Sofas: We sprawl out on them, nap on them, Netflix on them, and even eat on them (admit it!). But how often do you actually clean yours? Probably not as often as you should, according to Luther Quintana, the Operations Manager at the eponymous Manhattan-based upholstery house, a go-to for top interior designers. So how do you clean a couch? The first step is to get in the habit of regular vacuuming—"every two to three days, especially under the cushions"—and fluffing every other day. "I can’t stress that enough!" says Quintana, who points out that innocent crumbs can turn into stains if you don't clean them off swiftly and flip the cushions to be sure hidden spots are treated before they get worse.
Do that, and your sofa will be looking its best on the regular. From there it's all about quickly treating stains and giving it a good once-over, using the steps below, about once a year.
How to Spot-Clean a Stain
Always treat a spill as soon as it happens, if you've got the time. That'll save you a serious headache later when the stain has had more time to set in. The best technique is NOT to scrub the spot clean or introduce high-octane cleaning agents. When dealing with cotton, cotton blends, or linen upholstery, "What you're going to hear a lot from me is blotting and steaming." says Quintana.
Mix together hand soap and distilled water vigorously, to create suds. Then dab a clean towel in just the suds. "It kind of picks up the stains," Quintana explains. Blot, or gently press the sudsy towel into the stain and lift it straight up, taking care not to wipe or smear the towel side-to-side which might make the stain worse. Repeat a few times, then blot the spot with another clean, cry towel. "So you're not spreading, you’re just patting and taking off the excess liquid," he says.
If you want your upholstery to last, it's well worth investing in a steam cleaner—the one Quintana recommends is $100 (but a new sofa, of course, would be at least $1,000!). Follow the instructions on the device to steam the spot and suck away any residue. "The steam lifts whatever is there, it's not saturating."
"If the stain is really severe, I’ve heard it also works with hydrogen peroxide," says Quintana. Spray a little on the spot, then hit it with the steam-cleaner.
How to Clean a Sofa
Once a year or so, give the whole piece a good once-over.
Vacuum. This is an essential first step before cleaning more aggressively, says Quintana, because "you don’t want to blot a crumb and have it become a stain." Simply run the handheld part of your vacuum over all the cushions and seams, then flip the cushions over to get the other side and the crumbs underneath.
Spot-clean any stains. Follow the steps above to blot away spots, then steam-clean any that are trickier.
Wash or dry-clean cushion covers if needed. If your spot-cleaning techniques aren't enough, check the cleaning codes on your sofa to see how to safely wash the cushion covers. "W" means you should use only water-based cleaning agents; these cushions you can consider tossing in the wash (cold-water only and hang-dry to prevent shrinking!) if the label indicates that's safe. But an "S" or "S/W" on the label indicate that water-free cleaning agents are better; Quintana says these you should only dry-clean.
Let dry. Then fluff the pillows to get them back in shape. Now plop down on your fresh, tidy sofa.
Polish the frame. Just be sure to get the right polish for your frame. Quintana recommends Method Wood Cleaner for wood or Noxon for a metal frame. "Spraying a paper towel will do the trick," he explains.
Revamping Sagging Cushions
Should your sofa cushions not perk up with a little vacuum-fluffing combination, you might need to consider replacing or supplementing the inserts. Just unzip the zipper to see what's in there—it's often foam, which can easily be replaced through an upholsterer if it's collapsed and won't spring back, or down feathers (just stuff more in there, says Quintana), or a combination of the two.
Cleaning Other Materials
For finer materials like velvet and mohair, Quintana recommends vacuuming and lifting crumbs with a sticky lint brush before resorting to steam-cleaning if it's essential. Definitely don't clean these with soap or any other liquids.
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