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Cosy and welcoming, a fabric sofa is a wonderful centrepiece of any living room.

Unfortunately though, as you spend more time together watching films, having a glass of wine, or eating dinner together, your sofa may start to show its age. Slips and spills are a fact of life, and for fabric sofas, this can often result in dirty marks or even stains.

But if the worst should happen, don’t panic – follow these 5 easy steps to get your fabric sofa clean and fresh again.

1. Remove all dirt and debris from the sofa

It’s important to make vacuuming a regular part of your cleaning routine - it’s the best, and simplest way to deal with crumbs, dust and spills. You can either use a handheld vacuum cleaner, the hose or the upholstery attachment on your full sized vacuum cleaner for this. With the right attachments, you can get into all the crevices and valleys of your sofa.

Vacuum all the surfaces of the cushions, and if possible, remove them and also vacuum the base of the sofa. If you have pets and really want to ensure you remove as much hair as possible, going over your sofa with a lint roller afterwards is a good idea.

Meanwhile, if there are bits of dust or caked-in debris that’s clinging on, you can dislodge them with a coarse bristle brush. Rub in circular motions to lift any visible dirt or stains. Start gently, getting more vigorous if needed.

2. Don’t forget the legs

Make sure to clean any non-fabric sections too, including the legs. If they're wood or metal, wipe it down with a soft, lint-free cloth and a gentle solution of diluted soap and water to get a soft shine.

3. Check your sofa’s care label

This step is incredibly important! Most sofas will come with a label attached to your cushions telling you what can be used to clean the fabric. Here’s how to decipher it:

  • W: You can use water (or water-based products)
  • S: Only water-free, solvent-based cleaners can be used
  • SW or WS: You can go with either water or a solvent cleaner
  • X: Only vacuuming or brushing, no water

4. Start spot cleaning your sofa

 Modern living room with grey fabric sofa, dark blue armchair, white cushions and feature wall
Furniture Choice - Fabric Sofas

Once you’ve established what can be used for your fabric sofa, get your tools ready. If you can only use solvent-based cleaners, you will have to purchase one and follow the instructions indicated on the bottle. Otherwise, if you can use water, you can DIY this! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Distilled water
  • Soft lint-free or microfibre cloths
  • Dishwashing liquid or Castile soap
  • White vinegar
  • A bucket

In the bucket, mix roughly 1 cup of distilled water (preferably warm), 1 tablespoon of either dishwashing liquid or Castile soap, and up to ¼ cup of vinegar. Remember to always test this out on a discreet, unseen spot on your sofa first to check the fabric is safe to clean. Once that’s done, dampen a microfibre cloth with this cleaning solution and gently blot or scrub any stained areas on your sofa.

After that, moisten another microfibre cloth with distilled water and use this to remove the soap, rinsing regularly. Finally, use a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture from the area while gently rubbing. While it may be tempting to scrub away at visible stains, it’s important to be gentle, or you risk damaging the fibres of your sofa.

Meanwhile, if the tag says X and you have a serious stain, hiring a professional to clean your sofa is the best option.

5. Dry the sofa thoroughly

Carefully towel dry your sofa after you’ve cleaned it, and leave it to air dry overnight. If you think it might need a little helping along, open the window or point a fan at the area to encourage it to dry completely.

Bonus tips:

If you have a handheld garment steamer or a steam iron, they may be useful tools to kill off any dust mites on the surface of your sofa - though again, do check on a discreet spot to see if the fabric can handle the heat.

You may also be wondering how to clean your fabric sofa naturally - white vinegar can be a great cleaner, and baking soda can also be a good deodoriser. Just spread a thin layer on the surface of your sofa, leave it for 15-20 minutes and then vacuum it up.

For a finishing touch, you can use a fabric sanitising spray to get rid of any germs (and smells!) that may have stuck around.

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