How to Remove Stains from Couch: 9 Methods for Any Material

Don’t let a spilled drink ruin your evening—learn how to save your couch!

Your couch is the centerpiece of your living room, so knowing how to remove stains from it is a valuable skill. What’s even better is that the techniques you’ll pick up for sofa stain removal also apply to cleaning carpets and other tricky fabrics around your home.

Whether your dog left muddy paw prints or a glass of red wine met an untimely demise at your last dinner party, we’ve got you covered on how to get that stain out of your couch.

Why the Rush to Remove Couch Stains?

Let’s start with the basics: why is it crucial to act fast when stains occur? The longer a stain lingers, the deeper it penetrates the fibers of your couch, making it harder to eliminate. To restore your couch to its pre-stain glory, you need to act swiftly, using the do-it-yourself methods we’re about to share.

Keep in mind that some over-the-counter or DIY stain removers can worsen stains. If you’re unsure about the material, and the stain is over a week old, it’s best to consult a professional cleaner for the right solution.

Preparing to Tackle Couch Stains

Ideally, address the stain the moment it happens. For wet stains, blot up as much liquid as you can with a dry, absorbent towel. If it’s a stain from a solid substance like mud or wax, let it dry and harden. Then, gently scrape away the excess and vacuum using a small attachment.

Before diving into stain removal, take a look at the fabric tag below your cushions or under the sofa. The fabric care tag will have one of four codes, indicating the safest cleaning method. Here’s how to interpret them:

  • W: Use water-based cleaners, such as steam, fabric cleaners, or DIY water-and-soap solutions.
  • S: This suggests dry-clean-only fabric, requiring spot-cleaning with a solvent-based cleaner. A commercial product may be necessary.
  • S/W: You can use water-based cleaners for spots and stains, but opt for dry cleaning for deeper cleans.
  • WASH: For the easiest care, these cushion and couch covers are machine-washable. Use a delicate setting and air dry.
  • X: Exercise caution with this upholstery. Only remove dried-on.

How to Remove Stains from Your Couch or Upholstery

Cleaning a couch stain may seem like a science, but you can tackle it with basic household items. While commercial cleaners are available, quick action is crucial when dealing with a stain, making these DIY solutions perfect for when you can’t rush to the store.

Dish Soap and Water

This method is great for upholstery with a “W” or “S/W” tag. Diluted dish soap works well on common food stains and mud, offering a gentle solution for spot-cleaning couches.

  1. Mix several drops of clear dish soap with a glass of cool water (avoid colored soaps with dyes).
  2. Wet a microfiber cloth and blot the stain.
  3. Blot with a dry towel to remove moisture, avoiding rubbing the stain.
  4. Let it fully dry before use.

Baking Soda

For greasy stains like spilled food (e.g., fries, sauce, butter), turn to baking soda.

  1. Sprinkle baking soda over the stain.
  2. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes to absorb the stain.
  3. Vacuum up the baking soda and repeat until the stain fades.
  4. For water-friendly couches, use soap and water to tackle the remaining stain.

Vinegar and Dish Soap

This potent combo is effective for water-friendly couches, targeting stains like coffee, tea, berries, juice, gum, and red wine.

  1. Mix three parts warm water with one part white vinegar.
  2. Dab the solution on the stain, avoiding over-soaking.
  3. Follow up with a cloth dampened with plain water once the stain fades.
  4. Finish by using a dry cloth to absorb any remaining moisture.

Ice and Cold Water

If your couch is near a table with a dripping candle, you might find yourself dealing with a stubborn wax stain. Wax can seep into the fabric, leaving a dark or greasy mark. The key to removing wax from carpets or couches is to harden and remelt it until you can safely lift it.

  1. If the wax is still melting or soft, place an ice pack wrapped in a towel over the stain to harden it. Dabbing ice water works too.
  2. Scrape off the hardened wax with a butter knife.
  3. Use dish soap, vinegar, or rubbing alcohol to tackle any remaining stain.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Before using hydrogen peroxide, do a spot test on a hidden part of your couch, as it can bleach certain colored fabrics.

  1. Mix ½ cup of dish soap with 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Apply the mixture to the stain and leave it for three minutes.
  3. Gently blot and remove the solution.

Steam Clean

If your couch can handle water, steam cleaning is an effective option. Steam cleaners use water or gentle cleaning solutions to break up and remove stains more thoroughly than manual blotting.

Follow the steamer instructions to cover the stained area, and consider refreshing the entire couch after stain removal.


Opt for vodka when dealing with stains on couches labeled “S/W” or “S.” Vodka acts as a solvent, breaking down stains and evaporating without leaving an odor. It’s excellent for removing grass, wine, or pet urine stains.

  1. Dab undiluted vodka on the stain and let it sit for several seconds.
  2. Use a new damp cloth to dab up the rest of the stain.
  3. Let the area air dry or dab with a dry cloth.

Olive Oil and Vinegar

This combo is not just for salads; it works wonders on leather couches. Olive oil breaks up greasy stains, while vinegar acts as a solvent without harming the color.

  1. Mix one part white vinegar with three parts olive oil in a container.
  2. Dab or spray the mixture onto the leather couch stain.
  3. Let it sit for several minutes.
  4. Brush it away with a damp cloth.

Dry-Cleaning Solvent

Store-bought dry-cleaning solutions are suitable only for fabrics with the “S/W” symbol on the tag. These chemicals can be harsh, so use them cautiously. Follow the instructions on the bottle, wear protective gear, and ensure proper ventilation.

Tips to Keep Your Couch Stain-Free

While preventing spills, splashes, and pet-related spots is an ideal goal, it’s not always under our control. If you want to avoid resorting to the days of plastic couch covers, consider these practical options.

  1. Upholstery Protection Sprays: Explore the variety of upholstery protection products available. These sprays create a thin barrier on certain couch materials, offering protection against potential stains from liquids.
  2. Clean Stains Quickly: Simplicity is key when it comes to sofa stain removal. Regularly check your couch while cleaning the rest of your home. Use a vacuum cleaner on the cushions and address any sticky or unusual spots immediately.
  3. Use Pet Covers: Anticipating a rainy day and expecting your dog to track in mud? Employ a preventive pet cover on your couch. This way, you can keep your pet content while maintaining a stain-free couch.
  4. DIY vs. Hiring a Pro for Stain Removal: Given the time-sensitive nature of removing stains, consider the DIY approach as a first step. However, if the stain proves stubborn or if your couch has the “X” symbol on the tag, it’s wise to contact a local upholstery cleaner.
    • DIY Method: Quick action using household remedies.
    • Professional Cleaner: Especially for persistent stains or tricky fabrics, seeking professional help is advisable.
    Upholstered couch cleaning costs typically range from $100 to $300, going up to $500 for challenging fabrics like suede. Keep in mind that these prices usually cover cleaning the entire couch, and professionals may customize contracts for specific stain removal needs.”

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