When it came to choosing a new sectional for our home, we knew a leather couch would be the best choice for a home with three boys because it's easy to clean. However, it wasn't best for our budget. We thought a dark navy blue upholstered couch with removable cushions would be a good compromise of cleanliness and wallet. Plus we had it professionally stain-guarded. "Oh, silly, hopeful parents: is there anything strong enough to repel your dirty little boys?" "Apparently not", the weary, misguided mom and dad said to themselves.

After two weeks of enjoying a "nice", grown-up, NEW, piece of furniture, a sheen of filthy feet, crushed Goldfish, spilled milk and dried ketchup began glistening over the once-stain free couch. That sight was only offset but a mysterious smell, presumably a combination of those items with the added bonus of unshowered bottoms, which assaulted my olfactory experience.

Defeated once again by my incongruous imps, I determined to clean the upholstery before it became a cesspool of cat fur embedded into dropped, forgotten, and melted Mike and Ike candy. Here is what I found to be the best way to keep upholstered furniture a formidable opponent for my sons.


This is the first line of defense for your furniture and pretty straight forward. It's amazing how many dead skin cells can be produced and concentrated onto upholstery. The fibrous material acts as a natural cage for anything floating around - dust, microbes, cracker crumbs. It's also a quick way make it look like you've tried cleaning before your nosy neighbor announces she'll be over in 10 minutes to "see how the new back splash looks" but is REALLY there to make mental notes on how she's a superior homemaker. I vacuum both the tops and under the cushions to help combat that "weird smell". I also have to arm myself with gloves and paper towels to remove foreign objects, which I hope, are just old Milk Duds and not some animal (human?) droppings. But again, this is life with 3 sons and probably not applicable to most homes.

vacuuming couch

Spot Clean

When I get on a cleaning roll, there is usually a layer of dust everywhere, handprints all over the white doors and molding, a sticky kitchen floor, piles of laundry, and dried egg yolk on top of my stove. It becomes quite necessary and evident that our home requires more than a surface cleaning. So I get into it by blaring the music and focusing on one task at a time. This is when I spot clean upholstery. With very little elbow grease, you can remove some of those nagging spots that you can no longer hide with a throw pillow or blanket.


  • Iron
  • 2 Microfiber cloths (one to get dirty and one to keep clean)
  • Bowl
  • Dish Soap
  • White Vinegar or Vodka

1. Hit the stains with steam from the iron. I don't even bypass this step because I already know that I need an arsenal of weapons to defeat my sons' earnestness to win the dirt wars.

  • Simply fill your iron with water, plug it in and turn it onto the "steam" setting.
  • Once it gets hot, lightly glide over the stain while spraying the water onto it to create steam.
  • Use the microfiber cloth to blot it.

2. Create a stain removing mixture.

  • Make a bowl of hot water with 3-4 drops of dish soap and a splash or two of vodka or white vinegar. (Depending on the time of day and how much cleaning I've already done, I may just give myself a splash of vodka too.)
  • Dip your cloth into the water mixture and wring it out.
  • Dab dab dab on the stain - careful not to rub it in because that could embed the materials into the fabric even more. This can be a pretty tedious job but if you keep at it, especially if you had steamed it first (and maybe a bit of that vodka) it often proves worthwhile.
  • You then want to wet your clean microfiber cloth to remove the soap using the same dabbing method. The smell of the vinegar or alcohol will dissipate once the upholstery has dried.
microfiber rags

All Over Cleaning

Sometimes our DIY cleaners aren't tough enough to get the job done thoroughly. In this case, I would recommend using Resolve Multi-Fabric cleaning solution. But hold on, do NOT feel defeated! Look it, your house is clean, your upholstered furniture already looks so much better, and you have a bunch of vodka leftover for celebration. If it weren't for being graciously nominated to host Thanksgiving by your sister-in-law, there's no way you would even do this step!


  • Steamer (or an iron)
  • Resolve Fabric Cleaner
  • Microfiber cloth

You basically have to repeat the steps used to spot clean but on a bigger scale. An iron can perform the task of a steamer but the latter is more efficient. Follow the manufacturer's directions for using the product. Basically, though, you spray and blot - maybe even do a little rub using the microfiber cloth.

woman cleaning couch


The final step, after you upholstery is all cleaned and dried, is to spray a stain guard all over the furniture. I don't believe this is fail-safe but I feel better being proactive. To keep your upholstered furniture clean indefinitely is to make your kids sit on the floor perpetually until they are 21 and can help you clean with that vodka.

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