Genius Life Hacks for Cleaning Upholstered Furniture

Furniture that is well maintained lasts longer and can help reduce the amount of furniture that is tossed into landfills every year. Want to do your part, but haven’t got a clue where to start? 

Cleaning your sofa and other upholstered furniture doesn’t have to be hard. We’ve got you covered (no pun intended) with some genius hacks and helpful tips. 

Upholstery 101

First, know what cleaning products can be used on your particular kind of upholstery. How to clean leather is different from cleaning velvet, how to clean suede is different from cleaning linen…you get the idea. Most pieces of upholstered furniture will have a tag with a cleaning code. 

Here’s how to decipher:

  • Code W: Fabric can be cleaned with water-based cleaning solvents.
  • Code S: Fabric can only be cleaned with a dry cleaning or water-free solvent. 
  • Code W/S: Fabric can be cleaned with either water-based or dry cleaning products.
  • Code X: Fabric should only be vacuumed or professionally cleaned. 

If there is no code, you will need to do a little more research and test the cleaning method in an inconspicuous, such as under the seat cushions, to see how the fabric will react. 

Whatever kind of upholstery you have, vacuuming is always a safe bet. Search anything from ”how to clean a wool area rug” to “how to take care of your suede sofa” and you’ll find the same tip in every list: vacuum! 

Before you use any of the hacks below, start by vacuuming to suck up loose hair, pet fur, dust, and dirt. If possible, vacuum your upholstery furniture and rugs at least once a week for basic maintenance. 

Try These Hacks

W or W/S Starter Hack

Combine 4 cups warm water with ¼ cup dishwashing liquid and whisk thoroughly to create your own sudsy upholstery cleaner. Lightly scrub the fabric with a soft bristle brush, then take a microfiber cleaning cloth dampened with plain water and wipe down the area. Allow the fabric to air-dry completely, then go over it with a brush or vacuum. Your sofa will be good as new! 

The Vinegar Trick

Wondering how to clean a leather or faux leather couch? Try a D-I-Y vinegar-based upholstery cleaner! It works for other “W” and “W/S” fabrics like cotton, linen, blended fiber, and vinyl, too. Combine everything in a spray bottle and use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the furniture. 

Here’s the breakdown for each type of upholstery:

  • Leather: 1/2 cup olive oil + 1/4 cup vinegar
  • Fabric: 1/4 cup vinegar + 3/4 warm water +1 T dish soap
  • Synthetic: 1/2 cup white vinegar + 1 cup warm water + 1/2 T liquid dish soap

Tip: Never over-saturate the fabric with liquid. Too much water can cause mold and mildew to grow—and no hack will get that out.

Stain Fighting

A hero’s job is never done. For basic stains on most W or W/S fabrics, mix up your own stain remover by combining 2 cups warm water with a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Dip a microfiber cloth into fresh water and wring until damp, then dip the damp cloth into the suds (not the sudsy water). Gently blot the stained area, moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain transfers. Continue until the stain lifts, then let the spot air dry.

Try these D-I-Y spot cleaning methods for some of the most common stains.

  • Coffee: Blot with a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar with a little dish detergent, then blot with water to rinse.
  • Blood: Blot with hydrogen peroxide, then with water to rinse.
  • Red Wine: Sprinkle with salt and wait at least an hour for it to absorb the stain. Next, blot with hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice. Blot with water to rinse.
  • Crayon: Gently rub a small dollop of non-gel toothpaste, then blot with water to rinse.

Tip: Just blot! Never rub a stain—it will only push the stain deeper into the fibers and making it all the more difficult to remove. 

Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning is helpful when you need to lift dirt and stains from upholstery coded S or W/S (and is especially helpful for velvet upholstery). No idea how to steam clean a couch? Don’t fret! You can easily rent a heavy-duty upholstery steamer. 

And we can also tell you how to clean a couch without a steam cleaner: a clothes steamer or iron set to “steam” will work just fine. Wave it over the spots and use your hand to gently brush against the grain as you go to release dents and wrinkles. 

Tip: Keep the steamer or iron several inches away from the surface—if it touches, it will damage the fabric.

The Water-Free Way

Rubbing alcohol is a water-free solvent you probably have in your bathroom cabinet already. For furniture labeled “S,” fill a spray bottle with 2 cups of rubbing alcohol. Lightly spritz the fabric from the top down and use a soft-bristled brush to remove soil while it’s still damp, rinsing the brush frequently in plain water. Allow the fabric to air dry and vacuum up any collected fur or fibers.

Freshening Up Fabric

When wondering how to clean furniture fabric, look no further than your kitchen pantry. Baking soda can be used on any type of fabric upholstery to absorb most oils and odors. Just sprinkle the surface with baking soda, about one-quarter inch deep, let it sit for at least eight hours, then vacuum it. If you’re wondering how to clean a used couch, this is a great first step.

The Deal with Degreasing 

Sprinkle the offending stain with cornstarch or salt, then gently rub it into the fabric with a toothbrush. Let it sit for at least one hour to absorb the oil, then vacuum up the cornstarch. Repeat if needed. Use the appropriate method to spot clean any leftover marks.

Removing Pet Hair

When furniture brushes and vacuums fail, break out the rubber gloves! Running your gloved hands over the fabric creates static that pulls the hair away from the fabric, making it easier.  Gloves create static that pulls the hair off to the edge of the piece, where you can easily vacuum it off,” she says. You can also create a DIY static spray by mixing water and a small amount of fabric softener. Spray the solution on the furniture and wipe off the hair with a cloth.

Tip: An upholstery cleaning tool you should always keep on hand is a simple lint roller. Run it over your fabric furniture to collect hair, pet fur, dust, and fibers a couple times a week for easy maintenance. 

Getting Out Gum

Yuck. No one wants gum in their hair, gum on their shoe…or gum stuck to their furniture. Fill a sealable plastic bag with ice cubes or an ice pack and place it on the gum until it hardens. Use a dull knife to scrape away the hardened gum, working carefully and refreezing the gum when it gets too soft. Spot clean the stain with the appropriate method. 

Find Fresh Furniture at CORT Furniture Outlet 

When steaming, soaping, and scrubbing won’t do the trick, turn to CORT Furniture Outlet. Find comfortable and clean new and gently-used furniture and decor at up to 70% off original retail prices. Our selection of stylish gently-used furniture is thoroughly and professionally cleaned, maintained, and inspected so you’ll feel confident you’re receiving clean and quality furnishings.

Need your items ASAP? Shop our collection of new and gently used furniture, decor, and rugs online or in-store today and enjoy same-day pickup! Start shopping today!


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