The Best Way To Clean Upholstery (Using Just One Ingredient!)

The Best Way To Clean Upholstery (Using Just One Ingredient!)

Do you want to know the best way to clean upholstery? You're in luck, as today we're showing you how to get your soft-furnishings clean with just one, everyday ingredient.

No matter how much care you take to remove shoes and prevent spills, most upholstery and carpets will start to look tired over time. The sheer human traffic, clean or not, is enough to dirty up carpets and dull sofas and leave them looking and smelling anything but fresh.

Learn how to clean a sofa, carpets and upholstered chairs with this quick trick today. They'll look better than ever in no time at all!

dirty blue sofa
This sofa has certainly seen better days!

Best way to clean upholstery - using bicarbonate of soda!

That's right, bicarbonate of soda is the secret ingredient that's going to get your soft furnishings looking and smelling great again.

Bicarbonate of soda not only neutralises smells, but as you've no doubt witnessed in many of our natural cleaning articles, is also a sensationally powerful, natural cleaner.

Cleaning upholstery with bicarbonate of soda - how it works

bicarbonate of soda clean sofa
It's seriously effective.

What makes bicarbonate of soda such a good household cleaner? Well, bicarbonate of soda has two properties in particular that make it effective for cleaning upholstery:

  1. Bicarbonate of soda neutralises fabric odours: This neutral, natural product reacts with foul-smelling acidic scents. Unlike air fresheners or fabric sprays, bicarbonate of soda actually absorbs smells in your sofa and carpet, rather than just masking them.
  2. Bicarbonate of soda is abrasive: Another thing that makes bicarb so effective is its abrasive qualities. It is gentle, yet slightly gritty, which 'exfoliates' stains, helping to lift dirt and debris - ideal for getting deep down into your upholstery.

Best way to clean upholstery - the method

bicarbonate of soda sofa cleaning
Vacuum it up...

Whether you're cleaning a sofa, carpet, or upholstered chair, the method is the same. All you need is your pot of bicarbonate of soda, and a vacuum.

It's best to do this on a traffic-free day, as the bicarbonate of soda will need some time to do its magic.

  1. Remove any stubborn marks or stains using diluted dish soap and a clean sponge (be careful not to rub, as this could make stains worse). Blot dry with paper towel.
  2. If stains remain, you may want to try a specific, shop-bought cleaner. We swear by Vanish Carpet Cleaner for getting even the toughest, trodden-in carpet stains, and Scotchgard Fabric and Upholstery Cleaner for soft-furnishings.
  3. Vacuum the upholstery using the brush attachment.
  4. Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda onto the fabric (it may be best to decant the bicarbonate of soda into an empty talcum powder bottle to make this easier).
  5. Leave to sit for 30 minutes.
  6. Vacuum over once more, making sure that no white bicarbonate of soda remains.
clean blue sofa
Wow, what a difference!

Bicarbonate of soda does it again! This really is an amazingly quick and easy way to refresh carpets and sofas. Who knew the best way to clean upholstery was hiding in our kitchen cabinets?

Do you have any expert tips for cleaning upholstery you'd like to share with us? Comment below with your tricks!

Stephanie C


Lover of all things fashion & foodie...I look to satisfy my tastes without obliterating my budget. Wannabe interior designer, I'm an avid cushion cover maker and charity shop hunter.

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  1. Author John's Sister on September 24, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    I had a cooking accident a few weeks ago. I was chopping with a knife. I accidentally sliced my 3 fingers. I was bleeding like a garden hose! After going for stitches(12) I realized that my light colored shirt was bloody. I had taken off my apron(it's a cool one). I remembered something I learned in college. Blood is a protein property. No club soda was going to do it's magic act. Peroxide! Just pour it onto the blood. After washing it a week later, it looked brand new! Now I put peroxide inside a clear spray bottle. I keep 2 in the house. I just figured I'd share it with o thers.

    1. Author Joanne A on September 25, 2018 at 10:27 am

      Thanks for sharing!

    2. Author Michele on February 27, 2019 at 1:12 am

      To take out blood stains (so long as it hasn't already been washed), use milk then agitate, this UKit will break it up, then put it in a normal wash....voila clean...good as new....its to do with the enzymes!

    3. Author Georgina Harding on April 24, 2020 at 11:17 am

      Salt gets blood out to xx

    4. Author Joanne A on April 11, 2023 at 11:43 am

      While salt may help absorb moisture and loosen a blood stain, it is ineffective for completely removing the stain. Instead, it is recommended to rinse the stain with cold water, apply a stain remover or laundry detergent, and clean again with cold water.

  2. Author Sean on November 25, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    Bicarbonate of soda works , woh . Thanks for the info

    1. Author Stephanie C on November 26, 2018 at 9:23 am

      You're welcome, Sean!

  3. Author Dan on January 2, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    I don’t fully understand how just sprinkling bicarbonate soda on a sofa cleans it. Has anyone tried this with really good results? Is there any fabric on a sofa this should not be done?

    1. Author Joanne A on January 3, 2019 at 9:17 am

      Hi Dan! Sprinkling on the bicarbonate of soda is the last step for cleaning your sofa. First, you should treat any stains using the methods listed above. The bicarbonate of soda will then absorb and neutralise odours. It's just like magic really! If you're unsure of whether to use this method on your upholstery, try a small patch test on an inconspicuous area.

  4. Author Gary on January 28, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Does anybody have any tips on how to use the method on the front, sides and back of the sofa (gravity won't allow me to do so) ! Many thanks, Gary

    1. Author Joanne A on January 28, 2019 at 2:56 pm

      Hey Gary! It might take some time and effort, but if you are able to rotate the piece of furniture so that the side and back become the flat top, you should be able to use this method.

  5. Author Mrs Alison Milne on February 22, 2019 at 11:54 am

    Hi i read an article i think on here to use vinegar and something else and a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil.I cannot think what the missing ingedient was.Then add it all to a spray bottle make sure not to over wet and put a fan on to let it dry off then sprinkle with bicarbonate of soda leave it for a few hours or even better overnight then hoover. Can you help me with the missing item please?? Xxx

    1. Author Joanne A on February 22, 2019 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Alison! I'm not sure but, if I can get some more information, I may be able to help. What was the cleaning recipe for?

    2. Author Alison Milne on February 22, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      Hi joanne it was one for cleaning upholstery.I got gifted a 2+3 seater reclining sofas.And they are fantastic.I have tried the bicarbonate of soda and left overnight but the sofas are like a faux suede i think.and there is loads of big black marks down the sides of each seat but i have no idea what the marks are they are very noticeable on a mid brown sofas?? Xx

    3. Author Joanne A on February 22, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      Hi again! I think I have found the method you're talking about. The missing ingredient is rubbing alcohol and you can switch out eucalyptus oil for any essential oil of your choosing. Here's the article with all the details: . You can then follow this up with our baking soda method. Hope this helps!

  6. Author Kathryn on March 28, 2019 at 6:21 am

    Hi Joanne, Great advice in your column! I'm used baking soda on a leather sofa which I inherited from a neighbor, land left it on longer for two hours to see if it would absorb the febreze smell which is so powerfully horrible that I'm reacting to it and can't sit on it (it's giving me headaches and symptoms) and the baking soda didn't seem to work to reduce the smell. I've tried really hard earlier to to scrub it twice with pure vinegar and that didn't work, I'll try to baking soda again soon, but does anyone have suggestions on how to get rid of the febreze chemical smell. Help!! I'm thinking trying to blow air on it with a fan when the weather gets warmer to try to get the naphthalene chemicals to lift off. Any other suggestions? It's really important that I can at least reduce the smell. I don't think I can get rid of the couch right now and it was really hard to get it into the apartment...we had to take the door off! Thanks for your help! Thanks so much for anybody's help! I'm gassed out by Febreze.

    1. Author Joanne A on April 1, 2019 at 11:59 am

      Hi Kathryn! It sounds like you're running out of options. The best way to get rid of a smell in my experience is to air the item of concern out. This is best done outside, but it sounds like that'd be an impossible challenge with your sofa. If you can, open the windows for as long as possible to try to air it out. A fan will also help to circulate the air.

  7. Author Toni Ellis on June 14, 2019 at 11:32 am

    Hi I’ve bought a 2nd hand fabric sofa so unsure what’s best to clean it with it has musty smell and could do with cleaning any tips

    1. Author Joanne A on June 14, 2019 at 11:38 am

      Hi Toni! What kind of fabric is the sofa?

    2. Author Anne on July 19, 2020 at 8:33 pm

      I use a steam cleaner and this works very well to disperse all odours. My sofa is suede so I don't put the cleaning head directly onto the fabric. The steam makes the whole room smell like mountain air.

  8. Author Marg on July 7, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    Hi I have a white linen chair it has a water stain on it have tried bicarbonate soda and white vinegar but cannot get rid of the brown water edging have you any ideas cheers marg

    1. Author Joanne A on July 8, 2019 at 11:08 am

      Hi Marg! Have you tried leaving it out in the sun? The sun can naturally bleach fabrics and remove stains. The best part is, it's completely free to try! Just be careful, and don't leave it out in the rain by accident.

  9. Author Florence on December 7, 2019 at 12:23 am

    Hello, My dog had an accident has left blood on a reupholstered sofa. I made a mistake by scrubbing the stains and then used a bicarbonate of soda paste with water - which has worked but has left bad white marks/stains on the sofa which is coloured light pink. How can I get rid of the stains from the baking soda water mix and will they come out? The blood stains have gone but the white stains are really bad!

    1. Author Joanne A on December 9, 2019 at 11:39 am

      Hi Florence! It sounds like residue left by the baking soda. Have you tried washing it with a damp cloth? It's difficult to clean upholstered furniture thoroughly without causing damage.

    2. Author Myra currie on January 4, 2020 at 1:11 pm

      I would like to know how to clean a leather suit. Thank you

  10. Author Debbie pennell on November 25, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Hi does anyone know how to remove “sweat” marks from a tan leather sofa please. I have tried heavy duty leather cleaner but it isn’t shifting

    1. Author Joanne A on January 23, 2023 at 12:52 pm

      Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and gently rub the solution onto the affected area with a soft cloth, or use a leather cleaner designed explicitly for sweat stains and follow the instructions on the label. If these methods do not work, consider consulting a professional leather cleaner.

  11. Author Samira on May 14, 2021 at 11:06 am

    Can I used soda crystals to do this ?

    1. Author Joanne A on February 2, 2023 at 12:05 pm

      Yes, soda crystals (also known as sodium carbonate) can be used to clean upholstery. They can be mixed with warm water to form a cleaning solution, which can be applied to the upholstery with a soft cloth. It is essential to spot-test the solution on an inconspicuous area of the upholstery before applying it to the entire surface to ensure that it does not cause any damage. After cleaning, the upholstery should be rinsed thoroughly with water and left to air dry.

  12. Author Sylvia McLeod on June 8, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    Hi I think I have ruined my fabric suite mixed up a paste with bicarbonate of soda vinegar and washing up liquid and now my couch and chairs have been left with big white blotches

    1. Author Joanne A on February 1, 2023 at 12:16 pm

      Sorry to hear that, Sylvia! Mix a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar and blot the affected area with a clean, white cloth. Repeat until the white blotches have disappeared, then blot the area with another dry cloth to remove any residual moisture.

  13. Author Louise Seggar on September 3, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    I do agree baking soda is this best but not for your vaccum especially dyson so why encourage all the time to leave and vaccum up

    1. Author Joanne A on March 22, 2023 at 9:42 am

      You can use it sparingly or you may wish to consider alternative natural methods for cleaning and deodorizing carpets.

  14. Author Sandra on December 14, 2021 at 8:48 am

    Hi I buy a second hand couch . Will baking soda take the smell of cigarette smoke out of it . Thanks

    1. Author Joanne A on March 17, 2023 at 5:06 pm

      Yes, baking soda can remove the smell of cigarette smoke from a second-hand couch. Simply sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the sofa, let it sit for several hours, and then vacuum it off.

  15. Author Cindy Pillay on December 29, 2021 at 7:23 am

    Hi Joanne, I have fabric sofas not suede, due to kids, dogs dirty paws and food and drinks falling it's made it dirty. I used an upholstery cleaning machine that throws out water and sucks it however the sofas fabric ended up feeling hard. Overtime the dirt is back, the machine is too expensive to hire again and when I clean it using vinegar bicarb and so forth there's patches left after drying. I do rub and scrub with dishwashing liquid. What can I do the patches on 1 sofa is bad cause it's a different fabric to the other. Thanks Cindy

    1. Author Joanne A on March 17, 2023 at 4:48 pm

      To clean fabric sofas, vacuum thoroughly, test cleaning solutions before use, try a soft-bristled brush to scrub stains, and consider hiring a professional cleaning service for stubborn stains. Use a fabric shaver to remove loose fibres and make the fabric look uniform after cleaning.

  16. Author Debbie butler on February 1, 2023 at 12:09 pm

    To remove dirty grime,tea stain from your sink use tomatoe sauce,hey,presto ,leave for a couple of minutes and your sink is clean

    1. Author Joanne A on March 1, 2023 at 10:47 am

      Using tomato sauce to clean your sink is not recommended, as better and more effective cleaning solutions are available. If not rinsed off thoroughly, it may also leave a sticky residue and a red stain.


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