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8 July 2021

How to clean a sofa

Spruce up your current sofa or keep your new one looking fresh with our sofa cleaning and maintenance advice.
Rachel Christie
Dfs_1301714497555681 480890

Whether you ban food and drinks from your sofa or eat your dinner on it every evening, here's some advice to keep it looking spick and span.

We asked almost 2,000 Which? members how regularly they cleaned their sofas; a quarter of them cleaned their sofa once a month and the same number cleaned their sofa roughly once every few months. 

Around 10% have never cleaned their sofas – we can only assume they're better at managing spills than the rest of us. 

If, despite your best cleaning efforts, your sofa is looking grey around the edges, it could be time for a new one. Head to the best sofa retailers page to find out which store tops the table for best customer service, value for money and range of sofas.

The most common sofa stains

Sofa stains are incredibly annoying, especially if your sofa is covered in a light fabric. But what are the most common causes of stains? We asked our Which? members.

  • Food (18%)
  • Pets (13%)
  • Hot drinks (13%)
  • Children (12%)
  • Wine (7%)
  • Ink (4%)
  • Mud (2%)
  • Make up (1%)

Sofa cleaning tips

If disaster strikes and your sofa ends up splattered with red wine or curry sauce, attend to spills immediately using plain water first. 

In the case of small spills on a fabric sofa, it's important to avoid the instinct to rub at the stain. This only pushes the spillage deeper into the fabric, which of course makes it harder to clean.

Instead, wipe lightly with a damp (not wet) cloth, and then immediately dry with a soft dry cloth. For anything bigger, it’s probably worth calling in the professionals.

If you opt for stain-removing products, follow the manufacturer's guidelines and test on a hidden area to make sure it doesn't fade fabric.

Do not use solvent-based cleaners.

Even if your sofa remains accident-free, every day use can make it grubbier than you realise. A proper clean every 12-18 months should keep your sofa looking better for longer. For the best possible results, talk to a professional cleaning company. 

Sofa protection

Prevention can be easier (and cheaper) than cure – top tips to keep your sofa looking showroom-fresh include:

  • To maintain your fabric sofa, it should be vacuumed or brushed weekly as dirt accumulating on it can lead to the upholstery wearing and its colour dulling. 
  • To avoid fading, place furniture out of direct or prolonged periods of sunlight, and away from heat sources.
  • Avoid cosmetic products such as sun cream or body lotion coming into contact with your upholstery.
  • Beware of sharp objects like studs, belt buckles and toys snagging fabric. Velcro is also best avoided.

Sofa protection plans are often offered at the point of sale. If you think it's worth the money, you can either take a plan out when you buy your sofa, or buy it separately. 

Companies SUCH AS Guardsman provide protection against fabric and leather sofas, and range in price depending on the cover, from accidental stains only, to accidental damage and structural faults.

If the stain-removal solution they send doesn't do the trick, then they send out their stain removal team.

A third of members purchased a sofa protection plan, but only 14% of those have claimed on it. Only 30% of those surveyed were satisfied with their sofa protection plan and half said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.

You could also check whether accidental damage to your sofa – such as spills – are covered by your home insurance policy. Home insurance typically doesn't cover wear and tear, but may help pay for a new sofa if a major spill causes significant damage. 

According to Which? members we asked, the most common sofa damage includes:

  • Sagging cushions (39%)
  • Damaged by pets (21%)
  • Stained fabric (14%)
  • Ripped or scratched fabric (13%)
  • Frayed material (12%)

Sofa reupholstery

If you've had your sofa for a while and no amount of cleaning will make it look like new again, it could be worth getting it reupholstered instead of splashing out on a new one. 

There tend to be different options for upholstery depending on whether you want the whole sofa to be recovered or just the cushions or arms. 

You could simply fill out sagging seat cushions with fresh feathers and extra foam to add plumpness and keep them looking firmer for longer. Another option is getting arm covers made for frayed or worn down arms. If you like the idea of a whole new look but like the shape, it could still be cheaper to get the whole sofa reupholstered rather than buying a new sofa. 

Two in five of those we surveyed said the cushions on their sofa are sagging. This tends to be the case with feather-filled seat cushions, particularly if they're not plumped regularly. Keep them looking fresh and firm with a daily fluff so the feathers move around.

Depending on the upholsterer you use, you may need to order and buy your own fabric. Others will look after the whole process from start to finish.

Don’t forget the inevitable delivery costs on top and that you’ll be without a sofa for a short while.

Consider a sofa with loose covers

Loose covers help keep sofas looking like new, because they can be easily cleaned. You can buy an extra set of covers too – useful for when one set's at the dry cleaners, or if you just want to try out a new look. 

Always follow the specific care instructions provided on loose covered upholstery; there’s often a 3% allowance for shrinkage after the first clean.

If all your damage prevention and cleaning efforts have failed and it's simply time for a new sofa, take a look at our sofa shop reviews to discover the best places to buy a sofa.