Step-by-Step Guides: How to Remove Common Couch Stains


Sofas or upholstered couches are a part of almost every home around the world; they are used daily and yet, not a lot of attention goes into cleaning and maintaining them. This is, of course, until the inevitable happens – you end up with a stain that you need to get out!

It seems like almost anything you bring around your couch can cause a stain! From food and beverages, to pets and cosmetics; accidents can happen, resulting in stains on your couch. For this reason, it’s important to be prepared by having the right information on how to clean upholstery and remove stains.

Depending on the type of sofa stain you are dealing with, there may be one or multiple methods suitable to get it out. However, before we get to that, let’s talk about some standard measures one should take when ‘accidents’ happen and your couch encounters a fresh stain.

Removing Couch Stains: What to do First 

NOTE: Avoid going further than step 1 in case of ink stains on your couch.

Most people’s first reaction to a couch stain is – panic! This leads to all kinds of frantic measures taken to remove the stain which generally makes it worse. What you need to know is that regardless of the type of stain, the initial pretreatment steps to remove a fresh sofa stain remain the same. These are as follows:

      1. Use paper towels to absorb as much of the stain as possible. Avoid scrubbing at this point, simply blot the area with paper towels or (in case of a liquid spill) press down on the area to soak up dampness. Continue this process until the stain is no longer rubbing off on the paper towels.
      2. If you have access to a basic, fabric stain remover, apply a small amount to the centre of the stain, and use your finger to gently work it into the material. Avoid spreading the cleaning agent beyond the outline of the stain.
      3. Dab the area with paper towels once again to remove any excess dampness.
      4. Allow the stain remover to work for at least 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off with a damp towel and moving on to an in-depth stain treatment process.

These pretreatment steps are critically important for the overall success of the stain removal process; therefore, it is highly advised that you follow them when dealing with any type of sofa stain. They help to get out part of the stain while removing as much grease/oil as possible.

Learn About Cleaning Codes Beforehand

Look for washing symbols on your couch or sofa cushions before you begin the cleaning process. There may be a label with laundry symbols or codes underneath the cushion or in a concealed area of upholstered couches. If you can’t find one, it’s advisable to do a spot test on a hidden area before using any of the methods below. Some cleaning agents or even excess water can misshapen or discolour the material.

If your sofa or couch does have cleaning codes, here’s what they mean:

      • W – can be cleaned with water
      • S – requires dry solvent cleaning
      • SW – both of the above are suitable for cleaning
      • X – requires vacuuming with a suitable attachment head or professional cleaning only

Now, that you have this information in your back pocket, let’s get right to our tried and true cleaning methods to remove different types of couch/sofa stains.

How to Remove Blood Stains

Step 1: Wet a clean towel and gently press down on the stain to dampen the area. You can skip this step if the stain is still damp from the pretreatment process.

Step 2: Mix equal parts of water and hydrogen peroxide in a bowl; stir it up, and use a spoon to apply it to the stain. Again, try as best to keep the application within the outline of the stain. Even if you haven’t used a stain remover prior to this step, hydrogen peroxide is generally effective in getting out blood stains on its own.

Step 3: Use a clean toothbrush to work the cleaning solution into the fabric with gentle, circular motions. The stain should begin to fade at this point. Remember to rinse out the toothbrush if the blood stain starts to rub off onto the bristles.

Step 4: Gently rub the area with a dry towel to lift (remove) whatever is left of the stain. Don’t worry if the stain hasn’t vanished completely, a repeat of the process will take care of that. Before you attempt the entire stain removal method again, however, allow the couch/sofa cushion to dry up.

Step 5: Rinse off the cleaning agents with a damp towel. This step should be performed after step 4, regardless of whether you are going to repeat the process. It is best not to leave chemicals on fabrics for too long as it could be damaging. You can speed up the drying process by increasing ventilation in the room and/or running fans at high-speed.

How to Remove Ink Stains 

Step 1: Pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto a clean muslin cloth and dab the ink stain repeatedly. Avoid any form of rubbing or scrubbing as this can push the stain deeper into the fabric. Keep a check on the cloth so that you can use another side of it when the ink begins to rub off onto it. Avoid applying rubbing alcohol directly to your couch as saturating the material with this cleaning agent may cause damage.

Step 2: Blot the area with a dry towel to remove excess moisture and continue the stain removal process with rubbing alcohol (refer to step 1). It will take some time to remove an ink stain from your couch using this method; however, it is the safest and most effective one. Therefore, it’s important that you remain patient and do not get discouraged if the ink stain does not lighten or fade immediately. Remember to blot the area with a dry towel every now and then to keep saturation to a minimum.

Step 3: When the stain has faded considerably, rinse the area with a damp cloth and allow it to dry. At this point, the ink should be barely visible or merely a slightly dark patch.

Step 4: To get the ink stain out of your sofa completely, repeat the process or use a stain remover for this. Simply apply the product to the patch, gently scrub it with a toothbrush, and rinse off (with a damp towel) after 15 minutes.

How to Remove Nail Polish Stains

Step 1: After the pretreatment, some of the nail polish may dry up or harden. In this case, you will need to use a butter knife to gently scrape off bits. Avoid using too much pressure as it may damage the upholstery.

Step 2: Add 3-4 drops of acetone or nail polish remover to a cap of water, dip the end of a towel into the solution, and blot the stain. As the colour gets lifted, use another end or folded area of the towel. Avoid rubbing as this may spread the stain.

NOTE: Do a colour fastness test on an inconspicuous area before attempting to remove couch stains with water and acetone. As an alternative, undiluted hydrogen peroxide can be used instead of acetone/nail polish remover.

Step 3: After the majority of the nail polish stain has been removed, choose a dry cleaning solvent to get it out completely. Use a clean sponge or scrubber for this (only to blot, not scrub). Simply dampen the cleaning tool with your chosen solvent and dab the area to lift the stain.

Step 4: Use a damp towel to remove traces of your cleaning products before allowing your sofa/couch to air-dry.

How to Remove Pet Pee Stains

Step 1: During the pretreatment process, you will need to use a lot of paper towels to absorb as much moisture as possible. If it is a dry stain, dampen the area, and follow the pretreatment steps.

Step 2: While the stained area is still damp, mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a basin; you can add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance. Soak and wring a clean towel in the solution, and wipe over the pet pee stain. Light scrubbing is advised to work the cleaner into the fabric.

Step 3: Cover the area with a thin layer of baking soda and leave it to dry. Baking soda is a great natural deodorizer, as is vinegar.

Step 4: Once the area is more or less dry, vacuum up the powder or wipe it off with a clean, damp towel. Continue to wipe the couch to remove traces of vinegar and/or other cleaning agents present on the surface before leaving it to air-dry.

How to Remove Grease/Oil Stains

Step 1: Remove any bits and/or dried grease with a butter knife or the edge of a spoon. Even after the pretreatment, you may find hardened grease covering the stain which needs to be removed before you proceed with the rest of the stain removal process.

Step 2: Pour a minimal amount of liquid dish soap over the centre of the stain and spread it around using your finger to cover up the rest of the affected area.

Step 3: Use a toothbrush to gently scrub the stain. Avoid scrubbing outside of the stain; instead, start from the outline and work your way towards the middle.

Step 4: Use paper towels to absorb some of the moisture before rinsing the cleaner off with a damp towel.

Step 5: At this point, some parts of the stain are likely to still be visible. To get rid of this, make a solution of equal parts water and household ammonia; dip a scrubber into the mixture (squeeze out excess water), and gently rub the stain in circular motions. It may take a while to get out grease stains from your couch so it’s important to keep at it.

Step 6: Remove the cleaning agents with a damp towel and allow the fabric to air-dry.

How to Remove Common Food/Beverage Stains

Suitable for stains caused by juice, coffee/tea, ketchup, salad dressing, etc.

Step 1: Make a soapy solution of water and liquid dish soap; the strength of the cleaning solution will depend on the severity of the stain.

Step 2: dip a sponge in the solution and squeeze out excess water; scrub the stain away gently or using minimal pressure for a safe and effective clean.

Step 3: Use paper towels to absorb moisture before repeating step 2 until the stain has disappeared.

Step 4: Rinse the area with a damp towel and leave it to air-dry.

Important Tips to Successfully Remove Couch/Sofa Stains

The methods above are proven to be effective in removing different types of stains from sofa cushions and upholstered couches; however, it’s important to be persistent when carrying out these cleaning processes. If it doesn’t work entirely the first time around, repeat the process or use a different method in accordance with the washing symbols mentioned on the label.

Don’t rush the stain removal process; patience is key! This means giving the material enough time to dry when it needs to, before continuing with the cleaning process.

For highly soiled couches or stubborn stains, it’s best to call in a professional for a safe and effective clean.

Karen Saunders


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