How To Clean and Sanitize A Used Couch

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If you're like most people, then you love to pick up a used couch from thrift shops or garage sales. They are typically very affordable and can often be found in excellent condition with little wear and tear. However, if they've been sitting on the store's floor for some time now, they may have picked up some germs along the way that could make your family sick.

It's important to clean and sanitize an old couch before bringing it into your home. If you fail to do so, you risk getting sick from nasty bacteria living on the fabric of your new upholstered furniture. Of course, you don't want to buy something only to find out later that everyone in your household made it.

Follow this step-by-step guide on how to clean and sanitize a used couch so that it doesn't become a breeding ground for harmful germs. These tips will help keep your house germ-free while also saving money by not purchasing brand new furniture every time.

Things You'll Need

  • Bristle brush
  • Vacuum
  • Castile soap
  • Vinegar
  • Bug spray
  • Hand-held steam cleaner
  • Disinfectant wipes

If you have the above materials, then you're good to go. It might sound like a long list, but cleaning and sanitizing a used couch will only take you a few hours. But if you don't have all these, don't worry. There are many products you can come across at home or stores when learning how to clean upholstery and other household items. 

Steps on How to Clean and Sanitize a Used Couch

Bring Your Couch Outside

You'll need to bring your couch outside. Make sure it's not raining or snowing and that the weather is bearable for you to sit outside. The reason to bring your couch outside is to get a more spacious and well-ventilated area to work on it. Sunlight can also help kill some bacteria on the pillows.

Make sure you don't clean your furniture in an area full of dust and dirt. You need to take extra precautions if you have any allergies or something similar, where your immune system might be weaker than average. Make sure you don't purge your entire living room when you're done with the cleaning process. If you do, people with respiratory problems won't have a place to sit.

Dust Your Couch

Blow out all the dust on your couch with an air compressor or by using a hand-held vacuum.  You might also want to use a cotton cloth to remove some dust. Also, beat the dust out of cushions to ensure you remove as much dust as possible.

Your used couch might need a certain amount of elbow grease to clean the filth and grime off it. If you want to be thorough in cleaning your sofa, you can use a cleaner with the necessary strength. Most furniture cleaners are non-toxic, so they will not cause any harm. 

You might want to test the cleaner on an inconspicuous area, though, because some couches have special finishes that might react to the cleaner. Suppose you do not want to use a conventional cleaner. In that case, you can make your non-toxic furniture cleaner with ingredients such as baking soda, distilled white vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide.

Bug Spray

Even though this seems optional, if you are planning on getting a second-hand couch, you may want to spray it with bug spray before bringing it inside. Other insects besides ants may find your couch to be a comfortable place to set up a home. Also, if your couch is not first-hand, then they've been in a storeroom for a long time, and they've trapped unhygienic pieces that you cannot see with naked eyes.

Use bug spray
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 In that case, your couch might not last for long. So, spraying it with bug spray will be a plus. When applying, don't omit underneath as these can be breeding grounds for ticks, bed bugs, mites, and fleas. Leave your couch for 24 hours in a ventilated area after spraying it with bug spray. This will be good enough to kill the majority of the insects on your old couch.

Remove Cushions and Covers

Remove all of the cushion covers and pillows that come with your couch. You should separate the covers for laundering, and you can sterilize everything with an enzyme cleaner once it dries completely. After unzipping the covers, pillows, and cushions, throw them in a washing machine. Use hot water and a cup of white vinegar to get them extra clean.

Disassemble your couch's cushions one by one, checking each cushion for any food or other debris that mice may have left behind. You'll need to remove these materials with bleach or some other cleaning solution because mice can't digest them, and they will rot in their stomachs. 

When you sanitize the cushions and the furniture frame, use a garden hose or spray bottle to avoid spreading any contamination that may be on your hands onto other surfaces.

Vacuum Your Couch

Use your vacuum and turn it to the highest level.  This will help you suck up all the loose particles of dirt that might cause some bad stains on your couch while cleaning. Even better, if you can use a brush attachment for best results, do so.

You can also use upholstery cleaner machines with the right brush attachments.  You can rent them at your local grocery or hardware store.  This is the best choice if you are cleaning upholstery regularly because it's more thorough than using a vacuum cleaner, and you can save on buying bottled upholstery cleaners all the time. 

When vacuuming, pay attention to any stain you see.  Use a toothbrush and hydrogen peroxide to clean the stain before you start vacuuming it up.

Disinfect and Wipe Your Used Couch

Once you've finished vacuuming, wipe the couch down with a wet rag.  You can use upholstery cleaner to spray on the surfaces and wipe clean or use water. Let it air dry. When wiping, ensure it doesn't get in contact with bleach because it will damage the couches.

Disinfect and Wipe
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When you start using disinfectants such as hexachlorophene or thymol, follow the instructions on the label and make sure that they are safe for upholstery cleaning. These disinfectants will kill all the unwanted germs and bacteria and leave the couch smelling fresh and clean.

Deep Clean Your Couch

Use a steam cleaner to clean your suede couch.  Steam cleaners can eliminate dust mites and kill viruses and bacteria. The steam will reach deep in between the crevices of your couch, enabling you to get rid of all the dirt, dust, grime, and other harmful elements that may be present on or under the couch surface.

When using a steam cleaner for suede couch,hit everywhere you can access on your couch, pay extra attention to the cushions and crevices.  Do not forget to clean the spaces between buttons on your couch as well. You can use a brush attachment or toothbrush to get rid of the dirt left behind by the steam cleaner in hard-to-reach areas.

Remove Stains

If your couch still smells after baking soda, use a white vinegar and water mixture to spray on the surface.  You can place this mixture in a spray bottle and go over all the areas that smell bad. Allow the vinegar to sit on your couch for 10 minutes, then wash off with water. Repeat if necessary.

Remove Stains
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If you want to clean upholstery or rugs, mix two tablespoons of liquid hand dish soap with a cup of ammonia in 5 gallons of water.  Wipe with a sponge, and then blot dry. Before you stain and remove your couch, consider the type of fabric it is made of. This is because some sofas are made of fragile upholstery that shouldn't get wet.

Leather and synthetic upholstery are ideal for removing dirt and stains.  However, if your furniture is made from non-fabrics, avoid wetting it because it can cause the fibers to rot. If it's crayon stains, use a rag to rub it off, but if the stain results from ink, then saturate a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and gently rub the surface. For rust removal, mild dish soap, lemon juice, and salt will help you remove rust from your couch.

Deal with Odors and Bad Smell

A smelly couch is challenging to deal with. After you've dealt with stains, use baking soda to deodorize your couch. Sprinkle the entire surface and leave it there overnight. Make sure to test a small piece of your upholstery to ensure the baking soda doesn't affect the material. Baking soda is another great product when it comes to odors as it also works well for getting rid of paint smell.

Spread the baking soda in an even area using a bristle brush.  Leave it there overnight, then vacuum up the baking soda. Repeat if necessary. If you notice an unpleasant odor lingering around your couch, you can mix vinegar and water in a spray bottle, spritz it on your couch and let it dry. The smell of vinegar will dissipate, leaving behind the fresh scent of clean upholstery.

FAQs on How to Clean and Sanitize a Used Couch

Is it okay to use carpet cleaner on a couch?

Using a carpet cleaner for upholstery is safe; however, it may lead to some problems. The strong solution can discolor the fabric and affect the color of your couch. It will also leave behind residue on your furniture, which might cause allergies or asthma attacks in people who are sensitive to chemicals.

How can you clean couch cushions that cannot be removed?

You can use a steam cleaner to clean the fabric for couch cushions that cannot be removed. Make sure to follow your specific model's instructions and test a hidden area for colorfastness in case any color transfer occurs.

How do you sanitize a leather couch?

Before trying to sanitize your couch, you should consult the owner's manual for your type of leather. Most manufacturers will recommend a specific cleaning solution or method to use on their type of leather.  Vinegar-based solutions are great stain removers and disinfectants.

Final Thought on How to Clean and Sanitize a Used Couch

It's important to take care of your couch as it is a big investment. It’s probably one of the most expensive pieces of furniture that you own. With the help of this guide, learning how to clean and a used couch will be easy for you. You can also go for DIY couch covers to make them last long. Homemade sofa cover ideas are there for you on our blog!


Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is an expert DIY home remodeler and mom to three. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her working on new home improvement projects or writing about her favorite kitchen appliances or DIY projects on Kitchen Infinity blog.

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