How to Clean a Fabric Sofa and Maintain Furniture

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A frequent question I get from my Instagram followers is how to clean a fabric sofa and how I care for and maintain my upholstered furniture in general. I have fabric dining chairs, cushioned counter stools, two velvet sofas, and boucle armchairs on my main level. But I apply the same care and maintenance to any other fabrics in my home such as linen drapes or upholstered beds.

person demonstrating how to clean a fabric sofa with bissell little green machine

White velvet sofa | Hand-knotted rug | Bissell Little Green Machine

How to clean a fabric sofa

Furniture is a big purchase for your home. Shopping can be overwhelming with all the styles and fabric options available these days. You’ll likely spend lots of time scouring your favorite websites for armchairs or researching sofa reviews until you find just the right pieces. I always wanted a white sofa, even with babies and toddlers, despite the extra care I knew it would require. Since no fabric is immune to wear and tear, especially white fabric, I knew prevention was the key to keeping it in great shape. My kids learned early on to remove their shoes when they come home and to only take dry snacks into the living room. It’s much easier to vacuum up a few crumbs than it is to clean yogurt off the cushion cover.

Scotchgard, bissell little green machine, Dyson handheld vacuum

Dyson vacuum | Bissell Little Green Machine | Lint brush | Fabric shaver | Scotchgard


Applied as a measure to protect from future spills, Scotchgard repels liquid and helps prevent stains from setting. It creates a barrier that keeps liquids from seeping into the fibers and buys you some time to grab your cleaning supplies. Scotchgard is highly recommended for furniture with naturally absorbent fibers, like cotton or linen. Spray it on areas most at risk for getting dirty or the entire piece! This is something you can easily do yourself. However, cleaning companies often have professional services that come to your home to pre-treat furniture for you. Either way, it does wear off with use so you’ll need to reapply periodically to maintain the protective barrier.

scotchgard to protect fabric upholstery chair or sofa

Fabric armchair | Scotchgard

Lint brush

Do you have pets or live with someone that sheds a lot? If you want to know how to clean a fabric sofa, this tool is for you! Having a lint brush handy makes dust and hair cleanup a breeze. It is small, easy to store, doesn’t require batteries, and you don’t have to plug it in. I use mine on upholstered beds, clothing, rugs, and even in my car. Honestly, as far as cleaning goes it’s kind of fun and satisfying to use. It’s incredible how much stuff it pulls up!

Frequent vacuuming is also important to maintain your furniture. Fabric surfaces get dusty and crumbs collect in between cushions so be sure to get all the nooks and crannies. You shouldn’t be able to lift a sofa cushion and see evidence of everyone’s favorite snacks. Get out the vacuum and get rid of the cracker crumbs and popcorn!

Fluffing cushions

Speaking of lifting cushions, another quick and easy way to keep your furniture looking fresh is to fluff and rotate them on a regular basis. Especially if you or your family members tend to sit in the same spot all the time. Or worse, you have someone that sits on and crushes the backrest cushions (why, just why?!?). If they are removable; pull them off, grab the edges, and shake them out for a few seconds. Spin it around and repeat until you’ve done every side. Flipping cushions helps keep their shape and prevents down feathers or alternative filling from being pushed to the edges. No one likes a lumpy sofa!

Fabric shaver

Besides the size and shape of your sofa, another important thing to consider is the fabric. While searching for the perfect kid-proof or pet-proof material, many are drawn to the promises of durability and stain-resistance of performance fabrics. They are a blend of synthetic materials with inherent moisture-resistant properties or treated with a solution to create the same effect. Pilling can occur on almost any fabric surface, but the course fibers of performance fabrics tend to hold on to those stubborn little lint balls more than natural fibers.

Using an enzyme-based detergent helps to smooth the fibers and can help reduce pilling. But, the only way to get rid of them is to use a fabric shaver. This little handheld device uses a rotating blade that removes fuzz and pills without damaging the fabric. Simply glide over the affected area in a circular motion and watch them disappear. Fabric shavers are also great to use on delicate fabrics in your closet. Make your favorite sweaters look new again!

Upholstery cleaning machine

You’ve learned to pre-treat, vacuum, fluff, rotate, brush, and shave your sofa and it’s looking great! But what happens when you notice dirty handprints on the arm of the couch? Or your new pup jumps on your white chair right after a muddy walk? Better yet, you’ve hosted an amazing party and your guests left behind evidence of the great time they had on account of your brilliant sense of humor! These are likely the kinds of things a little brushing or vacuuming won’t fix.

compact size of bissell little green machine on floor next to white sofa

Bissell Little Green Upholstery Cleaner

Sometimes a quick rinse and blotting will work. However, you’ll need a little help if you’re wondering how to clean a fabric sofa with a large stain. Before using a cleaning solution on your furniture, consider the type of fabric, what caused the stain, and any care instructions provided by the manufacturer. If your cushion covers are removable you can easily treat the stain and then throw them in the wash or dry clean. Unless you have a fully slip-covered sofa, the fabric on the frame is not likely removable. This is when an upholstery cleaning machine comes in handy.

The Bissell Little Green Machine is compact, portable, and extremely versatile. It can be used on your furniture as well as carpets and car interiors. I highly recommend doing a little spot test with the solution you’re going to use which will be added to the clean water tank. Use the hose and attachment to spray the solution onto the stain, gently brush the surface you want to clean, then vacuum up the water. I promise you’ll be amazed (and maybe a little disgusted) at the amount of dirt that gets pulled up by this machine. Once it fully dries, your sofa will look like new!

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