If there is a couch located in your living room or family room, it’s important to learn how to clean couch cushions. This is especially important for families with children and pets. Furniture can quickly pick up surface dirt, pet hair and assorted food spills that make the couch cushions look dingy and smell less than fresh.

Vacuuming and washing covers

The first step in your couch cushion cleaning mission is to get out your vacuum cleaner and add the proper attachment. Go over every inch of the cushions with your vacuum cleaner attachment, especially the corners and crevices where lint and dirt may accumulate. If the vacuum suction doesn’t remove enough of the pet hair, then use a clean damp sponge or lint roller. If you use a lint roller, make sure that it is sticky and especially designed to remove pet hair from fabric.

Now that you’ve removed the surface dirt from your couch cushions, there are several ways to proceed. If the fabric covering the cushions can’t be removed, then rent a steam cleaner from your local supermarket or hardware supply store to freshen up your cushions. The cushions will be damp when you finish, so you’ll need to set a fan next to them to speed up the drying process. Another option is to place the cushions outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air until they are completely dry and ready to replace on your couch.

If the cushions are zippered, remove the cushion covers from the foam interiors and check the tag to see if they are washable. If so, drop them into your clothes washer with a little mild detergent and wash them on the gentle cycle. Dry the covers on the clothesline or on a cool setting in the dryer. Avoid using a high heat setting so they don’t shrink prior to placing the covers over the foam and re-zipping them. You can also hand-wash the foam inserts to remove any surface dirt and set them outside to dry in the sunlight. Never immerse the foam in water unless you are sure the material won’t soak up the water and become waterlogged.

Fabric testing

If you aren’t sure that the fabric is washable, then make up a wet past using water and a little detergent. Rub some of the paste onto the underside of the cushion or in a corner where it won’t be noticeable. Wait a few minutes then wash the area by hand. Check for any discoloration before proceeding to hand or machine wash the entire cushion cover.

Spot cleaning non-washable fabric

If you cannot wash the cushion covers, try applying some upholstery cleaner to any spots or food and beverage stains that you see. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions about allowing the cleaner to dry before it’s wiped or vacuumed off. Also be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for fabric testing the cleaner before using on the entire cushion cover. If you merely want to spot clean a problem area on a couch cushion, try applying a mixture of warm water and white vinegar. Use a soft, dry cloth to apply the mixture and then allow the spot to dry.


Before returning the cleaned cushions to your couch, run your vacuum cleaner attachment over the rest of the couch to remove any dirt and dust. Once your clean cushions have been returned to your couch, keep vacuuming them on a weekly basis. Try to mop up any stains or spills as soon as possible to keep the cushions looking and smelling clean and fresh.


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