Saturday, May 11, 2013

How To Clean A Microfiber Couch (or Sofa)

micro fiber couch

Welcome to another edition of “Save My Sanity Saturday”! :-) I hope you will enjoy this oldie, but goodie!

I have received SO many requests/questions about how to clean microfiber couches that I’ve begun to feel a little guilty that I haven’t posted anything about this. Problem is….I don’t HAVE a microfiber couch…and I REALLY prefer to try stuff out before I pass it on to you.

But today I’m going to make an exception because I found this post by Robin at Chris and Robin’s Nest and after reading ALL 421 COMMENTS I think I have a PRETTY good handle on this problem. At least good enough to get you started and then link you up to Robin’s original post for the “How-To”.

First off…here is a little background to help you understand WHY cleaning microfiber couches is such a dilemma/pain/mystery in the first place!

Microfiber is fiber with very thin strands, that can be made to look like suede or leather, which makes it an attractive fabric for sofas and couches. Also, because microfiber is durable and repels water, it is well suited for furniture. However, furniture manufacturers and salespeople would like you to believe that they are impervious to stains and pretty much indestructible. This is NOT true! 

Just ask Robin of Chris and Robin’s Nest!  While she is very happy overall with the microfiber couch she bought  6 years ago…her pooch Calvin likes to use it as his “personal napkin”, wiping drool all over the front of the seat cushions.  (Naughty doggie!)

Photo from Chris and Robin’s Nest

The tricky thing about cleaning microfiber sofas and couches is that on MOST of them (not all), you CAN’T use soap and water to clean it or you will end up with water rings that in most cases look worse than BEFORE you cleaned it! (Or so I’ve read.)


Ever wondered what the difference between a “sofa” and a “couch” is? Well, I really hadn’t until tonight! But as I pondered what term to use in the title of this post…I figured I better at least know what I’m referring to! So, for those of you who wonder about such things (as I do) here is today’s installment of “learn something new everyday”…completely free of charge! ;-) 

        • Couches generally feature one arm or no arm at all and a tapered back.
        • Sofas are known to feature two arms and a uniform back.

However, in North America when you hear either word…most people will envision the same thing. And there you have it……mystery solved. Back to the original post……

So, before you clean, you will need to determine which type of microfiber furniture you have. You should have a tag on the furniture that has one of the following codes on it:

  • W means you must use water based cleaning solution.
  • S means you must use a “solvent” based cleaner
  • S-W means you can use S or W type cleaners
  • X means you can vacuum only (so, no water or solvent based cleaning solutions).

If you are lucky enough to have furniture with a W tag, then you can probably stop reading. :-)  But unfortunately, MOST couches and sofas will have an “S” or NO TAG AT ALL, which I would personally treat as an “S”...just to be “S”afe. :-)

OK…so now you are thinking (Yes, I can read your minds!) what sort of “solvent” are you supposed to use?  Well, since microfiber is polyester-based, most things that can be used to clean polyester can be used to clean microfiber, including Rubbing Alcohol (or clear alcohol such as vodka can be used.)

Which is what Robin decided to try with amazing results! (See picture above….and more pictures here.)

After CLEANING microfiber…another problem people run into is that the fabric can become hard. The solution to that is the gently rub the hardened fabric with a soft scrub brush. According to Robin, “This step fluffs up the surface of the fabric to make it soft again.”

Kelly at The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking saw Robin’s post and decided to try it on HER microfiber couch as well. Wow…makes me wish I had a dirty microfiber couch to TRY it on! :-)  I LOVE a great Before and After picture!!  Good job Kelly!

Photo from The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking

Brieanne at Darling Doodles was also inspired by Robin’s post and tried the same method on her couch.  Well done to YOU TOO Brieanne!

Photo from Darling Doodles


And Good Job Robin at Chris and Robin’s Nest!  Thank you for helping all the desperate and confused microfiber furniture owners out there!

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177 thoughts on “How To Clean A Microfiber Couch (or Sofa)

  1. Laurat99

    I use my Bissell carpet cleaner’s hand tools to clean my microfiber couch and chairs. They are a little “hard” after being cleaned, but soften up after a few days.

        1. ScooterSATX

          Depends. Is your Bissel going to be driving? If so, I would not. Also, if your Bissel has had prior problems with alcohol, probably not a good idea. You don’t want the guilt of something bad happening because you gave it some alcohol.

          1. Stephani Darlin

            Hahahaha I was so intensely focused on reading this because my couches need some love asap, that i got halfway through your comment before i realized you were joking. Which made it even more funny of course…

            But seriously, DID you put alcohol in your Bissel?!

  2. Annette

    I tried this on my micro-fiber sofa, I can’t believe how clean it came, just tried a couple of spots at first, but it works wonders, so now I am doing the whole sofa. My sofa is red so where your leg bends and your jeans rub on the fabric, it tooked black, I tried this trick and VIOLA it worked. came really clean.

    Wonderful, thank you.

    1. janechampion

      thank you for telling us about your cleaning with the alcohol solution ….I am a little to afraid to try it as I was told it would make my sofa feel really hard …..but now I am so gonna try it out….my little dog likes to rub his back on the edge of my sofa and my grandkid spilled some food on it to….but thank you again …..

    1. Lisa

      I saw this on another post and used this tip to FANTASTIC results. Just use a spry bottle and make sure you’ve got it set to the “fine” and not “stream”. Let it sit, then use a WHITE sponge so the color doesn’t leach from sponge to sof and rub away at the dirt. Let dry and brush away. The clean feels much softer than the dirty once you’re all done.

    1. storey, sherry

      I truely hate my microfiber sofa. Which I bought at Basett and it cost a bundle. Water stains it, dog drool is impossible to get off it. It gets really hard after being cleaned. It cost a lot to hve it cleaned professionally. If you do not have one do not buy one. If you have one it is the worst for dogs.

  3. MarY duke

    We have two very Dirty ones we got
    Given Before our move to Heber that we are going to attempt to clean, you can try it out on ours ;)

  4. Timi

    After reading this, the first question I have is….why did all these people buy WHITE sofas? Hahaha! But I’m fixin’ to use this to clean my sage green ones. Thanks for the info.

    1. Russell

      I used a solution of water and about a half cup of oxy clean liquid. I read somewhere that oxyclean is basically hydrogen peroxide. so, I added a little peroxide in the mix as well. I then just wiped each arm gently clean with a white towel and watched the dirt come off. Then I let it all dry and it is as good as new. as for the cushions I just took off the covers and threw them in the washing machine with regular detergent and about a cup of oxy clean. I then filled the washer up and let it soak for about 30 minutes then finished the wash cycle and dryed them on low heat. After all was said and done, my furniture looks brand new again. I do not have before and after pictures to post but this works GREAT!

      1. Aurora

        What color is your microfiber sofa? Oxy-clean has a lot of sodium in it so it’s bad about bleaching and I don’t want to try it on my chocolate sofa just yet.

        1. Lori

          I have a brown microfiber sofa and I washed mine in the washer as well, only I didn’t use oxy….. I actually stupidly just threw them in with regular detergent and mine came out clean and soft…. but I do not speak for all micro sofas…..

    2. Darlene Taglione

      Wonder why…
      Once the kids were gone. Swore no more dogs .. that was 3 dogs ago…
      We could have white. No kids…No dogs… and it would go well with our home interior…

      Of course, in no time we had dogs. And when one passed away we got two!!
      We should have outdoor furniture at this point.

      Well the dog (one’s too old and just gets blamed) jumps on it when we are in bed. She generally is off before we can catch her. ha

      Love the couch very comfortable and pretty if you can control the environment.

      Basically we got white cause we aren’t smart.. ha

    3. Britnie

      I have a sage green micro fiber couch also and I am going to try this soon, did it work well on yours? To make sure I have this right…..You spray it with alcohol, then use a sponge to clean it? Mine only has minor spots that need cleaned, mainly from formula bottles tipping on the couch. SO I am wondering the best way to spot clean it? Spray, wipe, brush?

  5. Hazel

    I have a sand colored sofa when I seen this post this morning I had to try it on a small stain .OH no ,no alcohol umm I found a hand wipe in my purse and guess what the stain came right out ,You’ve made my day from now on these hand whips will stay on my end table so I can remove stain right away ,Thank You .

  6. Mary Alice

    I love my microfiber cleaning cloths but I hate how I’ve been unable to keep them clean looking. I wash them after I use them (in a separate load so they don’t pick up fibers from other fabrics), but I can’t get the stains out. So, after reading this, I wonder if I need to soak them in alcohol first and then launder as usual. Hmmm. Inquiring minds want to know. :-)

    Off to go find some alcohol.

  7. Dana

    Wow. I had gotten rid of my microfiber couch years ago because it was just dingy. I wish I had known this. Next house we were given another microfiber, I just had a blanket covering it and was a total freak about the blanket not coming off ever! It saved the couch for a while but we ended up moving again and sold it. I still don’t ever want another one of those horrible couches…lol.

  8. Katie

    We have a micro-fiber couch that was donated from my parents when we moved. Its pretty dingy, as its beige, and it lasted through two kids and a dog! I can’t wait to get home and break out the vodka and scrub brush and clean it up a little! Then, I can get rid of that terrible slip cover that keeps falling off!

    1. Shiny Sean

      Hi Katie,

      Just curious how your cleaning project came out? Could you please write me and let me know the results of using Vodka and what other arsenal of tools you employed for this cleaning task? My father came over, that big o’ grease monkey, did not bother to take off his grimy coat. After he got up I just knew I was in for a new cleaning job. Sometimes I swear he does this on purpose. He left my micro-suede couch looking so bad on the arm rest and the back. PLEASE HELP!!

  9. Juanita in Ohio

    I cannot wait to try this on my black dinning room chairs because I know they are dirty and there are even some spots. Thank you a million time for researching this and sharing it.

  10. laurel

    How about DAVENPORTS, a word my mom used forever! Now I know we have a sofa but have always called it a couch! Learn something new every day, huh?

    1. Donna R.

      I have done this after a few years of scowling at my couch cushions….works great! I can’t believe I was spot cleaning them before. You still have to treat the frame though, so I’m going to try this method.

  11. Catherine's not naturally crafty,

    Jillee: we need another cleaning tangent. I used the recipe for the streak free window cleaner this weekend and it worked great! Unfortunately, the project isn’t finished becuase, I took off all my screens and they were so gross I couldn’t bear to put them back up but, I was losing my light and had to stop. Yup, classic perfectionist roadblock. So, what is the best stuff to use on screens so I don’t kill the grass underneath and still get the screens nice and clean?

        1. Shiny Sean

          Yeah if you have the money to buy new windows and have them installed go ahead and neglect those dirty windows. After they fall out and the curtains are still working, you could always just board the over on the exterior side. Then you can save big money that way if money is ever a problem.

  12. Kari

    So does that mean if you have a sofa that says only use water, you can’t use this? Cause I have one of those and have all the stains described above and just want to get my couches looking clean. Water no longer cuts it. It used to, I got pen off with just a clean wet rag.

    1. Shiny Sean

      Check the label underneath your furniture. If the clean code is W, then yes water based cleaning is recommended. Some types of micro-fibers simply cannot withstand oil solubles, as they are more stain intolerant. I cannot stand cleaning that type of fabric on furniture. Our bodies produce various oils naturally so an ideal living situation should meet the needs for a couch that can resist natural oils, such as fingerprints, back-shoulder and arm contact, or even hair. Alcohol and Vodka is water based, consisting of distilled water and ethanol so if it requires a water-base, I would go with the manufacturing clean code label. Highly caution using soaps and detergents for removing discoloration and stains on W Code Label Fabric. You’ll cause more damage than good.

  13. Alex

    When I bought my microfiber couch 6 years ago the salesman gave me a demonstration, he drew on it with pen let it sit and then got some rubbing alcohol and voila! Gone!! I’ve kids, dogs, cats and oh did I mention teenage boys and their grubby, smelly teenage friends? Rubbing alcohol is the way to go and it works wonders!
    It’s like manna from heaven for this mum.

  14. Lauren Green

    Thank you sooo much for this! We have a microfiber couch (not sofa, thanks to your clarification). Between a 13 month old and a 4 month that spits up constantly, our couch is soooo dirty, but I’ve been scared to clean it in fear of ruining it. I’m definitely going to try this out! Thanks!!!

  15. RA

    First of all – I LOVE your blog, it’s one of my favorites and one of the most helpful and useful :)
    Second – I was wondering if you have a homemade solution to clean LEATHER sofas?
    I don’t want to buy the expensive commercial brands, that have lots of chemicals….
    I searched your site and didn’t find….
    I hope you can help :)

    1. BEast

      best thing about leather…it’s skin. If you wouldn’t put it on your skin, don’t put it on leather! To clean leather, go a buy a tub of saddle soap. Kiwi brand sells it at w—-mart. Use a gentle toothbrush, and use the suds…just saddle soap and water!

      1. BEast

        also, dont soak the couch, just use a spray bottle…you can leave the film on it, it;s just good oil for the couch, or you can wipe it off if you want it shiny. neet’s foot oil shines it up real well too

  16. debbie shipley

    Just picked up a beige micro fibre chair at Value Village for $4.99! It was priced that way because the seat cushion (which doesn’t come off) and arms are stained, but from the side and back you would think it was brand new. I remembered seeing tips on cleaning it as I have a couch that matches so this chair was snatched up in a big hurry!!!
    Now to get some ammonia and try this…I can’t wait!!

  17. Shay

    After reading all the reviews and searching high and low I’ve found the perfect blog im going to try this with teenager’s and a four year old i truly need to try this i have a dark orange micro fiber chair and it has dark spots like crazy so i hope this works on my chair thanks so much for sharing :)

  18. Megan

    This would be great..had it worked on my couch. My couches have no tags (that I can find anyway) and the are a light brown. With an animal and a 3 year old you can imagine they are disgusting. I definitely wasn’t thinking about kids in my single days of couch buying. Said 3 year old had a diaper explosion on the cushion one day. Water stains mine and alcohol just didn’t do a single thing for them. I asked a coworker who has a reupholstering job on the side for over 50 years, he said to use a tiny amount of Dawn mixed with a lot of water and then really wring your rag out. I was skeptical since plain water stains it, but he’s had a LOT of experience, and it worked! Didn’t take the poop smell out but rubbing baking soda into it and vacuuming off several times did the trick.

  19. Jamie

    I have to send out a thank you for the alcohol idea my husband and I buy lockers and sell the contents and found what looks like a brand new micro fiber couch and love seat but one cushion had little spots on it and thought we would have to take a huge hit on the price of the set not only that but it will be nice to tell who ever buys it how they can clean it seeing how most of our customers are young families tring to make it in this crazy time without alot of money so a big thank you for the info

  20. Tom

    Great information! I have always used alcohol (rubbing) on spots…car, furniture, rugs…and this reconfirms my thoughts! (always test first…) Thanks!

  21. Margery Diaz

    Thank you , thank you , thank you!!! You have an amazing website! GOD BLESS YOU!! I have four small kids
    and my microfiber sofa is so gross to me , I have tried the ole water and soap ,only to have big dark rings , I love the before and after pics! I am going to try to revive my sofa again using these instructions. Wish me luck!

  22. Sarah

    Here’s what I learned while working at a dry cleaners for more years than I care to admit: you only get water rings when the WHOLE thing doesn’t get wet. So if you take a wet rag and wipe it off, you will get a ring. If you take the cushion cover off and wash it, you will not get a ring. Also, a huge portion of things (clothes and household items) say they can’t be washed but they really can be. (when you bring your wedding dress to the cleaners to get cleaned, most of the time they just through them in the washer!) I’ve washed my micro-fiber cushion covers and they turned out great. Obviously, you still need to do the parts of the sofa that are attached by hand, but this will save oodles of time. :)

    1. Cait

      You don’t need to dilute it with water. Use pure rubbing alcohol. The beauty of the rubbing alcohol is that it evaporates quickly. If you add water, it will leave a water ring stain. Happy cleaning!

  23. MC

    WIll this work on brown? Or will in leave a faded spot? We got used microfiber couches two days ago, and they were spotless. We haven’t let our kids take cups on them,but still they are somehow filthy! I’ve tried little test spots but can’t tell if they’re faded on such a little spot. If I rub AT ALL though with a white towel, it always comes away with a little brown??? I always thought alcohol took out color. But I’m so desperate for something that can take away all these spots after every day.

  24. MC

    SHOOT!!! I got brave (or stupid) and tried alcohol. I used the highest alcohol content I could find-91%, and of course it still left a water mark. All of the marks on my couches look like water marks, and I don’t know what to do!! Since it’s just in random spots, and they occur every day I don’t want to do a whole couch cleaning, but just spot removal for my chocolate brown couch. Any ideas??

  25. Dave

    Good advice for cleaning, I had a pasta sauce spill! Though the real secret to my couch has been the purchase of a chocolate brown couch!

    Any thoughts on getting the dog odor out, I get a bit of it when I’m gone for a few days and I think the sofa is the biggest source!?

    1. Missy

      try dumping some baking soda on it; leave it for awhile then come back and vacuum the couch. Depending on the amount of odor you may have to repeat. Good luck

    1. Alicia Wright

      Wow! Before my beautiful dove grey couch/futon was soiled, I tried diligently to find Scotch Guard. As of this posting, I have yet to locate it. I had NO IDEA that it would be so very hard to find. Walgreens, never heard of it, Home Depot was clueless, where the heck do you purchase this amazing product?

  26. Ted

    Where did you get the bit about using vodka? I haven’t been able to find a reference to it in Robin’s post or any of her comments. Rubbing alcohol is generally sold at percentages much higher than vodka (70% compared to 40%/80proof). Is just 40% okay? Or should I bite the bullet and just buy rubbing alcohol?

  27. Samantha

    My microfiber sofa does not have a tag so I used vodka to be safe. I tested a small area underneath a cushion and it seemed fine so I did the rest of the couch. I used an old toothbrush with just a bit of vodka for each stain and now I have watermarks all over my couch. I’m pretty livid since I did my homework and followed every precaution. What do I do now???

    1. Krysta

      I usually just use water or baby wipes to spot clean. Baby wipes don’t usually leave a waterspot. When I use water, I take a dry towel and rub out as much moisture as I can, then follow with a blow dryer, working from the outside of the waterspot to the inside. It’s been about 95% effective for me.

  28. Brandy

    You have to try this!!! My couch is 10 years old, son is also 10 and female boxer age 2 so safe to say the couch was pretty dirty. Now it looks good as new! I got scared while scrubbing with the alcohol because it felt a little sticky but once it dried it was great! It even removes all the funky smells old couches collect Deffinatly glad I tried this.

  29. tiffany

    I have a grey microfiber couch and had a mini diaper seepage from my son, it was poop :/ there are no tags on my couch..any suggestions that won’t leave water spots?

  30. Jahna

    I read about this several weeks ago. Been rolling it around in my head and finally said you know what my bissel isn’t cutting it what have I to lose. My husband was very very skeptical but being a trooper hung on and helped me with our three dog sofa.

    We didn’t get the right white scubby, he insisted it meant magic eraser so I used white bar towels.

    All I can say was I am shocked, he is floored. Worked like a charm. Took out what i couldn’t with the shampooer and got rid of the water marks.

  31. Cindy

    I don’t know why, but this didn’t work.. at all. It left a watermark. I used the exact things you told me to, and i’m pretty sure it’s a microfiber couch.. when i swipe my hand over it it changes color. I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong??

    1. Casandra

      I had the same problem when I cleaned my couch this weekend. The trick I used was to re-clean the area and instead of focusing strictly on where the stain/alcohol was, spread it out, the same as when you re-touch a wall, you don’t just dab in the area that’s chipped, but blend it into the surrounding wall. I had spot-treated 4 particularly bad spots on one cushion and got water rings, but re-treated the area (the 4 rings were almost in a row) and pushed the alcohol out to “blend” it, and the stains vanished.

      Hope that helps!

  32. Ellen Jarvis

    Any idea how to get sawdust out of microfiber?! A couple years ago we had new floors put down in our home. Instead of moving or covering up our furniture the installer just cut what seems like on top of them. You can’t see it just looking at the couch it’s brown, but you can feel it when you run your hand across it.

  33. Brandi

    I really wish I would have taken a before and after picture…yes I was skeptical! I fell asleep on the couch last night with Lindor truffles lol and woke up to melted chocolate smooshed into my beautiful mircrofiber couch :( I tried the rubbing alcohol and seriously could not believe my eyes. within seconds the cushions looked brand new!!!!! I am a believer!!!

  34. Scott

    You probably shouldn’t use vodka. It’s only 40% alcohol and 60% water, not to mention whatever other substances are in drinking alcohol. If you’re going to use grain alcohol you’ll want 95% ethanol (Everclear). Otherwise, just use isopropyl/rubbing alcohol (preferably 91%+, not 70%) or hardware-store isopropyl (99%). You probably shouldn’t use denatured spirits because of the adulterants added to make it undrinkable, which can include small amounts of gasoline.

  35. Jen

    Hi I have a red microfiber couch and the tag has a W so I know I can use water but do I spray the area or dampen a towel???? My 2 yo dripped juice on it and Im trying to remove it but I have water rings please help me

  36. Kathy

    Hi, I have a tan couch and my son was very sick and had an accident on the couch. The couch is a two part lounger so the middle of the couch caught the mess and ran down to the bottom to the floor. I had cleaned it with my shop vac to suck up the mess…I proceeded to use water and soap and pored it down the middle of the couch. I also tipped the couch over to clean from bottom side. I now have an odder that won’t go away…so embarrassed to have anyone set without covering it up with something. PLEASE HELP…don’t want to get rid of couch.

    1. Tomeka Hairston

      You need to sprinkle baking soda on the sofa. If it’s a really strong odor you may have to put more, but you’ll let that sit for a while then you’ll vaccum up the baking soda and the odor.


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