Fabric sofas are soft, inviting, and comfortable – perfect for lounging around on for hours on end. It’s not all good news though. The fibres of a fabric sofa are magnets for particles of grime and sweat, and absorb spillages with ease. They can also ensnare larger objects like loose hairs – not ideal if you own a pet that sheds a lot of hair.

To keep your fabric sofa in the best possible condition, you’ll need to clean it regularly - but what’s the best way to clean a fabric sofa, and how often should you do it?


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How Often Should You Clean a Fabric Sofa?

This will depend largely on your lifestyle, and how much wear and tear your sofas are subjected to. Households with children and pets will naturally need to clean more than those that live alone or with a single flatmate.

We’d suggest giving your sofa a quick once over with your vacuum whenever you vacuum the floors. Use the brush attachment and you’ll easily remove all but the most stubborn particles.

In addition, around once a year, you can perform a deeper clean (or bring a professional in to do it for you). If you’re cleaning your sofa cushion covers, you might be able to remove them and wash in the washing machine – but check first whether the material can cope with this!

Upholstery Cleaning Codes

Your sofa will come with a small tag attached, which will provide information on how the sofa should be cleaned. There are a few letters you should pay close attention to:

W signifies that a water-based cleaner should be used.

S stands for solvents.

Sometimes you’ll get sofas that aren’t fussy: these come with ‘S/W’ written on the label.

It’s important that you obey the manufacturer’s recommendation - using solvents on a water-only sofa might permanently damage it, and the reverse is true, too (however harmless water might seem).

Sometimes, you’ll find an X rather than an S or a W. This means ‘vacuum-only’; these sofas are especially sensitive, and shouldn’t be washed at all.

Removing Stains from a Fabric Sofa: Step-by-Step Instructions

The absorbent nature of fabric makes wiping your sofa clean a little more complex. If you’re lucky enough to have a sofa marked ‘S/W’, then you can clean a sofa stain using a range of different cleaning solutions. If you’re unsure what’s safe to use, then it’s usually best to test your homemade fabric sofa cleaner on the back of a cushion, or the back of the sofa itself (if it’s positioned against the wall).

Let’s run through the stain-removal process for an S/W sofa. First, you’ll need the following materials.

  • Some microfiber cloths
  • A vacuum cleaner
  • A bucket
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Washing-up liquid
  1. First, vacuum the affected area. This will help prevent loose bits of grime from getting rubbed into the fabric when cleaning it.
  2. Next, it’s time to mix up a cleaning solution. Use approximately 500ml of water, and a tablespoon each of vinegar and washing-up liquid. Stir everything in until your mixture is even and consistent.
  3. You’re now going to dampen one of your cloths. It’s important that you don’t absorb too much liquid into the cloth, as you don’t want to soak the sofa; you just want it to be wet enough to penetrate the surface.
  4. You can then start working the solution into the sofa. Don’t scrub; wet fibres will be fragile. Use a gentle dabbing technique, instead.
  5. Once you’ve done this, the soap and vinegar should (in theory) break apart the staining substance.
  6. You’ll then need to remove the soap using a rag soaked in water (without any vinegar or washing-up liquid).
  7. When you’re satisfied the area is clean, you can dry it with the third cloth, and then with a hair-dryer. Use the lowest, coldest setting, as you don’t want to damage the fabric.

Note that some liquids, particularly tannin-rich ones like tea and red wine, will leave stains that can’t be easily removed. In this case, prevention is better than cure. Be careful when consuming these sorts of liquids around your fabric sofa (especially light-coloured sofas).

Steam-Cleaning a Fabric Sofa

A steam-cleaner uses moisture to penetrate the surface of the fabric, and deliver the deepest possible clean.

That said, you should only clean sofas marked W and W/S with steam. You should also use the best quality steam-cleaner you can.

Note that some water-safe sofas won’t be able to deal with the heat of a steam cleaner, so consult the manufacturer and do a spot-test before you steam-clean the entire sofa.

We’d suggest vacuuming your sofa methodically before using the steam-cleaner, and making sure to heat and ventilate the room until the sofa is completely dry.

Cleaning a Fabric Sofa: Step-by-Step Instructions

Of course, you don’t always want to wait for a stain to appear before giving your fabric sofa a thorough clean. It should also be an annual ritual. Let’s run through how to clean a fabric sofa at home, step by step.

Again, you’ll need to assemble the following:

  • A vacuum-cleaner
  • A brush (if your vacuum lacks a brush attachment)
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  1. To begin with, run your brush over the sofa to loosen any larger pieces of dirt and grime.
  2. Remove any remaining debris using your vacuum cleaner.
  3. Apply baking soda – simply sprinkle it across and within the cushions and it’ll act as a cleaner.
  4. Let it sit for twenty minutes and you can vacuum it all up.

For a deeper clean, you can mix the baking soda with water – though only do this if your sofa is water-safe. After you’re done, you can wash the sofa cushions, usually by removing the covers and putting them in a washing machine. Alternatively you should be able to take them to your local dry-cleaners.

Shopping for a new sofa? View our full range of luxury fabric sofas here.