How to clean a fabric sofa in 9 easy steps

Fabric sofas add to the aesthetic of the living room and make a home feel cosier. But here comes the problem: they’re prone to dust and mites. Plus, cleaning and maintenance can be a chore!

If you’re all for effectiveness and efficiency, our guide will help you break down the different cleaning codes for fabric sofas and how to clean each type in 9 easy steps. Keep reading as we have sprinkled tips throughout!

To get more bang for your buck, we’ve also gathered the best deals for home cleaning products to make cleaning your fabric sofa and other chores easier.

Clean your fabric sofa regularly

As busy homeowners, you may not have the luxury of time to deep clean the sofa frequently. Thus, in between deep cleans, it’ll be good to do some quick dry cleaning. That way, when you do get down to deep cleaning, the work required is reduced!

To maintain the sofa’s look and cleanliness, this is the recommended cleaning schedule:

  • Dry clean: every two to three days
  • Deep clean: every four to six weeks

Types of fabric sofa cleaning codes

Before you begin cleaning, the first step is to check your fabric sofa’s label for its cleaning code. There are four cleaning codes that you should pay attention to: W, S, W/S and X.

1. W: Water-based cleaning

“W” refers to “water-based cleaner”. Fabric sofas with this cleaning code are the easiest to clean as water-based cleaners and even just water can be used.

To spot clean, use a brush to work the water-based cleaner directly onto any stain on your fabric sofa. Take note to prevent over-wetting the stain.

2. S: Solvent-based cleaning

“S” stands for “solvent-based cleaner”, which means that only solvent-based cleaners or dry cleaning products can be used.

When using solvent-based cleaners, stay away from open flames and ensure that the room is well-ventilated.

3. W/S: Water- or solvent-based cleaning

“W/S” is a combination of cleaning codes “W” and “S”. Thus, it can be cleaned with both water- and solvent-based cleaners.

For spot cleaning: you can either use upholstery shampoo, mild detergent or a mild dry cleaning solvent.

4. X: Vacuuming or light brushing only

“X” indicates that you can only clean the sofa by vacuuming or light brushing. These sofas aren’t suitable to be cleaned by water or solvent cleaners and are the toughest to maintain.

Tip: Pre-test cleaning method on a small, hidden area

Not sure if the cleaning method you’re about to use will ruin the sofa? A good practice would be to pre-test it on a small, hidden area first.

If the fabric doesn’t get damaged, go ahead and clean the entire sofa!

Cleaning equipment and supplies needed to clean fabric sofas

Now that you’re aware of these cleaning codes, you can prepare the relevant cleaning equipment and supplies!

Cleaning equipment checklist

Cleaning supplies checklist

Tip: Clean up any spills immediately

Any spills or stains should be cleaned up immediately! The faster you take action, the easier it is to remove. Leaving it for some time will make it harder to remove.

Step by step guide to clean a fabric sofa


Step 1: Remove the sofa covers (if applicable)

For sofas with removable covers:
Remove and clean them separately (see section on “How to clean fabric sofa covers” below). If your sofa’s covers can’t be removed, skip this and move on to Step 2!

Step 2: Brush the sofa covers 

Get an upholstery dusting brush or a dry cloth to wipe any dust and dirt away. Remember to match the colour of the cloth to the sofa to prevent colour stains!

Step 3: Vacuum the fabric sofa 

After dusting off any dirt on the surface, it’s time to whip out your vacuum. Vacuum the sofa thoroughly—this includes the arms, cushions, back, side and deeper areas.

It’d be helpful to use a vacuum with detachable add-ons like the crevice tool to reach deep into the sofa.

Bear (XCQ-B04A1) Handheld Vacuum

– 0.3L dust container
– Dual hose and usage to reach deeper areas of sofa

PowerPac PPV3700 Vacuum Cleaner

– 0.6L dust container
– Ergonomic design that’s powerful, efficient and versatile

Step 4: Steam clean the fabric sofa

Only for sofas labelled W and W/S:
Use a steam cleaner, garment steamer or iron with a steaming function on a small, hidden area of your sofa. You need to check that the sofa is able to tolerate the heat well before going ahead to steam clean it entirely. You wouldn’t want to damage the delicate material!

What this does:
Steam cleaning displaces remaining debris while disinfecting and eliminating germs and bacteria. It can also kill dust mites that have been hiding in the sofa.

Step 5a: Remove stains with water, white distilled vinegar, and dish soap

Only for sofas labelled W and W/S:
Removing stains from these sofas is simple! In a spray bottle, combine one part of white distilled vinegar, three parts of water and one tablespoon of dish soap.

Spray the mixture on the stain and use a clean dry cloth to rub the solution over it. Thereafter, dip a corner of a clean damp cloth in some water to remove any residue.

Step 5b: Remove stains with baking soda 

For sofas labelled S:
If you’ve missed some stains on your sofa and realised that water can’t be used to remove them, fret not! One quick way is to sprinkle some baking soda directly on the stain.

Leave it for about 30 minutes so that the powder can work effectively to break down the stain and grease, as well as remove any odours. Then, use a vacuum to vacuum up the residue.

For sofas labelled W and W/S:
Other than Step 5a, here’s another alternative — add some water and dish soap to the baking soda. It should form a powdery white paste that’ll help to remove stains!

After that, clear the residue away with a wet/dry vacuum cleaner or a damp cloth.

Step 6: Clean with fabric sofa cleaner

Only for sofas labelled W, S and W/S:
There are many different types of fabric sofa cleaners in the market. Before purchasing, do ensure that it’s suitable for your fabric sofa cleaning code.

Depending on the strength of the product, they may be used for odour removal, bacteria elimination and even stain removal.

Step 7: Dry the fabric sofa

It’s important to dry the sofa after deep cleaning—you wouldn’t want to be sitting on mould caused by the leftover moisture!

This can be done pressing a dry clean cloth on the sofa fabric. Repeat this till the sofa is dry to your touch.

Tip: How to speed up the drying 

According to Pierre, a good tip would be to direct a fan at the sofa at its highest speed to speed up the drying process! Leave it until the sofa is dry to your touch.

Step 8: Vacuum the sofa again

After it has fully dried, repeat Step 3 and vacuum the entire sofa again. Repeating this step ensures that any additional debris or dirt can be removed thoroughly!

Step 9: Revitalise and freshen up the fabric sofa

Now that you’re done with cleaning, finish off by spraying the sofa with a fabric sanitising spray! This will help to

  • remove any remaining odours,
  • kill and prevent germs over time, and
  • aromatise your living room!

Magiclean Fabric Freshener Spray

This spray removes odours efficiently while killing 99% of bacteria. Formulated with natural botanicals, it helps prevent mould as well.

Febreze Fabric Refresher Spray (Anti-bacterial)

As an anti-bacterial spray, it eliminates odours, kills 99.9% of germs and leaves a refreshing fragrance.

Laundarin’ Fabric Refresher

Suitable for cleaning fabric sofas, curtains and rugs, this anti-bacterial spray also doubles up as an air freshener.

Clean Original Natural Fabric Spray

This fabric spray has silver ions and natural plant extracts. It deodorises, sterilises and can also be used as a car or room freshener.

Tip: Do a deep cleaning after each visiting

If you’ve had guests over, it’s likely that they’ll hang around the living room. Thus, be sure to do a deep cleaning for the sofa after they leave to remove any stains and bacteria immediately!

How to clean fabric sofa covers

Step 1: Read the product care labels

Like all fabrics, the first step would be to read the product care instructions. From there, you’ll be able to know how to wash the covers.

Step 2a: Use a washing machine

If the covers are machine-washable:
Simply toss them in the washing machine and use laundry detergent to wash them!

Dynamo Power Gel Laundry Detergent (Anti-bacterial)

– Suitable for: top load and front load machines
– Kills 99% of bacteria and prevents bacterial growth
– Ultra-concentrated formula: 2x better at removing stains

Top Detergent Powder (Anti-bacterial)

– Suitable for: hand wash and top load machines
– Removes 99.9% of mite dust, stains and odours
– Removes tough stains
– Prevents colour from fading

Step 2b: Brush them

If the covers aren’t machine-washable:
You’ll need to do a little more work by using a dusting brush to dust the dirt away. Alternatively, you can beat them gently under some sunlight.

Step 3: Wipe the covers with a clean damp cloth

Step 4: Hang them to dry in the sun

The ultraviolet rays from the run will disinfect the covers while drying them.

Cleaning a fabric sofa 

Cleaning a fabric sofa can be tricky but with the above guide and tips, it won’t seem so daunting anymore! If you’re looking for cleaning products that are suitable for your sofa, check out our home cleaning products for the best deals.

Please note: The efficacy of the tips provided may vary depending on skill, quality of tools used and the build of machines involved (if any).

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