If there’s one piece of furniture in the house that has the most potential for stains and odors, it’s the couch. It’s where we settle in to watch a movie, buttery popcorn in hand. It’s where the kids camp out when they’re sick. It’s where the family pets often lounge around (and drool, and shed). And it’s where we invite visitors to “have a seat” when they arrive.

Whether you call it a couch, a sofa, a divan, a davenport, or a loveseat, it’s a piece of furniture that should always be kept stain-free and fresh-smelling. Luckily, that’s pretty easy to do with the right equipment and ingredients.

Different fabrics need different treatments

As you no doubt learned when you were shopping for your couch, these essential furniture items are available in a wide variety of price points, sizes, and -- most importantly when it comes to cleaning -- fabric types. Just as you always read the tag on your clothing to determine whether it can be machine-washed or must be hand-washed or dry-cleaned, you need to do the same with your upholstery. Lift up the couch cushion and look on the base of the couch for the cleaning tag. Some couches also have a tag attached on the back, or underneath the couch, next to one of the couch legs.

Understanding the cleaning code for fabrics

Cleaning methods for different upholstery fabrics vary greatly, so it’s important to understand the universal cleaning code(s) listed on the couch’s tag. You may have also received specific cleaning instructions from the furniture store. If there is no tag and you didn’t get instructions from the store, then you can possibly call the store and ask.

W: If your cleaning tag has a W, you’re in luck. These are the easiest types of couches to clean, because the W stands for “water-based cleaner.” Simply spot clean them with a water-based shampoo or foam upholstery cleaner. For best results, we recommend using Puracy Natural Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo.

S: This code is for fabric that must be cleaned using a water-free solvent or similar dry-cleaning product.

W/S: This code means that you can use a combination of water-based cleaners and solvents.

X: This code means that the fabric is not cleanable with either a water-based cleaner or a solvent.

How to naturally clean your sofa

Vacuum Sofa with an upholstery attachment

X code cleaning methods: Couches with an X code cannot be cleaned with any type of water-based cleanser or water-free solvent. If your code is marked X, then vacuum up crumbs and/or pet hair from your couch using your vacuum’s upholstery attachment (it’s often T-shaped with a brush on the bottom; it might also be round). You can also brush off debris with a soft-bristle upholstery brush or hand broom.

S code cleaning methods: Couches with an S code require special treatment. If you have one of these couches, then you might be able to find a dry cleaning solvent you can use at home. Ask for recommendations from the store where you purchased your furniture. You can also call an upholstery-cleaning company.

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W or W/S cleaning methods: The following natural cleaning method should work well for couches marked with cleaning codes W or W/S. This includes many couches made of microfiber, cotton, or woven polyester. Many of these couches also have removable cushion covers that can be conveniently laundered in the washing machine. Check your cushion cover’s tag for specific washing instructions and follow them carefully; most need to be washed on delicate cycle and dried flat. Drying them in a machine could cause shrinkage.

If your couch has a tag with the cleaning code W, try the following method. (Note: With ALL cleaning methods, first test an inconspicuous area of your couch before cleaning the whole thing.)

Important Note: If you’re cleaning a leather couch, then check out our blog post on How to Clean Coated Leather. In the coming days we’ll also publish a separate blog post with customized step-by-step instructions for many other common varieties of couch fabrics. Stay tuned!

What you’ll need

What to do

Puracy Natural Stain Remover with Puracy Natural Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo
  1. Vacuum your couch using your vacuum’s upholstery attachment. This removes dirt and debris that could rub into the fabric during the cleaning process.
  2. For particularly stubborn stains, pretreat with Puracy Natural Stain Remover. Spray the affected area. Wait 15 minutes, then proceed with the steps below.
  3. In the bucket, mix warm water and Puracy Natural Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo according to the directions on the label. Our industry-leading 4x concentrated formula means you only need a small amount, helping to reduce plastic, water, and energy waste. For example, if you fill your bucket with 20 ounces of water, then you’ll need just 0.2 ounces of cleaning solution.
  4. Soak one microfiber cloth in the cleaning solution.
  5. Use the wet cloth to gently blot any stained areas of the couch. Be careful not to rub or scrub, as this can damage the fabric and make stains look worse.
  6. Moisten a second clean microfiber cloth with plain warm water. Blot the stained area to help remove the remnants of the cleaning solution.
  7. With the third (dry) microfiber cloth, blot the area again until dry.
  8. If you live in a humid area, point a fan at the area to help it dry completely.

If you don’t have Puracy Natural Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo on hand, you can also use Puracy Natural Dish Soap. In step #2 above, mix two cups of warm water, 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar, and one tablespoon of dish soap. Then follow steps 3-8.

How to get smells out of a couch

After cleaning with the method above, the sun-ripened citrus scent of Puracy Natural Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo will help your couch smell fresh and clean. But if your couch has an overall musty, dusty, or stinky smell that spot-cleaning just won’t fix, try this natural method. (It also works on carpet.)

  1. Shake baking soda liberally over all couch surfaces.
  2. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Vacuum up the baking soda using your vacuum’s upholstery attachment.

The couch is the focal point of most homes, and we’ll always encourage people (and pets) to get comfy there. With these natural cleaning methods and Puracy Natural Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo, you no longer have to worry if you see spilled liquids, food crumbs, pet hair, or dirty feet anywhere near your upholstery.