How to clean sofa cushions - make them look new without using any nasty chemicals in the process

It couldn’t be simpler

blue living room with blue sofa
(Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain)

While your sofa is the perfect place for sitting, most people also use this snuggle spot to eat, drink, and give their dogs their favourite belly rubs. Because of this, you’ll want to know how to clean sofa cushions. 

Yes, although the best sofas come in so many different forms, no sofa cushion is safe from the inevitable chocolate stain or ever-growing hairball. And while we all know how to clean a sofa, the sofa cushions themselves need a little more attention if you want to avoid discolouration or staining. 

So, how do you clean sofa cushions? You’ll be happy to know that it’s easier than you think, and you only need a few tools and products that we’re sure you already have in the cupboard. 

How to clean sofa cushions 

‘Over time, build-up of dirt and stains can diminish the colour and freshness of your sofa, meaning they require a deeper clean,’ explains Atit Chopra, Product Development Director at Beldray. And if you want to give your sofa a refresh, you just need to follow these easy steps. 

What you’ll need


1. Give them a vacuum

The first step to clean and crumb-free sofa cushions is to vacuum them. So, grab one of the best vacuum cleaners (or one of the best handheld vacuum cleaners, if you prefer) and give it a little once-over. 

Dani Burroughs, Head of Product for Snug, explains, ‘First, start with a quick vacuum to gather any build-up of dust. This is an important one to keep on top of, as this can lead to the colour dulling over time.’

This will also remove any large crumbs, hair, dead skin cells, or debris from the fabric before you move on to the next step. If you can, use the upholstery brush attachment for this job to get deep into the fibres.

The Small Biggie 3 Seater Sofa in Fuzzy White Boucle

(Image credit: Snug)

2. Spot-clean any stains

When you’ve removed the larger pieces of debris, it’s time to focus on any stains you’ve been trying to avoid for the past few weeks. 

Thankfully, this method can be used on any type of sofa, whether it’s a fabric sofa, a leather sofa, or a velvet sofa. And all you need to do is create a solution of mild laundry detergent and water.

Although you can pop this mixture into a spray bottle and spritz it onto the fabric, the easiest way to target these stains is to dip a microfibre cloth into the solution and dab at them directly. You just need to make sure that you don’t saturate the material too much. 

Of course, there are specific sofa cushion cleaners out there - but you should proceed with caution when using any chemical cleaners. Dani says, ‘If you’re using a specialist cleaning product, make sure to do a sneaky patch test in a hidden area first to avoid marking or staining.'

For certain sofas, such as leather sofas and velvet sofas, these two steps should be enough to clean the cushions. However, you may want to add a specialist leather cleaner into the mix for that extra shine. 

But if you have a fabric sofa that needs a bit more attention, move on to the next step.

Open living room with white walls, grey stone floor, off-white corner sofas, wooden panel, brick fireplace, and colourful decorative accents A renovated Victorian four bedroomed farmhouse in Ottery St Mary, Devon, home of Emma and Hendrick Jaulin

(Image credit: Future PLC/Photoworld Ltd)

3. Pop the covers in the washing machine (if you can)

If you want to give your sofa cushions a deeper clean, check the label to see whether the covers are machine-washable. If they are, give them a spin!

Elliott Gee, Laundry Product Manager for Haier Smart Home UK & Ireland, suggests, ‘Use a delicate and cold-water cycle for cushion covers as they are typically fragile, and by doing a cold and delicate cycle you prevent damage, tears, shrinking, and stripping of the colour.’

‘Ensure they’re zipped up to prevent the zips from getting pulled out of shape. And as cushion covers are likely going to be in a lot of contact with your skin, it is recommended to use a mild or sensitive detergent.’

Then, you should let the cushions covers air dry and put them back on your cushions when they are still slightly damp (but not wet). This should ensure a smooth, tight fit. 

4. If not, give them a steam

If your cushion covers can’t be washed in the washing machine, don’t worry. You can use one of the best steam cleaners to clean them instead - and you don't even have to remove the covers to do this. 

This is something that Lynsey Crombie, AKA @lynsey_queenofclean, swears by. She says, ‘I steam clean mine with a handheld steamer. What steam will do is it will refresh it. It will kill any germs and bacteria that are in the sofa. And if there are any stains on there, it will help the stain lift.’

If you don’t have a steam cleaner, you could also use one of the best steam irons in a similar way. Just make sure that you don’t get too close to the fabric with the hot soleplate. 

blue living room with blue velvet sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole)

5. Vacuum once more

For best results, vacuum your sofa cushions once more to ensure that you’ve picked up any leftover crumbs or dirt that the steam cleaner pulled out.

Then, if you want to really freshen your sofa up and eliminate any lingering odours, you could also utilise the baking soda sofa cleaning hack. Simply sprinkle some baking powder onto the cushions, let it sit for around 30 minutes, and then vacuum it up. 

6. Take care of them

Although it’s incredibly easy to clean sofa cushions, you probably don’t want to give these things a deep clean every few weeks. So, you need to take care of them.

Caron Grant, Brand Manager at Bridgman, says, ‘Aside from cleaning the upholstery, maintaining general care will keep your sofa looking its best for as long as possible.’ 

‘We also recommend regularly rotating, moving, plumping and smoothing your sofa's seat and backrest cushions to extend their durability and ensure they look their best for years to come.’

Not only that, but experts also suggest vacuuming them at least once a week (if not more) to reduce the dust and dirt build-up that can lead to discolouration. 

dog asleep in a living room in front of a coffee table and colourful sofa with a TV on a unit behind

(Image credit: Future/Dominic Blackmore)


How do you clean couch cushions without washing them?

Vacuuming your sofa is the first step. This way, you can suck up any larger pieces of dust, debris, or crumbs. 

When you’ve done this, you can spot-clean any stains with a mixture of water and laundry detergent, and then use a steam cleaner to kill off any germs and lift up any remaining dirt. 

Finish by vacuuming the sofa cushions once more.

Can I put my sofa cushions in the washing machine?

Although you can put some sofa cushions in the washing machine, it’s best to check the manufacturer’s label before doing so. If it can be washed in the washing machine, it will tell you.

If not, look out for the following to gauge the exact cleaning requirements:

  • W: Use a water-based cleaner.
  • S or P: Clean with solvents (dry-clean only).
  • SW or WS: Use a water-based detergent or solvent cleaner, or you could also use a steam cleaner.
  • X: Don’t use any water or detergent on the surface. Get it professionally cleaned instead.

Cleaning sofa cushions is simpler than you thought, right?

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.