Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

How to Clean Couch Cushions Without a Washing Machine

Adriana Aziz
August 11, 2022
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Everything in your home needs a good cleaning once in a while. This includes the couch on which you, other household members, and guests spend much of their time. In fact, sofa cushions bear so much "traffic" that they tend to wear out rather quickly if not taken care of in a timely manner.

Flipping your couch cushions over every couple of weeks is a good habit to practice to prevent excessive wear overtime while also ensuring that the cushioning retains its shape. Additionally, vacuuming cushions with an upholstery brush is advised on a weekly or bi-weekly basis as buildup of dust and dirt can lead to couch stains, and cause foul odours to develop in the material. That being said, flipping over a cushion and vacuuming isn't going to get rid of all the dirt, stains, or smells; they can only help even out the wear and alleviate staining. Further cleaning measures are necessary to keep your couch cushions clean and in shape.

How Often Should You Clean Couch Cushions?

light brown upholstered couch with a caption answering on how often you should clean your couch

A good guideline on how often to clean your couch is to do it a minimum of twice a year, and upto four times a year if the couch is used often. Having removable covers makes this easier, but you may have to spot-clean the couch if it's non-removable.

Regardless of this, it's best to check the tag on the cushions to ensure what kind of cleaning treatment can be applied to that particular material. Each couch cushion material and stuffing have specific codes to indicate how you can clean them. This way, you don't run the risk of accidentally damaging the couch with moisture or harsh cleaning agents and the likes.

Couch Cushion Cleaning Codes

an illustration depicting different couch cushion cleaning codes and their meanings

Code S

Code S recommends that the product be dry-cleaned. The "S" here stands for solvent which means the use of water will cause damage like shrinkage or further staining. Using a mild, water-free solvent or dry cleaning product is the best way to handle these types of materials.

Code W

Code W is the opposite of Code S; water-based cleaning isn't a problem here. Suds from the solutions of mild detergents or non-solvent upholstery shampoo would work well to get the job done.

Code WS

Code WS implies that both water-based and solvent cleaning agents can be used. The key is to ensure not to saturate any spots or stains.

Code X

Code X means it shouldn't be cleaned with any liquid or foam based cleaners. The best approach is to lightly brush the surface of the material with a non-metallic, stiff brush, and vacuum lightly thereafter.

Code WASH

If you see the code blatantly stating "wash", then you may machine-wash the item. 

WARNING: Use cold or lukewarm water for all of these processes as hot water could damage the product.

Things to Keep in Mind When Cleaning Couch Cushions

man cleaning grey couch cushions with a cordless vacuum and couch cleaning attachment

  • Whatever the process is for cleaning your couch, remember it is generally a good idea to let your upholstery air-dry since dryers can cause shrinkage and ruin the material, too.
  • Any spill or staining that has just occurred should be dealt with immediately. Using a microfiber cloth, dab over the spillage to prevent it from getting into the cushion fibers. Remember not to scrub or press too hard as that will worsen the problem.
  • Always remember to spot-test cleaning products or solutions on a concealed area of the fabric to check if the colours bleed. It is advisable to use a white cloth to test the cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area before proceeding with the entire cleaning process.
  • If your couch is upholstered with leather, the safest bet is to get a professional cleaning service to handle the job. Professional dry cleaners will be careful with your product and get better results; however, if you are doing a routine clean, you can use a commercial leather cleaner or a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water to wipe down the fabric with a soft white cloth.

Step-by-Step Guide to Clean Couch Cushions

professional cleaner using vacuum with upholstery attachment to clean purple couch cushions

With the crucial information above firmly in mind, we can finally get to the instructions on how to clean couch cushions without a washing machine. It should be noted that steam cleaning cushions is typically a preferred and safe cleaning method to go with, however, if you don’t have a steam machine, you can use the steps below to clean your couch cushions by hand.

Step 1: Vacuum or Beat

Begin by vacuuming the cushion on both sides using an appropriate brush tool. Pay close attention to the seams and corners to remove fur, dust, and other fine debris. Alternatively, you can take the cushions outside and use a carpet beater on them to disperse dust from the stuffing and outer material.

NOTE: Always wear a face mask when beating cushions with a carpet beater

Step 2: Make the Cleaning Solution

For fabrics, the best homemade solution to clean couch cushions contains 4 parts water and 1 part mild liquid dish soap. Whisk the water to get a thick, foamy consistency or as many suds as possible.

Step 3: Apply the Cleaner to the Cushion

Use a clean sponge to scoop up the foam/suds, and apply it to the cushion. Be sure to wring out excess water from the sponge if you end up dipping it in the liquid part of the cleaning solution as you do not want to saturate the material. Wipe the entire cushion from one end to another against the nap. This will help remove debris that is trapped within the fibres.

Rinse the sponge when needed and give the cushion a once-over by working in the opposite direction (with the nap). 

Step 4: Rinse Off the Cleaner

To remove the cleaning solution applied to the cushions, all you need to do is dampen a clean sponge or microfibre cloth, and wipe over the material. Again, do with this twice; once against the nap, and once with the nap to effectively remove traces of detergent. 

Step 5: Allow the Cushions to Air-Dry

Air-drying is recommended over the use of high-heat, however, there are a few things you can do to help the cushions dry faster such as:

  • Placing them outside in a shaded spot 
  • Leaving them under a high-speed ceiling fan overnight
  • Using a hairdryer on medium heat 

How ever you choose to dry your cleaned couch cushions, it is important to ensure that the material and stuffing is completely dry before placing them back on your couch. Remember, prolonged dampness can lead to mould growth and other fungus on your couch.

How to Remove Stains from Couch Cushions

blonde woman cleaning brown couch cushions with a green microfibre cloth

When a spill or stain penetrates the cover and makes its way to the cushion material, it will require spot-treatment to effectively remove. Fortunately, we’ve got a great solution to get stains out of couch cushions. Read on.

What You’ll Need

Whether the fabric can withstand bleach cleaners or not will dictate what type of cleaning agents you can use. Based on that, here is what you will need:

  • Paper towels
  • Bleach (if recommended)
  • Mild enzyme detergent like dishwashing liquid
  • Lukewarm water
  • Spray bottle
  • Sponge or soft bristle brush

Now, here are the steps to follow to remove stains from your couch cushions:

  • If wet, dab the spill with paper towels to absorb as much liquid as possible.
  • In a spray bottle, make a solution of 1/4th teaspoon dishwashing liquid in 1 cup lukewarm water. 
  • Mist-spray the solution over the spill/stain just enough to dampen it.
  • With a soft sponge or soft bristle brush, blot the solution into the stain without being too harsh or scrubbing it in as that will do more harm than good. The goal is to work the solution into the material.
  • Lightly rinse the area after the solution has been worked in using a clean, damp cloth.
  • Finish off by blotting the area with paper towels to soak up excess moisture.
  • Let the fabric air-dry and repeat the steps if needed.

If you are using a bleach cleaner, the only difference here is that you should use a ratio of 1 cup of bleach, and 1/4 cup of mild soap per gallon of water (for your spray).

NOTE: You want to frequently rinse the sponge or brush you are using to spot-treat the couch stain, and make sure that you're working the stain inwards to prevent it from spreading.

If you notice any residual smell from the fabric, put some baking soda over the spot and allow it to sit for approximately 20 minutes. Then, remove the baking soda with a vacuum cleaner and finally, to make sure you don't have to clean your couch cushions too often, we highly recommend using a stain guard spray to protect your upholstery.

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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