You settle in for a night of movie-watching on the couch, and somehow, a slice of pizza ends up cheese-side down on the cushion. Or maybe you fall asleep doing a crossword and your pen leaks ink on your most well-worn butt groove. Or a splash of wine somehow makes an escape from your glass.
Stains happen, but when they happen on your couch — which is such a centerpiece in your home — it feels especially pressing to get them taken care of right. So we did some investigating to figure out the best way to get rid of several types of stains so your couch can go back to looking like new… without having to call up the professionals.
First, check your couch’s cleaning codes. You can usually find them under the cushion. This will tell you if your couch has any particular cleaning requirements — like not being able to be cleaned with water. Here’s a breakdown of the codes:
- W means wet or water cleaning only
- S means dry solvent cleaning only
- SW means dry solvent and wet cleaning are both appropriate
- X means professional cleaning or vacuuming only — so unfortunately, this list won't help, and you'll need to bring in reinforcements
If you can’t find the codes on your couch, try looking at the website of the company you bought it from, or worst-case scenario, do a spot test on an inconspicuous area before diving fully into a cleaning session to make sure you won’t cause further damage. Most of our tips involve some kind of wet cleaning, so you'll want to make sure your couch is up for that.
Second, always vacuum before you attempt to start cleaning. Vacuuming helps take up any crumbs or residue that would otherwise sink into the couch, and you’ll be surprised how much better a stain can look after a quick vacuum.
1. Most food stains
Water and soap — yep, nothing exciting to see here. Water and soap will take care of most couch stains. Use a sponge (soft side) or a clean cloth. You can use warm water, which can help unless the stain has dairy products in it. To avoid the protein curdling, use cool water. If you’re not sure what caused the stain, stick with cool water.
If water and soap don’t seem to do the trick, try a liquid detergent that has enzymes in it. Let it soak for a half-hour or so before blotting with a sponge. With larger stains, start on the outside and work your way in.
2. Greasy stains
Sprinkle baking soda on the stain or make a baking soda paste by combining baking soda and water, then spread it on the stain. The goal is to try to soak as much of the oil out of the stain as possible, so let it sit for 10 or more minutes. Vacuum the baking soda away, and then blot the remaining stain with vodka. Or use a little bit of dish soap and scrub at it with something soft like a tooth brush and blot it clean with a moist paper towel.
3. Wine & berry stains
Try lifting the stain with sparkling water and blotting it with a clean cloth. Yes, really — it usually works.
If for some reason that doesn’t work, mix a tablespoon of vinegar and a teaspoon of laundry detergent into four cups of cold water. Use this solution to dab at the stain with a clean cloth, and then blot it with clean water afterward.
4. Beer & coffee stains
For beer stains, rub the stain with an ice cube and then mix a small amount of liquid detergent — a teaspoon should be plenty — and warm water and use this to blot at the stain with a paper towel.
Coffee can be handled in a similar manner, but you can skip the ice cube step and get right to the detergent.
5. Ink stains
Pour a little bit of rubbing alcohol on the stain, and then blot at the stain starting at the edges and moving inward. A dry-cleaning solvent can also work if you have one on hand. But whatever you do, don’t rub at the stain — that can just spread it further.
6. Pet pee
Pour a half-water, half-vinegar solution on the stain and then blot, blot, blot with a clean rag until you’ve removed the majority of the moisture. You can sprinkle baking soda over the top and let it dry to help reduce the odor as well. Vacuum to get rid of the baking soda residue once it’s dry.