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How To Clean Your Fabric Sofa

In Features, Spaces, Stories by Nicole Fuge

By Mama Disrupt® and Gumtree

Need to learn how to clean your fabric sofa because your kids have trashed it? And it’s covered in baby spew, food crumbs and dog hair? Don’t stress girlfriend. It’s easy to spruce up a sofa and remove minor marks – giving a pre-loved or unwanted item a new lease on life.

Not only will knowing how to clean your fabric sofa save you money (which is ideal if you’re on a budget), it’s an environmentally responsible alternative to sending a great couch to landfill. Win, win!

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What you’ll need to clean a fabric couch

Whether you want to know how to clean your fabric sofa so it’s ready to sell, or freshen up a pre-loved sofa you just bought on Gumtree, start by checking the instructions on the manufacturer’s tag. 

Just like clothing, most fabric couches come with a care label. To find it, you might need to take one of the cushion covers off and turn it inside out. It’s important to do this before you begin, because the materials you’ll need for cleaning a sofa will vary depending on whether the fabric is natural or synthetic. 

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Here’s how to interpret fabric care information:
  • W – When you see ‘W’ on the tag, it means the fabric can be cleaned with water.  
  • S – The ‘S’ stands for ‘solvents’, which means you’ll need to buy a solvent-based cleaner, or get the upholstery dry cleaned.
  • S/W – This means the fabric can be safely cleaned both with solvents and water. 
  • X – The ‘X’ symbol means the fabric can only be vacuumed. 

Once you’ve checked the tag, it’s time to put together your cleaning kit. Some handy items to have on hand include:

  • A vacuum cleaner – Ideally one with an upholstery attachment.
  • Bicarb soda – This is useful for deodorising couches and removing light stains.
  • Microfiber cloths – Your cleaning cloths should be robust and free from dyes that could stain your couch.
  • A plastic bucket – If you need to use water or a cleaning solution, a good quality bucket is essential.
  • Distilled water – Sometimes the minerals in tap water can leave a residue behind. To be safe, it’s best to use distilled water only.
  • White vinegar – Distilled white vinegar is a great household cleaning substance, excellent for removing stains and odours.
  • Liquid dish soap – It’s possible to mix dish soap together with water and vinegar to create a homemade cleaning solution. 

If the fabric tag says ‘W’ or ‘S/W’ you might be able to use a steam cleaner for a couch. Note: velvet couches are not suitable for steam cleaning, because excessive dampness can damage the fabric. You will also need to be mindful that some fabrics – wool, in particular – do not react well to heat. With fabrics such as silk, make sure to use a fabric guard when steam cleaning, to reduce heat exposure and possible damage. 

To operate a steam cleaner for a couch, you should always refer directly to the manufacturer’s instructions. We also strongly recommend doing a spot test on a non-prominent part of the couch, to see how the fabric responds before you do the whole thing. 

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How to clean your fabric sofa naturally

If you don’t want the kids being around harsh cleaning chemicals, you can make your own lounge cleaner at home with natural ingredients. Not only will this save you from buying a commercial fabric sofa cleaner, it also reduces your exposure to harsh chemicals. 

The following is a list of cleaning solutions you can make using household ingredients:

  • Bicarb soda (dry) – Sometimes all it takes is a sprinkle of bicarb to freshen up a sofa. Simply coat the fabric of your couch with a light layer of bicarb and let sit for around 30 minutes. Then all you need to do is vacuum, and your couch will be clean and fresh. 
  • Bicarb soda (paste) – Spot cleaning can be performed on stubborn stains using a paste made from bicarb and water. In a small container, simply add water to bicarb until it reaches a paste-like consistency. Then, dab the mixture onto the stain and leave to dry. Then you can simply vacuum the dry crust away. 
  • Water, vinegar and liquid dish soap – A homemade lounge cleaner can be easily created by mixing one cup of warm water, half a cup of distilled vinegar and one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap in a clean spray bottle. Then, spray a fine mist on your couch and wipe any residue away with a clean microfibre cloth. You can also use this mix as a couch stain remover for spot cleaning. 

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Cleaning your couch: a step-by-step guide

Remember that the method you use to clean your couch will vary depending on the fabric type. Again, if you’re using a steam cleaner for a couch, we recommend sticking to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Here is a general guide for cleaning a sofa:
  1. Check the manufacturer’s advice – Cleaning information can usually be found on the fabric care tags that are sewn into the couch cushions. 
  2. Vacuum – It’s important to vacuum your couch before you start cleaning, so you don’t end up rubbing in extra dirt. 
  3. Spot clean any marks or stains – If the couch appears clean except for an obvious stain, you might only need to spot clean the stain using bicarb or a cleaning solution.
  4. Spray with a fabric sofa cleaner – To freshen up the entire couch, simply spray, wipe, then leave to dry.  
  5. Dry thoroughly – After cleaning, it’s a good idea to point a fan at your couch so that it dries completely. 
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Tips for maintaining your fabric sofa

It’s easy to extend the life of your couch, or spruce it up so you can sell online. Follow these tips to look after your fabric couch:

  • Vacuum regularly – By giving your couch a regular once-over with the vacuum, you’ll prevent dirt from becoming embedded. 
  • Clean food and drink spills immediately – The faster you attend to a spill, the better chance you’ll have of keeping your couch stain-free. 
  • Put a blanket down for kids and pets – Something as simple as a blanket can keep your couch safe from scratches and spills.
  • Keep your couch out of the sun – Over time, exposure to sunlight can fade the fabric.
  • Deep clean twice a year – By taking the time to wash and revive your couch, you’ll also help to keep it in good condition for longer.
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Embrace sustainable living by selling or buying a pre-loved sofa online

Once you’ve freshened up your old sofa, you can sell it on Gumtree and make some cash. Not only does selling your sofa online prevent a perfectly good furniture item from going to landfill, it also helps you earn money and practise sustainability. 

You can also buy your next sofa on Gumtree. Which means you don’t even need to get out of your PJs to go shopping! From the comfort of your home you can browse countless different sofa styles at prices to suit any budget. Buying a pre-loved sofa online will save you time and money, plus it’s an environmentally responsible way to shop. 

Buying and selling sofas online is better for the environment because it reduces the demand for brand new sofas (which require a lot of resources to produce) while preventing useful furniture items from ending up in landfill. This is how circular trading can help you unlock the environmental and financial benefits of pre-loved items, like a sofa.

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Update your home decor today

It is easy to make your own lounge cleaner from natural and inexpensive ingredients. So there’s no need to spend thousands on a brand new couch. Gumtree has sofas to suit any style and budget, helping you to live a more sustainable lifestyle. With just a little bit of love and care, you can keep your couch looking beautiful, and rejuvenate pre-loved furniture.

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