How to easily remove upholstery and sofa stains

How to easily remove upholstery and sofa stains

Sofa stains and spillages are inevitable. Especially if you live in a household with pets or children. If you've ever purchased a comfy couch plush microfiber armchair then your worst nightmare is surely a spilt glass or red wine, or a pet stain on your newly purchased upholstery. Especially considering that you’ve invested the time and effort in researching prices, and considering an array of different fabrics, styles, and layouts. Furthermore, you’ve taken the plunge on a great piece of furniture that accents your room perfectly, and you’ll inevitably take pride in its appearance.

So, what happens when your new piece is the unsuspecting victim of a spill, or an accident that leaves an unsightly stain front row centre? There are a hundred and one ways to clean a stain from your sofa, and everyone has a special way to do so, inspired perhaps by a family recipe for stain-removing household concoctions. Some of them work well, while others simply don’t - but we’ve compiled a few tips and tricks on how to best go about removing stains from your sofa and upholstery.


Tested and true cleaning solutions aside, there are a couple surefire ways of removing stains from just about any piece of furniture, clothing, etc. All stain removal processes follow a certain methodology, and revolve around the same basic principles.

First comes control. With sofa stains, the first step is to blot up any excess liquid, sauce, ink, or other semi-solid spills on your sofa. Removing the spillage will ensure that things can’t become any worse than they already are. When you’ve done that, you’ve controlled a tiny portion of what you’re up against.

Next is knowing full well what you can and can’t use to remove sofa and upholstery stains. Most furniture makers will include an upholstery care tag somewhere on their products, so you can know ahead of time if the piece is truly washable. If you neglect to check in and find what’s going to make matters worse, you run the risk of making a bigger mess of your sofa. As a tip, when you’re shopping for new furniture, ask about and be sure that you’re aware of where this tag is located. Ask about how best to tackle cleaning your new piece. The same thing goes for old couches - if you’re expecting a little one in the household for an afternoon visit with family and friends, check ahead of time if you anticipate a spill. Prevention is better than cure, as they say.

If you can, remove the cushion slipcover. This will prevent the stain from penetrating down into other parts of the furniture. Then comes tackling the stain itself with any number of cleaning solutions. We heavily recommend using all-natural cleaning solutions because of their tough, yet accommodating effect. Harsh chemical cleaners can discolour and even damage certain types of leathers and upholstery with harmful cleaning agents. A natural solution will limit that possibility without weakening your chances of getting the stain out.


The material itself consists of synthetic polyester-based fibers that are extremely thin so they can be made to look like suede or even leather. Its affordability and durability often makes microfiber sofas a big hit for families with little ones, people with indoor pets, and spill-prone people in general. However, while they’re tough in scope, microfiber upholstery is certainly not immune to spills and stains.

Microfiber cannot, for the most part, be tackled with good old soap and water. If you try to clean a stain from a microfiber material with dish soap and hot water, you run the risk of leaving water rings and making the stain look worse than when you started. Further, microfiber is relatively water-resistant, so water just doesn’t have the punch needed to lift and remove stains.

Again, consult the cleaning tag of your microfiber sofa before tackling a stain - but as a rule, most will recommend using a solvent-based detergent or cleaner.

What kind of solvent? Microfiber, like all polyesters respond well to rubbing alcohol as a cleaner, or other clear alcohols like vodka. Spray on some rubbing alcohol, and blot away any excess spill. Alcohol will help to lift the stain and remove it. Then there’s the issue of hard fibers being left where the alcohol made contact. Use a soft brush or clean cloth to scrub and fluff the fibers back to their original soft touch.


Leather is an organic material, and quite porous in scope. While it’s durable and adds a touch of sophistication to any room, leather can be ruined by harsh chemical cleaners like bleach and ammonia-based solvents. If you have a leather sofas stain, you can either make their own gentle yet effective cleaners at home, or purchase specific leather-friendly cleaners - but again, consult the cleaning tag for manufacturers recommendations.

When beginning to clean a stain from your leather sofa, try vacuuming the entire area first. Leather offers a great surface that doesn’t allow liquids to quickly absorb into the cushions themselves. However, dust and dirt can be rubbed into the leather grain causing abrasions and damage to the surface.

A good household cleaner for leather is a simple mixture of white vinegar and water. A citrus based solvent can also yield good results. As well, a natural, moisturizing soap and some warm water can provide good results. The moisturizing aspect is to prevent the leather from drying out - it is an organic material, after all.

For conditioning your leather to protect it from future stains and other damage, one part vinegar with two parts linseed oil or flaxseed oil provides a great barrier. Apply this mixture in tight circles all over the leather surface and leave to sit overnight. The leather will absorb a portion of this mixture, and the excess can be wiped away and buffed the following morning with a clean rag. 

Aerosol hairspray can make short work of permanent marker stains on leather sofas, and mold and mildew can be removed with equal parts warm water and rubbing alcohol. Dark coloured stains like red wine or fruit juice can be removed using lemon juice and cream of tartar. Leave this on the stain for a good 10 minutes before wiping away with a damp sponge. Grease stains on leather can be taken care of by sprinkling baking soda on the affected area, which absorbs oils and leaves the sofa clean.


Basic upholstered fabric sofas can benefit from steaming to begin the cleaning process. Steaming the fabric loosens stains and makes them more responsive to treatment. If you don’t have a steam cleaner, a clothing iron’s steam function can work well - but be careful not to burn your fabric. A little dish soap and warm water goes a long way when cleaning most fabrics that are cotton or wool-based. Always remove the cushion covers and blot out some of your soap solution.

All solvents should be tested in smaller sections of your furniture to make sure they do not discolour or remove dye from coloured fabric. Finally, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again - steam, soap and water, repeat. See our guide on spot removing of wine stains from fabric for more info.


Still not sure how to go about sofa stain removal? Or you simply don't want to risk damaging your expensive furniture? Well fear not, there is one more thing you can do...

Book a professional, all-natural steam cleaning.

At AspenClean, we offer a deep steam-cleaning service for all types of upholstery, as well as carpets and area rugs. Let our skilled technicians take care of your sofa stains, and relax in the knowledge that your upholstery items will be as good as new.

Finally, our range of all-natural cleaners provide the perfect solution to all your natural house cleaning needs. In particular, the AspenClean All-in-One Concentrate solution can be diluted with warm water for a safe yet effective clean of your sofas, armchairs and carpets.

Book an upholstery cleaning


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