How to Clean a Fabric Sofa – Our Professional Guide on How to Clean any Type of Upholstery -

We lay on our sofas & armchairs most evenings, eating & drinking, often snuggled up to our pets – it’s no wonder they need a regular deep clean.

Food & drink spillages, kids accidents and pet odours from wet fur, grease, amongst everything else, can be cleaned safely and easily using a carpet cleaner machine & the correct solutions.

Follow our guide on how to clean your fabric sofas, armchairs and upholstery for best, professional cleaning results.

Our Key Takeaways from this blog post if you’re after a quick read are:

  • Always check that the fabric is suitable for machine cleaning with water
  • Use a Pre-Spray to cut through oils and grease - Dirtbusters Pre Spray No.1 is our Pre Spray Solution for upholstery
  • Choose a low pH solution such as Clean & Deodorise
  • Use the machine’s upholstery/hand tools to make cleaning easier & more effective
  • Choose a pet specific solution for pet odours
  • If you’re concerned about browning, yellowing or colour running use an acidic Citrus Rinse
  • Don’t over-wet the sofa
  • If you’re ever in any doubt about cleaning safely yourself, contact a professional carpet/upholstery cleaner to do the job for you

How to Know if You Can Clean Your Upholstery

The most important first step before any cleaning is making sure that the sofa or armchair is suitable for cleaning. There are two things to consider:

1.Is the fabric suitable for machine cleaning with water? Fabrics that definitely cannot be cleaned with water include; velvet, cotton velvets & Rayon (wood pulp). But you should check the label on the upholstery, or the manufacturers guidance.

2.Is the whole upholstery material, including piping, colourfast?

This information should also be on the label, usually located on the back of the sofa, or under the manufacturers guidelines and information. If you’re unsure, contact a professional carpet cleaner to give you guidance/clean the sofa for you.

Once you know these two points, you’re ready to think about the next steps.

Safety Tips for Upholstery Cleaning

Before you choose the products for cleaning your sofa & armchairs, you should know the do’s and don’ts! Get the most out of upholstery machine cleaning & reduce mistakes by considering the following points:

1.Choose a low pH solution – Our carpet shampoo solutions (Clean & Deodorise, Clean & Protect, Pet Carpet Cleaner & Odour & Urine Neutraliser) are all low pH formulas suitable for cleaning upholstery, carpets & rugs. Or use an acidic pH solution, such as Citrus Acidic Rinse, to prevent colour bleeding. 

2.Choose the right solution for your needs – We have a formula that suits different cleaning needs, choose one of the solutions from the guidance in the next section below.

3.Don’t over-wet the fabric – Going over each area too many times, causes more harm than good. Making the upholstery too wet can create a bad smell as the fabric takes too long to dry, bringing up smells from deep within the cushions. It can also damage the fibres and take a long time to dry and we know you’ll want to get back to relaxing after the clean ASAP! Go over each section once, maximum twice to avoid over-wetting. 

4.Use a Pre-Spray – Pre Spray solutions break down grease, oils & stains ready for upholstery shampoo cleaning. No matter your reason for cleaning the sofa or chair, there will be oils from hair, grease from food and stains that require a little extra help, so we always advise using a Pre-Spray.

Now that you have these points in mind, lets get onto choosing the right carpet cleaning shampoo solution for you.

Which Upholstery Cleaning Product Should you Choose?

We have a solution for many different needs so making sure you choose the right one for your sofa is important to get the best possible results. Here’s some options to choose from to make your decision easier.

1.Which Pre Spray Should You Use? We recommend using Pre Spray No.1 for all upholstery materials. This Pre Spray is gentle enough to use on upholstery. Using a Pre Spray before the carpet shampoo will cut through grease, oils, smells and breakdown stains so that cleaning with an upholstery shampoo is even easier and more effective. We always recommend using a Pre Spray for best results.

2.Do you have pets? If you have dogs or other pets that love to cuddle up on the sofa, you’ll want to use a pet specific product that has extra deodorisers to tackle smells, odours and cut through fur oils that cause smells. Pet Carpet Cleaner has a reactivating odour treatment that keeps on working after cleaning.

Dog on Sofa Cleaning with Dirtbusters Upholstery Shampoo

3.Do you have a white sofa or are you worried about colour bleeding? A fail safe solution to avoid any browning, yellowing or colour running is Citrus Rinse. This carpet cleaner shampoo prevents any colour changes to the fabric due to its acidic formula. It’s safe to use on upholstery so using this to get rid of, or prevent, brown & yellow colouring, is a great choice.

4.Is there Urine & Odour in the fabric? For strong urine & other odours, including cat urine, you can treat with Odour & Urine Neutraliser. This is a carpet & upholstery shampoo that tackles strong odours at the root and keeps them at bay. It has some cleaning properties, but its main function is to deodorise. If you want to clean as you treat strong odours, add a capful or two of Odour & Urine Neutraliser to your chosen carpet shampoo in your machine. 

5.Do you want to protect from future stains and dirt for easier cleaning? 

If you would like to add a protection treatment to upholstery to make future cleaning easier, use Clean & Protect. This product cleans, deodorises and stain removes whilst leaving a protection treatment on the fibres. It leaves upholstery Citrus Fresh. A great option for clean and protecting in homes with children, where mess and spillages happen often! 

Now that you’ve chosen the right solution for you, lets breakdown the cleaning steps.

Steps to Cleaning Upholstery Sofas & Armchairs

No matter what products you have chosen, you can follow this step-by-step guide to achieve the best sofa clean.

1.Hoover the sofa or armchair – Get rid of all of the crumbs, dog & cat hairs

2.Dilute your chosen upholstery shampoo into your carpet cleaning machine – Most of our carpet shampoos have the same dilution rate for use in a machine. Follow these dilutions on the back of the bottle as instructed, there’s no need to add more! If you’re using Odour & Urine Neutraliser along with a shampoo for deep cleaning of bad odours, add a capful into the solution tank as well. Put the machine to one side, we’re not ready to use it just yet!

3.Spray on your Pre Spray pre-treatment solution – Dilute your Pre Spray into a spray bottle according to the instructions on the back of the bottle. Spray all over the sofa and agitate gently with an upholstery brush or other soft brush. Do not leave the Pre Spray solution to dry before the next step as this will make it ineffective.

4.Use your carpet cleaning machine to deep clean the fabric – If you have upholstery or hand tools on your carpet cleaning upholstery machine, you can use them for easier cleaning. Go over each area just once, maximum twice.

5.Leave everything to air dry completely, before laying back on your sofa & relaxing!


If you need any further help or have any questions for us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch

Carpet & upholstery