/ Home & Energy

What’s the best way to clean a sofa?

Sofas are prone to plenty of accidents. What’s the worst sofa accident you’ve ever had and did cleaning make it better or worse?

Red wine spilled on your cream couch? Kids turned your sofa into their new canvas? Yesterday’s curry sauce spilled onto your beige settee? Sofas can end up as a prime candidate for spillages and stains, but what are your tips for cleaning them?

With more people working and staying at home throughout the pandemic, many of us have spent longer that we’d like to admit on our sofas. As houses become smaller and smaller, many of us eat, work and relax on our sofas.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean we have more time or energy to keep them clean. We’ve heard from many of you that sofa stains account for around 11% of the main damage caused to your sofas, with food (12%) and hot drinks (8%) as the worst culprits. 

Your tips for tackling tough stains

Members told us that when it comes to cleaning time, vacuuming is the preferred choice, with 58% of members referring to it as their preferred method. But there are plenty more techniques out there: the internet is full of stories and advice for cleaning sofas and other soft furnishings, but we’ve revealed which ones actually work here.

What homemade solution do you use to clean spills on your furniture?
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What’s the worst stain you’ve ever had on your sofa? And have you ever tried to clean a sofa stain but simply made it worse? And what are your tips for tackling tough stains?

Share your worst cleaning debacles with us. 


I used hydrogen peroxide on bottom of an Ikea light blue cotton sofa cover on which I spilt red wine. Tried soap and salt etc = nothing helped. Then reached for my trusty general laminate floor additive: Hydrogen Peroxide – forgotten which strength. It immediately removed the stain without bleaching the area white.

That’s a great tip, thanks for sharing. I may have to have a go with this on a carpet stain that is not going. One of the joys of having a 5 year old ha!

I don’t advise bathing the five year old in a solution of H₂O₂, Chirag. I usually prefer the strategic approach but that is possibly going a step too far.

Be careful with that stuff, hydrogen peroxide, that’s what some wannabe terrorists use for making improvised explosives. And it’s usually far more unstable than the manufactured stuff…

Not been. on this site for ages – just to add: Boots sell it and its uses are for mouth washes and it is a great allround cleanser. Eating in restaurants I cleaning under table edges and back of chairs where most people do not think about – this was before Covid. There are different strengths and as you, it is unstable and I always replace lid quickly.

The instructions for cleaning laminate close edge floor advises almost all cleaners and I find this is the best one used with boiled water to clean. I am old school – I love the smell of disinfectant – Dettol, Surgical Spirit etc.

I have not tried buying hairdresser size containers. I must check it though – see if they refuse to sell it to me!

I like to get the wet or dry vacuum on any spill as soon as possible, to draw out as much of the liquid as possible from the fibres, then spray with water and repeat. If there is any sign of a stain taking hold, then Vanish in the approriate form: foam, spray or paste in increasing order of agressiveness.

The active ingredient in Vanish is sodium perborate, which releases hydrogen peroxide when mixed with water. Other products containing sodium perborate are available; this is just the most well-known brand.

This Conversation prompted me to do something about a mark on the arm of a sofa, probably caused by chocolate. I found a spray can of carpet and upholstery cleaner, so old that it is marked ‘Made in England’. There is now no trace of a stain.

My worst problem was not a stain on the sofa but chewing gum on the carpet, many years ago. It taught me to take off my shoes when I arrive home.

Yes that can work too – important to leave to dry and most of us do not have the patience!. My sofa and armchair crackles! I assembled my Ikea 3 seater sofa myself and left the plastic coverings on the cushions with cushion covers over. So spills / foodstains / grease less able to seep into furniture. I could sell mine back to Ikea and probably get best price.

To remove small stains such as makeup on carpets and upholstery I always use a perfume free facial wet wipe. I wouldn’t recommend using a household wipe cleaner as they may be too harsh and damage the fibres in the carpet. If the facial wipes are safe to use on your skin then they should be OK to use on your carpets and soft furnishings. You work the wipe into the stain with a dabbing motion until it disappears completely. Great for removing lipstick and brown eye liner stains. For larger stains I would recommend a proprietary cleaner. Chewing gum is best tackled by dabbing with ice cubes to break it up.

As pointed out in today’s Which? Weekly Scoop, chewing gum can be removed using peanut butter but that a little mineral oil is a better alternative to smearing food on the carpet.

I would of thought replacing one stain with another is counter productive.

Watch: YouTube.com – How to get chewing gum from a carpet.

Different approaches can work, Beryl. I used a solvent and it worked very well. It’s too long ago for me to remember which solvent I used.

Solvents can be dangerous to inhale for some without suitable protection Wavechange.

An organised tour of Chicago a few years ago took us past Wrigleys HQ in Chicago. I was thankful we were not invited in.

I don’t use a sofa, and I can’t stand wine, yeuch! I do have a reproduction spindle back but it doesn’t get used as I rarely use my lounge, it’s only used for the very rare occasional visitors, usually someone in some kind of official capacity. How about how to remove stuff burnt onto a nice shiny stove enamelled grill pan? And for real sound advice about household cleaning why not visit Hayley’s help on you tube?

You are a strange one, I hope it is not the police!

As far as wine is concerned you are free to imbibe or not. Perhaps tomato stains are more your line. Regardless, Hydrogen Peroxide is a great cleaner to use without spreading a stain and is my go-to for basic remedies.

If Hayley’s help has not been of use. This is what I do:

Soak item in a full sink of Basic Ariel Washing Powder overnight is burn is on both sides, or in the pan.

If you are not able to remove burnt residue with a plastic open scourer, wearing gloves to protect your hands, then spray with oven cleaner and leave to stand.

As Which subscribers it goes without my writing, to be careful and wear goggles and apron to protect skin and eyes!