How to clean stains off a sofa

 In Blog

Your sofa is more than just a piece of furniture. It’s there to provide comfort after a long day at work and a place to relax with your loved ones. Some people eat dinner on their sofas and others share them with their pets. Sofas are there to be used and enjoyed, so it’s inevitable that they’ll get stained one point or other.

The key is not to panic and get it wrong. Sofa stains are often very easy to get rid of, especially with the right products and know-how. Luckily for you, we’re clued up in the sofa cleaning department. Read on for our complete guide on how to clean stains off a sofa.

Sofa stain removal: Identify the material

Before you attempt to get stains out of your sofa, you need to know what material you’re dealing with. Is it a fabric or leather sofa? If you’re unsure what the fabric is, check the tag. It’s also likely to tell you what you can and can’t clean your sofa with. For example:

W – You can wash the sofa with water

X – You can only use a vacuum cleaner

SW – You can either use water or a solvent cleaner

S – Solvent cleaner only

Always follow the cleaning instructions on your sofa tags to avoid damaging your furniture.

How to clean stains off a sofa with brushing

Whether spot cleaning or deep cleaning your sofa, it’s best to start off with a brush. This will loosen any crumbs or dirt from the surface and in between the cushions. Use a dry cloth to brush the upholstery. A stiff brush might be necessary for stubborn areas of dirt, dried on mud or food.

Keep in mind that if your sofa is light in colour, you need to use a white cloth. Otherwise, the dye might transfer from the cloth to your sofa when you’re rubbing it.

How to clean stains off a fabric sofa

Fabric sofas are super comfortable and look attractive – a popular choice in family homes. Unfortunately, they’re not so forgiving when it comes to staining. The best thing you can do to save your fabric sofa is to deal with the spillage or stain as soon as possible. The quicker you blot it up, the best chance you have of complete stain removal.

If you’re wondering how to clean stains off a sofa of this kind, you will need:

  • Washing up liquid
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Warm water

Create a homemade stain removal solution using the ingredients above. You’ll only need a tablespoon of washing up liquid, white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Mix them together with a little warm water to create a lather. The solution should begin to bubble as the white vinegar reacts with the bicarbonate of soda.

Next, apply your homemade cleaning solution directly to the stains on your fabric sofa and leave for 10-or-so minutes. When the spot cleaning patches are dry, grab a clean cloth and use it to wipe away any residue. All being well, the solution will have lifted the stain from your fabric sofa.

Bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar work extremely well together to cut through grease and grime to remove stains. Sure, you could go out and buy an upholstery cleaning product from the supermarket but why spend your money if you’ve already got the ingredients in your cupboards at home?

how-to-clean-stains-off-leather-sHow to clean stains off a leather sofa

Leather sofas are a sound investment. Not only do they look stylish but they’re also very hard wearing. If you have the budget, it’s worth paying a little extra for a leather sofa. It’ll last you years, especially if you take good care of it.

However, like other materials, leather can still stain. So it’s a good idea to know exactly how to deal with spillages and stains to keep your leather sofa in prime condition.

As we said before, the quicker you deal with a stain the better. Always start by blotting to remove as much of the stain as you can.

Before we teach you how to clean stains off a sofa made from leather, you need to identify what type of leather you’re dealing with.

Aniline-dyed leather sofa stain removal

Aniline-dyed leather is often referred to as ‘unfinished leather’ and has a more natural appearance. This type of leather does not have a top coating applied to it. It therefore tends to be softer and richer in colour.

Unfortunately, if you stain this type of leather sofa, you may need to call a professional upholstery cleaner for help. Because the leather is so delicate, you can end up doing more harm than good trying to clean it with shop-bought or homemade stain removal solutions yourself.

Pigmented leather sofa stain removal

Pigmented leather sofas are also dyed with aniline, however they are coated with a protective pigment. They aren’t quite as soft to touch as aniline leather sofas but excel in durability.

Water based stains

No matter how careful you are, every once in a while someone’s accidentally going to spill their drink on your sofa – especially if you’ve got kids. But don’t panic, simply follow our tips on how to clean stains off a sofa made of leather.

You will need:

  • White or light in colour microfibre cloth
  • Distilled water
  • Leather conditioner


  • Dampen the microfibre cloth with a little water
  • Gently wipe the stain in a circular motion and keep going until the mark disappears
  • Give it time to dry
  • If the stain is still present, repeat the steps above
  • Once the mark has disappeared, treat your sofa with a leather conditioner, following the instructions
how to clean grease stains off a sofa

“What do you mean I’m getting grease stains on your sofa?”

Grease stains

Like to have dinner on the sofa in front of the TV? It’s not a crime! Unfortunately though it does mean that you’re likely to get grease on your sofa from time to time. Same goes if you let your pets sit on your sofa. The natural oils on their coats can rub off onto the fabric and create unsightly smears. Good news is with a little cleaning, grease won’t ruin your leather sofa.


You will need:

  • Dry microfibre cloth (light in colour to avoid dye transferring)
  • Corn starch or talcum powder
  • Leather conditioner


  • Use dry microfibre cloth to blot as much of the grease as you can
  • Sprinkle the corn starch or talcum powder onto the stained area
  • Give it time to work, leave it to sit for a few hours, over night if possible
  • Gently wipe the powder away using a clean microfibre cloth
  • Follow up with leather conditioner, following the manufacturers instructions

No corn starch or talcum powder at home? No worries! You can try using a little washing up liquid mixed with warm water to remove grease from your leather sofas instead.


How do you get the smell out of upholstery?

What’s that smell? If it’s coming from your sofa, it’s time to freshen it up! Machine washing sofa coverings is a great way to get rid of lingering scents but check the label to make sure it’s okay to do so first.

A much easier sofa cleaning hack is to use baking soda. Simply sprinkle bicarbonate of soda all over your sofa and leave it for 20 minutes. Once time is up, use the brush attachment on your vacuum to suck up the bicarbonate of soda. It’s that easy!

If your sofa smells particularly bad and bicarbonate of soda doesn’t do the trick, it may require a deeper clean. We suggest using a handheld steamer to deodorise your sofa and restore its freshness.

Sofa cleaning care tips

Fingers crossed you’ll have found the information you need here on how to clean stains off a sofa. We think we’ve covered all bases but just to round things up, here are our top sofa cleaning tips…

  1. Blot ASAP – Use kitchen towel or a clean microfibre cloth to blot up spillages and food stains as soon as they occur. The quicker you do it, the more likely you are to save your sofa from permanent stains.
  2. Don’t scrub – It may seem like the obvious thing to do but scrubbing can do more harm than good to your sofa. Gently wipe stains away from your sofa. It’s better to repeat the cleaning process than scrub too hard and cause long-lasting damage.
  3. Clean your sofa regularly – Want your sofa to maintain its fresh new look? Get cleaning! Regularly  brush crumbs and debris off your sofa with a clean microfibre cloth and use the brush attachment on your vacuum to give it a dust.
  4. Never use bleach – No matter how badly your sofa is stained, bleach is never the answer. It will discolour and permanently damage your sofa fabric.
  5. Follow the instructions – Always check the care label on your sofa. If you are using a store-bought sofa cleaning product, make sure you follow the instructions for safe and effective cleaning.

Don’t forget to follow NG1 City Cleaners on Instagram for daily home cleaning tips and things that’ll make you smile!

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