Things You'll Need
Vacuum with upholstery attachment
Soft brush (optional)
Clean white cloth
Solvent or dry cleaning product
Dry cleaning sprays, powders or liquids are petroleum-based and may contain harsh chemicals, so use water-based cleaners for linen when you have a choice.
Most new sofas come with tags that specify safe cleaning methods. Leave the tag on so you always know the best way to clean.
Blot any spills on your linen sofa immediately to minimize the spread of the stain.
Valuable sofas, such as antiques, with original or fragile linen upholstery, may need the services of professional cleaners to preserve your investment in the piece. If you're not sure about cleaning a linen sofa, have an appraisal by an expert before tackling the job yourself.
Linen is a strong natural fiber -- woven flax -- that both dyes and wrinkles easily and is often blended with another fiber, such as rayon, for upholstery. It complements contemporary-style furniture but will also add an urbane, elegant polish to a vintage or antique sofa. Linen can handle alkaline detergents and dry-cleaning solvents; the pure fiber is a Code S fabric, which is industry-speak for material that resists solvents. Linen and linen blends can also be Code WS fabrics, and they may be cleaned with water-based or solvent products.
Vacuum the sofa to remove loose dirt that a cleaning liquid might soak into the fibers. Take removable cushions off the sofa and get down into the crevices between cushions and frame with an upholstery cleaning attachment. Break up any encrusted dirt with a soft brush and vacuum it up.
Spot-clean stained or soiled sections of the sofa with a cleaning solvent or a water-based detergent, mixed according to the manufacturer's instructions. First test the cleaner on a hidden area of the sofa to be sure it won't fade or weaken the fabric.
Apply the cleaner with a white cloth, dabbing at -- not soaking -- the stain or spot to lift the dirt away from the upholstery. As the cloth becomes soiled, use unstained clean sections to continue loosening and absorbing the soil from the sofa.
Clean the removable cushions in the same manner as you cleaned the frame of the sofa. After getting out any stains, go over the entire cushion with the cleaner so no visible "clean" and "dingy" areas remain.
Allow cleaned areas and cushions to dry completely before reassembling the sofa. Once the sofa is dry, vacuum cleaned areas again to restore any flattened nap.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .