How to clean sofa cushions

We sit on our sofas every single day, and dirt, crumbs and pet hair can break down the fibres in the fabric. Not only do sofas start to look off-colour, they really can get filthy. Sofas are for relaxing and taking it easy, so it is important to keep them clean. reveals how to make your sofa look good as new.

Check the label

Before cleaning your sofa cushions, you need to make sure you know what they are made from.

Different fabrics and materials require different products and some may even need to be dried in a specific way.

Your sofa cushions will probably be made of cotton blend, leather, linen, or vinyl.

You can find out this information and how to treat this material on the labels of your sofa.

There might be labels attached to the sofa cushions themselves.

Leather cushion covers should be treated by dry cleaners, it is too risky to wash them yourself.

Suede cushion covers should be hoovered and then rubbed down with suede rubbing cloths or brushes.

Stains on suede can be tackled with a mix of water and alcohol.

Vinyl covers are best cleaned while still on the cushion, using a wet cleaning rag and some washing up liquid.

Wipe away any residue and let it air dry.

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What products can you use?

The labels may use abbreviations and codes to convey what your fabric should be cleaned with. Here are some common ones:

  • W: W on a furniture label is a golden ticket. If this is on the label, your sofa cushions can be cleaned with water.
  • S: S means your sofa cushions must be cleaned only with cleaning solvents, and won’t cope with water. In other words, your cushion fabric is dry clean only. You need to spot clean spills, and use a hairdryer to blow dry the spot once it is done.
  • S/W: S/W means a combination of dry cleaning solvents can be used on your fabric, but this is rare. You’re best to take this to the dry cleaners.
  • X: Unfortunately, if you have an X on the label you can’t clean this fabric. You can run a hoover over it, but don’t try and clean it. This code is hardly ever seen.


Before bothering to clean your sofa cushions with the correct cleaner, you need to hoover it.

Hoovering means you get rid of any dust, crumbs, hair or any other small particles that are lodged in your sofa cushion fabric.

Your hoover might come with an upholstery attachment, which looks like a small brush.

If you don’t have a hoover, take the cushion out of the cover and shake the cover vigorously.

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Before cleaning, you will need to test the cleaner on your furniture.

Apply some of the product on a small spot on the cushion cover.

Pick a spot that can’t be seen when the sofa is in its usual position, and only use a tiny bit of cleaner. Wait for it to dry.

If there is colour transfer, shrinkage or buckling, you should not use this cleaning product.

Another thing you need to test is the fabric’s potential to lose its colour.

Apply a mix of water and detergent to the inside of the cushion and let it sink in for a few minutes before washing it off.

If is discoloured, you should not clean the fabric yourself. Take it to the dry cleaner.

Tackle stains

Before cleaning the whole cushion cover, pre-treat heavily stained areas.

Purchase a pre-wash cleaning spray for furniture and spray on the affected areas.

Let it sit for as long as the instructions direct you to.

Alternatively, use the product on a damp sponge and gently dab it into the worst areas.

Allow it to settle in for a few minutes, and then move on to cleaning the whole cushion cover.

Should I use a washing machine?

Some fabric cushions can be cleaned in the washing machine, but don’t do this unless the label says this is fine.

Always turn the cushions inside out before doing so, and wash on a gentle and cool cycle.

Let the covers dry naturally rather than popping them in the dryer because this will cause them to shrink.

Instead of a washing machine, you could purchase a steam upholstery cleaner to deep-clean your cushions.

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