How to Clean a Used Couch

How to Clean a Used Couch

The Spruce / Mira Norian

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 3 hrs, 30 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10

If you are a fan of thrift shops and garage sales, any upholstered furniture—such as used couches— you buy should be sanitized and cleaned before you bring it inside. Clean sofas and other used furniture are a must, otherwise, you could inadvertently bring unwanted germs, smells, and pests into your home.

Our guide shows you how to clean a used couch providing you with effective ways for sanitizing and removing odors without using store-bought cleaners. If you are looking for the best way to clean a couch that your little ones use often, try a natural fabric couch cleaner first. There might be some instances, though, you may need to resort to a stronger cleaner and carpet extractor if the stains you're working with are stubborn.

These are simple steps to clean a used couch, making it sanitary and odor-free again.


Your couch may still have a tag with the "Cleaning Code" listed. This will give instructions on how to best clean the couch without damaging the fabric. If there is no Cleaning Code tag, there may be a tag with the manufacturer's website, which may also give cleaning information.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Vacuum
  • Bristle brush


  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Castille soap
  • Warm water
  • Bug spray (Optional)
  • Disinfectant wipes (Optional)


Materials and tools to clean a used couch

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  1. Vacuum the Couch

    The first step is to vacuum up all the loose crumbs, dirt, and fur from the upholstery. Keep an eye out for bug droppings or other signs of pests. You'll want to get the vacuum into every cranny possible and might need to go over the couch multiple times.

    Food crumbs being vacuumed on used tan couch

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Disinfect and Wipe Down

    You may want to make a natural upholstery cleaner for spot removal. You can also use a store-bought cleaner. Just make sure to test a small patch of fabric first.

    Next, wipe down any non-upholstery sections with a reliable disinfectant. Make sure the wipes or spray you choose doesn't have bleach as an ingredient because this can damage the wood or other non-fabric parts of your sofa. Test a small spot first if you're unsure. Don't worry about disinfecting the fabric at this point. The cleaning process will do that.

    Used tan couch wiped down disinfectant wipes

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. Bug Spray (Optional)

    If you got the couch second-hand, you might consider spraying the surface down with bug spray before you bring the piece into your home. Bugs and unwanted pests can make a home in old couches and furniture without being seen by the naked eye.

    Spray the nooks and crannies with an all-purpose bug spray that will work to repel and kill pests such as bed bugs, fleas, ticks, and mites. Leave the couch in a well-ventilated area outside your home for 24 hours.


    If you have pets, make sure the bug spray is pet-friendly.

    Used tan couch sprayed with bug repellant

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  4. Remove Odors

    Many odors in couches are caused by bacteria and excessive moisture. Baking soda will work to combat both issues. First, however, make sure you test a small piece of upholstery to make sure the baking soda won't lighten the fabric.

    Next, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on all sections of a couch. Use a bristle brush to spread out the baking soda in an even layer on every upholstered surface. Let the baking soda sit for a few hours without being disturbed, then vacuum it up.

    Used tan couch covered with baking soda and spread with bristle brush

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  5. Remove Stains

    If your couch still smells after the baking soda bath, spray down the surface with a mixture of white vinegar and water. Once the solution dries, the vinegar smell will dissipate and so should any other scent.

    Before you attempt any stain removing on your couch, figure out the type of fabric it is. Some sofas are made with upholstery that is so fragile that it shouldn't get wet. Others, such as leather or synthetic upholstery, may need special consideration as well—find the tag for more insight.

    Most fabric upholstery should do fine with the following cleaning mixture:

    Vinegar and Soap Solution: Mix one cup warm water, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, and a tablespoon of Castile soap. If you don't have Castile soap, use mild dish detergent. Put the mixture inside a spray bottle or a bowl.

    Spray or brush on the solution to any stained areas. Use a soft-bristled brush or cloth to work the solution in and then blot the stain with a clean, dampened cloth. Try not to oversaturate the area.

    Used tan couch sprayed with vinegar and water solution to remove stains

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Tips to Keep Your Couch Clean Longer

  • Vacuum regularly: Use the brush and crevice device on the vacuum cleaner to vacuum the couch once a week.
  • Lint roll: Use a lint roller to remove pet hair from the upholstery.
  • Cover it up: Consider using a blanket, throw, or specially made couch protectors to stop body oil, perspiration and other fluids from getting on the couch.

Removing Stains From a Couch

Removing stains can be a trial-and-error process. If you're having a lot of trouble, consider renting a carpet extractor and use a high-quality upholstery cleaner that is suitable for your couch. If you want to continue with some more homemade remedies, give these a try:

  • Crayon: If your item has any crayon stains on it, use a rag to rub some WD40 on the stain.
  • Ink: For ink stains, saturate a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and gently rub on the area.
  • Rust: A solution of lemon juice and salt, mild dish soap, and ammonia can help you remove rust stains from furniture.
  • What disinfectant can be used on fabric?

    White vinegar or hydrogen peroxide solutions sanitize effectively for a household remedy. Commercial sprays such as Lysol and Clorox fabric sanitizers are bleach-free methods to kill 99.9% of odor-causing bacteria trapped in fabric fibers.

  • Can you steam clean a couch?

    You can steam clean a couch using an upholstery steam cleaner made for furniture fabrics. Steaming can help kill odor-causing bacteria and keep your couch smelling fresh without chemicals.

  • How do you remove odors like mustiness from a couch?

    Baking soda and vinegar are good natural deodorizing alternatives to commercial cleaners. Try sprinkling baking soda over the sofa, allowing it to sit for eight hours or overnight. The powder will absorb the odors. Vacuum the powder to remove it. Or you can use straight white vinegar in a spray bottle and mist the couch with it. The vinegar smell will evaporate with time, taking odors with it.