How to Shampoo a Sofa

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Your sofa is probably one of the most cumbersome pieces of furniture to clean in your home. It's also probably the piece of furniture that gets the most use and abuse. By the time you decide to tackle sofa shampooing, there's probably going to be months' worth of built-up dirt, crumbs, pet hair, and other debris. Pulling up all that grime (without damaging the fabric) is a pretty intensive task, but it'll be worth the effort when your sofa looks and smells like new again.

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Check the Care Label

Because using the wrong type of couch cleaner can ruin the fabric, the first step for cleaning a sofa or cleaning other types of upholstered furniture is always to check the sofa's care label. Check underneath removable sofa cushions or along the back bottom edge of the sofa to find this label. (The sofa manufacturer should also provide cleaning instructions online if you can't find the label.) It should include one of four cleaning codes: W, S, W/S, or X.

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If the sofa's care label has cleaning code W, you can safely use water-based cleaners. Cleaning code S means solvent-based cleaners only. A sofa with cleaning code W/S can be washed with either water- or solvent-based cleaners. If you see cleaning code X, the sofa should only be vacuumed and could be damaged by the use of liquid cleaning products. Most sofas are W or W/S; sofas with cleaning code S or X are often made of delicate fabrics, like brocade or natural fibers that shrink when they get wet.

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If your sofa's care label has cleaning code S, you can spot-treat the fabric using dry cleaner fluid and a clean cloth. Otherwise, proceed with sofa shampooing.

Things You'll Need

How to Shampoo a Water-Safe Sofa

Step 1: Vacuum Everything

Vacuum the sofa to lift and remove any dirt, crumbs, lint, or other loose debris clinging to the fabric. It's important to get rid of this stuff before getting the fabric wet. Take any removable cushions off the sofa and lay them on the ground. Connect an upholstery attachment to your vacuum cleaner and vacuum every inch of the sofa itself and its cushions.

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Step 2: Steam Clean the Sofa

Using a top-rated steam cleaner designed for upholstery, follow manufacturer instructions to steam the entire sofa and any removed cushions. Steam cleaning can help you dissolve stains and loosen debris that's dried or stuck to the fabric fibers. The heat created by steam can also kill dust mites and bacteria on your sofa. (If you don't have a steam cleaner, you can skip this step and continue on to spot-treating and shampooing.)

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Step 3: Spot Treat Stains

You'll generally get better results using a couch stain remover before sofa shampooing as opposed to the other way around. Spray an upholstery stain remover onto any noticeable spots or stains. Specifics depend on package directions, but you'll probably need to wait just a few minutes for couch stain remover to work. Blot the area with a clean cloth and repeat with more couch stain remover if necessary.

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Step 4: Shampoo Fabric With Couch Cleaner

Use a portable upholstery cleaner for sofa shampooing. Fill the cleaning tank with couch cleaner and the water tank with clean water and you're ready to shampoo your water-safe sofa. Are you not sure how to operate your specific upholstery cleaner? Manufacturers often make useful demonstration videos.

Step 5: Let the Sofa Air-Dry

Plan on letting your sofa dry at least overnight before anyone sits on it. You can speed up the process a little by pressing towels into the wet fabric to absorb excess water. Open windows and point fans at the sofa to help speed up the drying process.

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Step 6: Vacuum Again

Vacuum the dry sofa to remove any final dirt and make the sofa look its best.

Step 7: Address Any Lingering Smells

Sometimes, sofa shampooing alone isn't enough to freshen a smelly couch, especially if you have pets and/or kids who have spent years building up that stink. Make a DIY upholstery spray cleaner with essential oils to spritz on your sofa when it starts to smell funky. You can also tuck sachets of activated charcoal into the nooks and crannies to absorb odors but only for a kid-free and pet-free sofa since you don't want anyone to possibly find and ingest the charcoal.

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