How to Wash Couch Cushions and Covers

Updated August 8, 2022
Woman at home hoovering the couch

When you want to freshen up your home or are expecting company, cleaning couch cushions can go a long way in making your living room or den feel more cozy and relaxing. Whether there are just some minor spots from everyday life or you're faced with heavier stains from food and drink, washing couch cushions and covers should be done with care. Otherwise, your couch could be ruined, and you may have to replace or recover it.

Learn how to wash couch cushions by hand and in the washer. Get easy steps for the best ways to get rid of stains on your removable and non-removable couch cushions so you can enjoy your living space as much as you did when you first got your sofa. Add this task to your household chore list for seasonal or deep cleaning, or whenever you need to make your living area shine.

How to wash couch cushions and covers infographic

How to Wash Couch Cushions and Covers by Hand

Did you notice that your couch cushions look a little bit cruddy? It might have been a while since you've done a couch cleaning, or maybe you had a spill from your latest at-home movie night, get-together, or family fun time. Learn how to clean couch cushion covers and treat stains. You can wash couch cushion covers with zero stress once you have the right tools, products, and tips. To get started, you just need to grab a few trusty materials:

White vinegar in spray bottle and baking soda in glass jar in front of couch
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • White vinegar (the same vinegar you use for laundry)
  • Dish soap
  • Spray bottle
  • Cloth
  • Steam cleaner
  • Baking soda
  • Commercial couch cleaner
  • Fan

Step 1: Assess Your Material

Not all couch cushions are created equal. Before you get to cleaning, you want to make sure to read the label on your couch. It should state that you can use a water-based cleaner "W." If you see solvent-based cleaners or dry clean only, then you might want to call in a professional to help you clean your couch cushions.

Step 2: Precleaning

The first thing you need to do if you need to clean your couch cushions is to thoroughly vacuum the entire couch to remove crumbs, lint, and dust. If you have pets, consider a product designed for removing pet hair as well since hair isn't easily removed with a normal vacuum cleaner. You can also try using a rubber glove or lint roller to remove stubborn hair that doesn't come off with the vacuum.

Step 3: Treat Minor Stains

If you only have a few small, minor stains, you should try spot cleaning first. For recent spills, immediately soak up as much of the liquid as possible with an absorbent towel or rag. Do not rub and scrub, or you'll cause the liquid to go further into the cushion. Just gently press the rag onto the spill with the goal of soaking the spill into the rag before it soaks further into the couch. Once you've removed as much stain as possible, it's time to get cleaning.

  • In a spray bottle, mix 1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup water, and 2 tablespoons of dish soap. You can also use a commercial stain cleaner.
  • Spray down the stain.
  • Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes or the recommended time on the bottle.
  • Scrub the stain until it's removed.
  • Once the stain is gone, use another clean rag and plain water to "rinse" the spot. Cleaner that is left on the upholstery will attract dirt and end up looking dirty and dingy.
  • When removing urine or smelly stains, you might want to cover the area with baking soda and allow it to sit overnight to absorb all the odor out of the cushion.

If you know what caused the stain, you can also try products or methods designed for that specific mark. Removing a tomato sauce stain from the spaghetti dinner someone enjoyed on the sofa can take a different method than removing dried blood from an errant knee scrape, so identifying and treating stains quickly is key in helping maintain your furniture's fresh, clean appearance.

Step 4: How to Treat More Difficult Stains

If you have a stain that is too big or too stubborn for scrubbing by hand, you will need to try a steam cleaner designed to be used on furniture. This will also be necessary if you cannot remove your couch cushions. You can use the steam cleaner to clean the entire couch. Doing so will eliminate the possible problem of having a clean spot if the rest of the couch is getting dingy. Cleaning this way will also allow the couch to dry faster than if you saturate it with cleaner and water.

Man Doing A Deep Clean Of Sofa In Living Room

Step 5: How to Clean the Couch Cushions

Once you've tackled the stain, you'll want to give the overall cushion a good cleaning to ensure any dirt is gone. This will help give the sofa a deeper clean and eliminate everyday odors, too.

  • Add a drop or two of dish soap to a wet cloth.
  • Work it in well.
  • Wipe down the entire cushion.
  • Repeat until no dirt comes off on the cloth.
  • Use a damp cloth to rinse the cushion.

Step 6: How to Dry Couch Cushion Covers

It's pivotal to allow the cushion to completely dry before allowing anyone to sit on it. You might want to open windows or use a fan to help facilitate quicker drying. Once the area is completely dry, you can enjoy your clean couch cushions.

Cleaning Couch Cushions and Covers in a Washing Machine

If you have removable covers or smaller cushions on your couch, your life gets a whole lot easier. In this case, you can just throw them in the washer. This is one of the best ways to clean couch cushions and covers when you need a deeper clean or have stubborn stains, provided you have pieces small enough to fit in the washer or removable covers. It works wonders for helping your sofa look (and smell) fresh and new again. It's simpler than you think to get a spotless, odor-free sitting space, so don't be daunted by the idea of tossing your covers in the machine. You'll need:

Young woman doing her laundry at home
  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Stain cleaner
  • Fan, for drying

How to Machine Wash the Covers

If your fabric tag tells you that the fabric is something that can be machine washed, you can unzip the cover and remove it from the cushion.

  • Wash it on a gentle cycle in cold water with a mild detergent.
  • Make sure the cover is zipped closed before you put it in the washing machine, or you may end up with a tangled up mess.
  • Covers can be line-dried, but many people prefer to put the cover back on the cushion while it is still damp. This is because some fabrics will shrink, even when they are not put in the dryer.
  • If you allow the cover to dry on the cushion, it will mold itself to the shape of the cushion for a snug fit.
  • Be sure it is completely dry before you put the cushion back on the couch.

Some covers will require dry cleaning. Check the tag, and if it says dry clean only, this is what you need to do. You don't want to risk ruining the cover unless you are prepared to have new ones made if there is an accident.

Washing the Cushions

If the stain has seeped down into the cushion, you may need to wash it as well as the cover. This is a little trickier than washing the cover in the washing machine.

  • Once the cover is removed, you can put the cushion in your washer as well, if it is big enough. However, you must be sure that you can turn off the agitator, or your cushion may be destroyed by the washer.
  • A safer way to wash couch cushions is to put the cushion in the bathtub with regular laundry detergent or vinegar and wash it by hand.
  • Be sure you rinse it thoroughly and then set it outside in the sun to dry.
  • Depending on the size of your couch cushions, this could take a day or two, so be sure you are cleaning your couch on a day when the forecaster predicts nice weather.

You'll need specific directions on how to clean faux leather if that's what your couch is made from.

How Often to Clean Couch Cushions

Cleaning your couch cushions should be part of your normal cleaning schedule. You'll want to make sure to remove dirt by vacuuming them once a week. Couch cushions should be washed at least twice a year with minimal use. If you use your couch often, you'll want to aim for a deep cleaning every 3 months or so to give them an overall cleaning. However, you'll find that you need to clean them more often for stains. You'll want to spot clean stains on your couch cushions as soon as they happen for the best results.

Cleaning Sofa Cushions with Vacuum Cleaner in living room

Get Sofa Cushions and Covers Sparkling Clean

If you're careful, washing couch cushions is a smart option to keep your couch looking new longer. Keep in mind that when you wash the covers, they may fade a bit. It is always smart to test an inconspicuous area before using any cleaners on your couch. Once you've mastered to steps for treating stains and washing your sofa cushions and covers either by hand or machine, you'll be amazed at the difference. Once you're done, you'll be ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy your living room to the max.

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