How to clean a fabric sofa in 6 steps

You gesticulated too wildly. You leant over for a kiss. You were over excited about your bolognaise. Here's how to remove that sofa spillage as passionately as it was created

Sofa Cleaning

It’s happened to all of us: someone’s got overexcited mid-conversation with a plate or glass in their hand, and suddenly that lovely spag bol is splattered all over your furniture. If you’re frantically cleaning a sofa today, take a deep breath: this five-step guide on how to clean a sofa is here to help.

1. Check the fabric type

Before you rush into cleaning a sofa, take a step back and check what type of material you’re dealing with. Some sofas have covers you can remove and throw in the washing machine. If that’s yours, you’re sorted! Just follow the instructions and voila. Otherwise, there should be a label somewhere on the upholstery that tells you what type of fabric it’s covered in. These codes will tell you the best way to clean your sofa:

  • WS – Can be cleaned with a steam cleaner or dry-cleaning detergent
  • S – Can only be cleaned with dry-cleaning detergent
  • W – Can be cleaned with water or steam
  • X – Can be cleaned with a vacuum only; no fluids.

2. Gather your tools

Keeping a sofa cleaning solution in stock can take the sting out of most emergencies. The manufacturer of your couch might recommend a specific brand. Alternatively, you can buy one in most supermarkets and hardware stores, or even make your own using three parts water to one part white vinegar.

Once you’ve found a sofa cleaning solution that’s right for your upholstery, remember to patch-test it on an invisible area before you use it on the whole sofa – accidentally bleaching your furniture is not ideal!

3. Act fast when cleaning a sofa

As much as we love a leisurely cleaning session, now’s not the time to hang around. The vital first step in stopping sofa stains in their tracks is to soak up any liquid straight away. Take a strong and absorbent kitchen towel, such as Plenty, and lay it gently over the stain until any fluid has completely soaked in. There’s no need to dab or rub – in fact, this is more likely to work the stain into the fabric and make sofa cleaning more difficult later.

Cleaning sofa cushions is easiest when the stain is still a little bit wet, but not so wet that it’s likely to spread. Once the mess has been tackled, you’ll need to work quickly.


Plenty Handy Towels are designed for quick access, with single sheets and an easy dispensing pack. Keep them on hand so you can grab a piece and mop up your sofa spillage in record time.

4. Raid your cupboards

If you skipped Step 2, all is not lost. Here are some common types of spills and stains, and how to clean a sofa once they’ve happened, using things you’ll probably find in your kitchen cupboard. Just don’t forget to test whichever cleaning method you go for on a small hidden area before you dive in.

  • Grease – Once you’ve soaked up the excess, cover the area with baking soda and leave it to absorb the grease for an hour or so. After that, vacuum the powder away.
  • Ink – Moisten a piece of kitchen towel with some white spirit and use it to dab the stain until it disappears. Plenty household towels are ideal here, because it will hold together for blotting and even scrubbing.
  • Red wine – As with grease, cover the area with baking soda or cooking salt and leave it to absorb for an hour or so, then vacuum.
  • Tomato – Mix one tablespoon of dishwashing soap into 500 ml of cold water, then use a piece of kitchen paper to sponge it onto the stain.

5. Rinse and dry

You should always follow the instructions on the packaging if you’re using a commercial cleaning solution. However, if you’ve used one of the home remedies in Step 4, you’ll need to blot the area again with a piece of kitchen towel and some water to make sure nothing’s soaking into your upholstery that could potentially fade the fabric.

After cleaning a sofa, it’s best to let it dry thoroughly before you start using it normally again: wet fabric attracts dust and grime, so you could find that the stain gets replaced with an unsightly grey patch.

6. And now…relax!

Sofa stains can be stressful, but they’re easy to get rid of if you act fast. Make sure everyone in the house knows how to tackle the task, and you’ll all be able to put your feet up much sooner.

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