How To Clean A Fabric Sofa

It always seems to happen at some point in a sofa's life. A glass of red wine is knocked out of a party guest’s hand. A cup of juice is sloshed by an energetic child. A drip of sauce falls when you are having a leisurely supper on the sofa. In an instant, your pristine sofa looks, well, less pristine. When that happens, here's how to clean a fabric sofa. 

Not all sofa spills are a major emergency, even if it may feel that way at the time. Whether looking for advice on general maintenance or you need help spot cleaning after an incident. We are here to help with this comprehensive guide. 

Most sofa fabrics are robust, so the need to clean shouldn't leave you afraid.



Sofas are often a highly used, but neglected piece of furniture. But a simple general cleaning and maintenance routine will prolong your sofa's lifespan and good looks. Make general cleaning and maintenance a regular part of your sofa care routine.

Start by thoroughly vacuuming every two weeks or so. Use the fabric attachment or a soft brush head to vacuum up any of those telltale crumbs, dust, or other dry debris that accumulates around the edges. And remember to make sure your vacuum head is clean. Rubbing a dirty vacuum on a sofa you’re trying to clean is not very productive. 

After you vacuum, flip, rotate, and fluff your removable cushions.

Neutral Farbirc Sofa with Side Table and Lamp


Like your favourite sweater, your fabric sofa can experience the annoying phenomenon known as pilling. Pilling is when tiny balls of loose fibres and threads form when a surface undergoes repeated friction. Although it’s a common occurrence over time for all sofas, you can limit pilling as much as possible by choosing a high-quality sofa.

How can you tell if you’ve got durable a durable fabric for your sofa? The answer resides in the Martindale test. It’s the universally-recognised unit of measuring the durability of the fabric. It measures the durability of a fabric based on how many times robotic discs can oscillate abrasive materials against the upholstery before it shows signs of distress.

Look for sofas with a Martindale rub-test of 15,000 rubs or more. To put that into perspective, Escapology sofas are typically Martindale tested to withstand up to a minimum 20,000 rubs.

The appearance of pilling makes your sofa look older and more worn than it is. To tackle this you will need a depiller - they may remind you of the old fashioned 'de-fluffer' but don't let that put you off. Modern depillers work well.

Start by pulling the fabric taut to ensure there are no wrinkles. Then carefully use scissors to cut off any longer loose threads. Take your depiller and run it over the surface of your sofa in light, circular motions. To avoid any accidental nicks make sure the depiller is barely touching the fabric. Your first depilling session is likely to be a bit longer, but regular trims will reduce the time needed for any future maintenance.

To summarise: 

  • Vacuum every two weeks
  • Fluff pillows and cushions
  • Use a depiller regularly

Taupe Fabric Chaise Sofa in Living Room


Sometimes some focused spot cleaning is required to tackle that accidental spillage.

The first thing you need to do is to check your sofa’s cleaning instructions. Always follow the care guide first. 

For most messes, the following steps will gently, but effectively, work for your fabric. To start, grab a soft, lint-free cloth or paper towel. Use this to absorb any liquid or grease. Make sure you don’t blot or rub. Rubbing will cause the stain to go deeper into the fabric. Leave the cloth on the spot until as much of the liquid is absorbed as possible. 

Next, mix a drop or two of washing up liquid into 250ml of water. We recommend doing this in a lidded jar or plastic container so you can shake it to mix fully. Shake until bubbles form. 

Then take your cloth and dip it into the suds of this mixture. Be careful to only use the suds to avoid saturating the fabric. Gently blot the stain, making sure not to saturate the fabric. 

Once you have removed the stain, you are ready to dry. Either let the fabric air dry or use a blow-dryer on the lowest heat and power settings to speed things up.

If you’ve got an extra stubborn stain on your hands, it’s best to leave it to a professional upholstery cleaner. 

To summarise: 

1. Check your sofa’s cleaning instructions for any special care requirements.

2. Use a soft, lint-free cloth or paper towel to absorb any excess liquid. Do not rub. 

3. Leave the cloth on the spot until as much liquid is absorbed as possible. 

4. Mix a few drops of dishwashing liquid into 250ml of water.

5. Shake until bubbles form. 

6. Dip your cloth into the suds only. 

7. Gently blot the stain, making sure not to saturate the fabric. 

8. Let it air dry or use a blow-dryer on the lowest settings. 

9. Call on professional help if you need it. 

While we hope it won't happen, a spill is almost certain to occur in the life of your sofa. Now that you know how to deal with it, you can sit back and relax on one of our sofas.

Need a helping hand with interior styles and inspiration? Escapology. is the perfect place to start when shopping for fabric sofas.