How to get stains out of a couch — because that red wine won't clean itself

Honestly, it's possible!

White sectional couch with chunky knit blanket
(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

If you’re a penchant for browsing #CleanTok then the chances are that you’ve stumbled across a wide variety of couch-cleaning hacks, from the viral saucepan lid method to using that must-have mini carpet and furniture washer from Bissell. With so many different cleaning options available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. 

If you’ve noticed that your couch is sporting the odd stain, you might be wondering what the best approach is to get it out. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have fully removable couch covers, you can simply chuck any stained covers into the laundry (always following the manufacturer’s instructions). 

But, if like me, you have a small couch where not all the covers are easy to remove (my Ikea couch does have fully removable covers BUT in order to remove them you have to dismantle the entire couch and then — once the covers are cleaned — rebuild it. And, honestly, I really don’t have time for that. I mean, who does? 



Good to know

Time: 30-minutes 

Effort: More effort (don’t panic, it’s only ranked as being more effort due to the need to implement multiple steps in the process). 

Here’s what you’ll need

  • A vacuum cleaner — I always like to recommend the Miele Boost CX1 from Amazon as it's seriously powerful but has adjustable suction strengths
  • Stain remover — this one from Chemical Guys that Amazon users rave about, otherwise, a handheld upholstery cleaner — like this easily portable one from Bissell (available on Amazon) is great
  • Sponges — this bulk pack of 24 from Amazon is a total steal
  • Water 

How to remove stains from your couch

Step 1: Vacuum the couch 

The first step is to give the couch a good vacuum, removing any fluff, dirt, or crumbs. If you’re dealing with an older stain, you may also find that vacuuming the stain helps to fade it. The Miele Boost (available at Amazon) is my go-to for this. The vacuum will suck away any loose particles, which should help to reduce the visibility of an older stain. 

Step 2: Read the cleaning instructions 

Before you apply any cleaning solution — such as this one from the Chemical Guys from Amazon — to the stained area, it’s vital that you take the time to read the cleaning instructions in full. This is important as some fabrics can be damaged by certain cleaning chemicals or methods, so it’s always best to read the fabric care instructions in full. 

Step 3: Blot the stain 

If the couch material can be cleaned using water, spray the stained area with tepid water and then use a clean sponge to blot the stain. After blotting the stain, rinse the sponge out before blotting again. 

If water doesn’t work, you could try a solution of water and a little dish soap to blot and remove more of the stain. 

Just be careful not to rub the stain as rubbing may make the stain set further into the fabric or may spread it further. 

Step 4: Spray the stain with stain remover  

If blotting doesn’t fully remove the stain, the next step is to use stain remover. This can either be a handheld stain remover applied via a spray bottle and blotted with a sponge or it can be via a handheld upholstery cleaner — like this super handy one from Bissell that you can order at Amazon — that’s used to distribute the cleaning solution and clean the stain. 

Remember, before using a stain remover — or any cleaning solution on your couch — make sure to test the formula on a discreet area of the couch, to make sure that it doesn’t cause damage to the fabric. 

Step 5: Rinse and repeat 

If the stain is visibly gone, use cold water and a sponge to carefully remove any excess cleaning solution from the fabric. If the stain hasn’t gone and is annoyingly stubborn, the next step is to repeat the process until the stain begins to lift and can be removed from the fabric. 


What stains cannot be removed from sofa?

While most stains can be removed from a couch, there are certain ones that can be a little more challenging to fully remove. These include dark liquids like red wine or coffee, watermarks, and oil-based stains.

Can old stains be removed from sofa?

Depending on the type of stain — and how you clean it — it is usually possible to remove old stains from a sofa. You may just need to repeat the cleaning process more than once. 

Does vinegar discolor a couch?

If properly diluted with water, white vinegar should not cause staining or discoloration to your couch. However, always read the manufacturer’s instructions and test the solution on a discreet area of the couch before applying. 

Does baking soda help with couch stains?

Baking soda works effectively to remove most stains, as well as helping to remove any lingering odors. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.