed any stains on your couch, it’s time to clean the entire sofa.

Step 1: Get The Cleaning Solution Ready

Mix 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid per 1 gallon of warm water. You may need more or less depending on the size of your couch, but ensure you keep the ratio the same.

Step 2: Wipe The Upholstery

Dip a clean sponge or microfiber cloth in the cleaning solution and wring it until it’s damp. Then wipe down every surface of the sofa, working in small sections at a time. Try not to get water on metal parts like frame legs because that could cause rust.

Step 3: Rinse

Dip a fresh sponge or cloth in plain water and wipe the fabric with it. Then blot with dry cloths to absorb moisture. You can use a circulating fan to speed up drying, but don’t use direct heat like a hair dryer.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Clean Upholstery

Best Way To Clean Upholstery

The best way to clean upholstery is to treat stains immediately. To remove old stains, however, first vacuum the couch, then spot-clean the stains, and then clean the entire couch.

How To Clean Upholstery Without A Machine

Steam cleaning is an effective way to remove dirt from fabric sofas, but here’s how to clean upholstery yourself if you don’t have a machine: use a vacuum cleaner to remove debris, apply one of the DIY couch cleaning solutions above, blot it onto the upholstery with clean cloths, and rinse.

How To Remove Pet Hair From Couch

how to remove pet hair from couch

Rubber gloves create static that can pull pet fur off upholstery. Wearing a pair of rubber gloves, run them over the couch. You can also use furniture cleaning brushes and hand vacuums for pet hair.

How To Clean Microfiber Couch

Water can damage microfiber upholstery and leave water marks, so use rubbing alcohol instead. Spray rubbing alcohol onto the upholstery and then blot with a clean, dry cloth to lift the stain.

How To Clean Vinyl Upholstery

You can use the method below for vinyl car seats as well as a vinyl couch.

First, vacuum the upholstery to remove dirt and debris. Next, apply your cleaner to the surface. Next, use a towel or soft bristle brush to gently rub the cleaner into the vinyl upholstery. Work in small sections, so your cleaner doesn’t dry out. After cleaning the area, dry it with a clean towel or cloth.

Next, mix one part vinegar and two parts water with two to three tablespoons of Murphy’s Oil Soap. Then, wipe down the upholstery with the solution and rinse clean with a wet towel.

If there are any stains you need to remove, you can make a baking soda paste. Mix three parts baking soda and one part water together. Add five to ten drops of dish soap to make the paste. Use a little paste to cover the stain and gently rub it with a clean cloth. Once the stain is gone, use warm water and a clean towel to wipe off any remaining residue.

How To Clean Upholstery With Baking Soda

Sprinkle baking soda onto the upholstery and let it sit for at least 20 minutes to absorb odors. After 20 minutes, vacuum up the baking soda, and the smell should be gone. Repeat if necessary.

How To Clean White Upholstery

how to clean white upholstery

Here’s how to clean white upholstery: combine 1/2 scoop of OxiClean White Revive with four cups of hot water. Use a soft brush (or a clean toothbrush) to gently brush the cleaning solution onto the upholstery. Ensure you don’t oversaturate the fabric — if you do, use a clean towel to blot up the excess liquid. Once you’re satisfied with the cleanliness of the fabric, use the same method — but with clean water — to rinse the upholstery.

Let the upholstery furniture air dry (in the sun, if possible). Sunlight can help bleach white upholstery.

Repeat as needed.

How To Clean Linen Upholstery

Make a thick paste of white vinegar and baking soda. Then, use a clean, white cloth to blot the paste onto the stain, let it sit for 20 minutes, and use a clean, damp cloth to blot the paste off the fabric.

How Often Should You Clean Your Couch

Treat stains immediately, vacuum your couch monthly, and do a deep cleaning twice a year.

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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.