How to Clean Sofa Fabric

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Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum cleaner with hose attachment

  • Foaming upholstery cleaner (or microfiber cleaner/shampoo, if applicable)

  • Sponge

  • Water

Fabric sofas benefit from occasional cleaning, even if they are not visibly stained. Dust in the home settles on the fabric, which can make the sofa look faded and dingy in time. In addition, the dust can contribute to dust mite problems and, therefore, allergies. You can clean most kinds of sofa fabric with a general upholstery cleaner. Microfiber requires a different, drier kind of cleaning; however, the method for cleaning all types of sofa fabrics is generally the same.

Step 1

Remove the cushions from the sofa, if they are not attached. Set the cushions aside to clean separately.

Step 2

Attach a vacuum hose attachment to the vacuum. Vacuum crumbs and dirt from the seat area first and then the rest of the sofa. Don't rub the hose into the fabric while vacuuming. Doing so may push dirt further into the fibers—let the vacuum's suction power do the work.

Step 3

Spray foaming upholstery cleaner on the most heavily soiled areas first. You may need to shake the bottle or can first—check the label.

Step 4

Rub the cleaner into the fabric gently, using a clean, damp (or dry, if the fabric is microfiber) sponge. If using a dry sponge (for microfiber), switch to a new dry sponge when the first sponge is dirty. If using a damp sponge on other types of upholstery, rinse out the sponge when it becomes soiled, or before you begin on a new area of the sofa.

Step 5

Apply upholstery cleaner to the rest of the sofa and rub it in with a sponge. Allow it to dry completely (to speed this up, aim a fan at the sofa). While you wait, begin cleaning the cushions. Vacuum them thoroughly on all sides. Use upholstery cleaner on one side of the cushion; you'll need to wait for that side to dry before turning it over and cleaning the other side.

Step 6

Vacuum the sofa again, when it is dry. This removes excess cleaner from the sofa fabric. Next, vacuum the cleaned side of the cushions and place them, clean-side down, on the sofa. Treat the other side of the cushions with the upholstery cleaner. When they are dry, vacuum them.


Treat fresh spills on sofa fabric by gently blotting up all the liquid you can; then, clean with upholstery cleaner. Some sofa cushions have removable fabric covers. If so, you can usually wash these fabric covers in cold water, on a gentle cycle (or by hand). Hang them to dry; drying them in the dryer may cause shrinkage. If sofa fabric is microfiber, use a lint brush to remove pet hair and other difficult-to-remove materials. Use a soft-bristled brush to loosen dirt on heavily soiled fabric (after applying upholstery cleaner). If your vacuum cleaner has a filter, make sure the filter is clean before vacuuming the sofa.


Although upholstery cleaner is safe for most fabrics, some may fade or discolor. Always test the cleaner on part of the fabric before using it on all of it. No matter what material your sofa fabric consists of, you should avoid getting it too damp when cleaning, if at all possible. Moisture may seep to the materials beneath the fabric, creating good conditions for mold.


Corey M. Mackenzie

Corey M. Mackenzie has been a professional freelance writer for more than two decades. She received a B.A. with honors from Wichita State University. Corey specializes in writing about pets, interior decorating, health care, gardening, fashion, relationships, home improvement and forensic science. Corey's articles have appeared in Garden Guides, Travels and other websites.