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How to Clean Upholstery at Home

Let's talk about how to clean upholstery at home without the help of professional cleaners. This is a step by step DIY on deep cleaning couch upholstery using a small steamer and your washing machine.

How to clean upholstery

Before we get started talking about how to clean upholstery I want to first clarify that this is not about cleaning a slipcover sofa. I have another post on how to wash Ikea slipcover sofa. This post is broken down the best way to clean an upholstery couch.

You can use this technique on chairs and other fabric-covered pieces too. It works just the same.

Also, not all sofa upholstery are alike so you will need to be the judge if this works for your upholstery. I will walk through what fabrics work best for home cleaning fabric couches along with tips and tricks along the way.

How to Clean Upholstery at Home

During the holidays I gave my daughter a Bissell upholstery cleaning. The following day she was so excited to start cleaning that we tackled the project and finished it in less than one day. Here is a list of what you will need to clean your upholstered fabric sofa, chair, or anything.

  • Bissell Upholstery Steam Cleaner
  • Upholstery cleaner solution
  • Hot water
  • Clean towel
  • Washing machine and dryer
  • Laundry Detergent

We used the steam cleaner for the body of the sofa and then washed the cushion covers in her washing machine. But before you get started let's determine if your fabric is safe to clean.

Best Fabrics to Clean Upholstery at Home

To begin let's talk about fabric furniture and which type of fabric work best for this technique I am going to share with you. Polyester, rayon, and nylon don't shrink when wet and don't shrink very much in the dryer.

Fabrics that shrink are cotton, wool, linen, and silk. So if you have any of these fabrics on your sofa then make sure to use cold water and don't dry in the dryer. The only one I would not wash or steam clean is wool. Have a professional upholstery cleaning service clean your sofa if it is wool.

But most fabrics on sofa's and chairs are a blend and should be fine to wash in a washer or steam cleaner.

Okay, I want you to first determine what kind of fabric is on your sofa. Lift up the cushions and see if there is a label anywhere that tells you what the makeup of the fabric is. My daughter's fabric is a polyester blench fabric.

Polyester fabrics are great when in contact with water so I knew this was a great couch to clean. But you also need to determine if the fabric is going to bleed when washed in a washer or cleaned with the steamer.

The best way to determine if the fabric will bleed is to spot test in an inconspicuous area. Once you know if your fabric will not shrink or bleed then you are good to go.

How to Spot Clean Upholstery Fabric

Before we start with the first step let's look over the couch real good for any spots that need extra cleaning. If you see any that might need a little extra help this is a good time to address them before you do an overall cleaning.

I recommend using a spot cleaner in a spray bottle that is designed just for upholstery. Bisselle has some you can purchase. Once you have sprayed the spot let it sit and then use a clean cloth and press on the spot.

This will draw the stain and cleaning solution up into the cloth rather than spreading the stain into the fabric. A microfiber cloth works great but any kind of clean cloth will work.

How to Clean the Body of an Upholstered Sofa

The first step is to follow the cleaning code on the Bissell Cleaner and add hot water and the cleaning solution. Remember if your fabric is cotton, linen, or silk you will need to use cold water. You want to minimize shrinking as much as possible.

Begin by spraying the solution on the body of the sofa in small sections using the fabric upholstery attachment. Then let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

How to clean a couch sofa

Next extract the water with the steamer nozzle. Once you have cleaned the entire couch with the cleaning solution repeat this step with clean water. It is important to remove the soap material from the fabric. If you leave the soap in the fabric then it will attract more dirt and your sofa will get dirty faster.

How to steam clean your couch at home

How to Clean Couch Cushion Covers

This is the fun part because your cushion covers will be so clean when you are finished. If you have removable covers simply remove two or three cushion covers. The seat cushions are usually foam with dacron wrapped around them so they are easy to remove.

But the back cushions are different. Some back cushions like ours are filled with batting. If your back cushions are filled with loose batting then make sure to remove the cover and lean all the batting for each pillow cover in one neat pile.

Cleaning couch cushion covers

You don't want to mix all the batting together or you will not know how much to place back in each cushion cover.

If your back cushions have a filling that is enclosed in a case then you will have an easier time putting the batting back inside. And last if your back cushions are attached or semi-attached to your sofa body then you will need to clean them with your steam cleaner.

Simply follow the same directions as steam cleaning the body to clean the attached and semi-attached cushions.

How to Wash Couch Cushion Covers in the Washing Machine

Once you have two or three cushions covered remove first turn them wrong side out. Fill your washer with cold water and add a mild detergent. Toss your covers inside and set the washer to be delicate.

How to clean upholstery sofa

My daughter didn't have a delicate option so I place hers on Permanent Press. After the water filled and it agitated for a little I stopped the washer and soaked it for about 15 minutes.

Next, I moved the washer forward to the rinse and drain cycle and finished washing. This kept the washer from beating up the material too much. The fabric and sewing job looks pretty sturdy so I wasn't too worried but you be the judge on your cushion covers. If it looks flimsy then I would consider steaming the cushion covers too.

How to Dry Couch Cushion Covers in the Dryer

Now if your fabric is on the not shrink list then you can toss them in the dryer on low. Simply keep them turned inside out and dry them for 15 minutes on low.

How to dry upholstery fabric

Once 15 minutes is up check them to see how they are doing. If they are almost dry you can go ahead and place them back on the couch with the batting and forms inside.

It is okay that they are a little damp. In fact, I prefer to take them out before they are completely dry. This helps them keep their shape. Now start adding the batting inside the covers.

Adding batting to cushion covers
Sorry, these photos are blurry. I had to pull them from the video.

Once you have the cushion covers on the forms and the batting inside the back cushions you will need to move around the batting to make it lay pretty.

How to clean a couch

Simply kneed the cushion just like dough working the batting in the corners and smoothing it out. After you are finished place the cushion on the sofa and turn on the fan to help it dry.

Best way to clean a upholstery sofa

Guess what? You are all done cleaning your sofa. It is not hard to clean your couch but it does take time. While my daughter was cleaning the body I was cleaning the cushion covers so it did save time having two of us.


So you are probably wondering if we would do this again and the answer is yes. Now that we have the Bissell upholstery steam cleaning we can easily do this next year unless we have spots that need to be done now. Spot cleaning will be a sinch with this Bissell.

Overall we are very happy with how it turned out. It feels so much better having a clean sofa.

How to clean a sectional sofa

One thing I forgot to mention is that we used the vacuum cleaner to remove any debris from under the cushions. We didn't steam clean under there but it was a great time to pick up crumbs, pet hair, and such.

If you have pets there is a solution for the cleaner for pets smells. My daughter and her husband do have a dog and the dog has soiled certain areas of the couch where he lays on the floor next to it. The Bissell did a good job removing that stain.

And Bissell also worked great on carpet cleaning in a small area where the dog lays all the time. It worked like a charm!

I hope you have found this DIY helpful. Don't be afraid to clean your couch. It is not as hard as it seems. And if you're looking for other cleaning do-it-yourself projects try my how to clean your fridge water dispenser.

Happy Decorating!

how to clean your fabric sofa

How to Clean Upholstery at Home

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Active Time: 4 hours
Additional Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 16 hours 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Simple steps on how to clean upholstery at home without the help of professional cleaners. This is a step-by-step DIY on deep cleaning couch upholstery using a small steamer and your washing machine.


  • Upholstery cleaner solution
  • Hot water
  • Clean towel
  • Laundry Detergent


  • Bissell Upholstery Steam Cleaner
  • Washing machine and dryer


  1. First, spray any spots with a spot cleaner.
  2. Next steam clean the body of the sofa using a cleaning solution.
  3. Follow by using clean water in the steamer and steam cleaning the couch. This will remove any soap residue that will attract dirt.
  4. Now remove the couch cushions and place them in the washer. I washed 2 or 3 at a time. Make sure to turn them inside out and wash them on a delicate cycle.
  5. Next, dry them on the lowest setting but do not dry them all the way. Once they are slightly damp place them back on the couch to dry the rest of the way.


Make sure to read the blog post for tips like determining if your fabric is a good candidate to be cleaned. There are some fabrics that will shrink a great deal and not look good after washing.

Last, test a small area on the back of the sofa to make sure the fabric color is not affected. Let the spot you tested dry completely before continuing.

Did you make this project?

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