How To Clean A Fabric Sofa Without Water

The best method to clean a fabric sofa without water is to use either baking soda, vinegar mixed with olive oil, or rubbing alcohol. Before starting any cleaning process, however, make sure to check the labels to know if water or a watery solvent can be used on your specific sofa.

Follow this step-by-step guide for cleaning a fabric sofa without water along with some very helpful cleaning tips.

Cleaning A Fabric Sofa Without Water: Step by Step

When it comes to cleaning up a stain on a fabric sofa, water is probably the first thing we think to use.

However, using water to clean it could actually end up leaving behind a bigger mess or even damaging the entire couch. You never want to flood your fabric sofa with water.

Since you don’t want to douse your fabric sofa with water leaving it to mold or be too wet to sit on, thankfully there are methods to clean a fabric sofa without water.

The first step is to prepare the couch properly for cleaning. Start with a good, thorough vacuuming to lift out any loose dirt or dust from the couch and its cushions.

Also, keep in mind that regular maintenance goes a long way when it comes to cleaning. Be sure to mop away any spills as soon as they happen to save you a lot of hard work later. About once a month, thoroughly clean the couch using a fabric-safe, non-water method. About once a year, you might even want to call on the help of a professional cleaner.

If you look at the couch’s manufacturer’s cleaning instructions, there are symbols that indicate how to clean the specific sofa. If you cannot find the instructions, look for a tag on the sofa to indicate how to properly clean it. Look for specific symbols that give you a clue into how to clean the fabric.

These symbols are:

  • W – Water can be used to clean the sofa
  • WS – A solvent-based cleaner and water can be used to clean the sofa
  • S – Water is strictly not allowed, not even in the form of a solvent-based cleaner
  • X – Do not use water or water solvents on the sofa, meaning only vacuuming is the preferred cleaning option

Once you’ve identified the symbol, choose a cleaning method from the list below.

Baking Soda

No, we are not listing ingredients to bake a cake, but a few handy household kitchen ingredients are quite useful for cleaning with or without water. Baking soda is a great natural cleaning agent that works with or without water and has lots of different applications.

It’s gentle, leaving no damage to the fabric. And, a bonus is that it will remove foul odors as it cleans.

To clean your fabric sofa using baking soda and no water, sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the surface of the sofa. Be careful not to pour too much baking soda out at once. If you do, you will simply be wasting the baking soda.

If you sprinkle too little, you will just need to repeat the process more than once to get the sofa completely clean.

Once the surface is lightly covered with baking soda, use a bristle brush to gently scrub it into the fabric. Let it sit for about an hour, and then vacuum it up using a fabric attachment on the vacuum cleaner.


White vinegar seems to be the magical substance for lots of different cleaning jobs around the house, and a fabric sofa is no exception. However, it can only be used on sofas that can be cleaned using water or a solvent-based cleaner.

While it is not water, vinegar is a liquid. So, if the cleaning instructions state that this specific couch is marked with an “X”, then do not use any liquid solvents to clean it since it will damage the fabric.

Also, always do a spot test before using vinegar on color fabric to make sure it’s not going to fade the color.

Provided the couch can be cleaned using a solvent-based cleaner, fill a spray bottle with a solution of vinegar mixed with olive oil. Fill half of the bottle with vinegar, and then finish filling the bottle with olive oil. Shake the bottle vigorously to make sure it is completely mixed, and then spray it on the couch.

Scrub the solution in with a brush, and let it soak for five to ten minutes before wiping away any leftover residue with a microfiber cloth.

Do not use an abrasive brush to ripe away the residue since this could loosen the fiber strands in the sofa.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol makes a great cleaner since it eliminates bacteria while helping to clean out dust and other debris. IUt has lots of other applications as well, such as getting tattoo ink out of carpet or removing soap residue left behind after carpet cleaning.

It also does not require water to use for cleaning, although it is a liquid itself Only use this method on sofas that have cleaning instructions marked with a “W” or a “WS”.

Use rubber gloves for this method. Pour alcohol into a spray bottle, and then instead of spraying it directly onto the sofa, spray a little bit onto your gloved hands.

Rub the alcohol side of the glove over the surface of the couch for about five minutes.

It will kill most germs and bacteria as it sits. If there is any residue left behind, take a soft cloth to wipe it up. Use a towel to dry the sofa surface. Press them down onto the surface and make them soak up the excess moisture. Thoroughly allow the sofa to dry.


Nobody wants to do more damage than good when attempting to clean their fabric sofa. So, many questions come to mind. Some frequently asked questions about cleaning a fabric sofa include:

How do I prevent water stains on my fabric sofa?

For starters, using non-water methods for cleaning will help. However, water stains can come from other sources, such as someone sitting down to watch TV with a glass full of water that accidentally spills. The secret is to dry up the water as quickly as you can once it has gotten on the sofa’s fabric.

If you used water to clean, and it stained the couch, try to dry out the couch thoroughly using a fan or a hairdryer.

How can I get brown stains out of my fabric sofa?

One way to spot-clean a fabric sofa or to get brown water stains out of it is to make a solution of distilled vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and a small amount of water.

Since you are trying to clean the sofa without using water, make sure you don’t saturate the mixture with water.

Only add a small amount, or try the mixture without the water. Mix them together inside a spray bottle, and spray it directly onto the stain. Leave it for about an hour, and then use a damp cloth to wipe away the residue.

Take a sponge and wipe away the solution until the stain is lighter or completely gone. To dry the fabric, use a hairdryer.

Can I clean my fabric sofa with laundry detergent or soap and water?

Yes, laundry detergent or soap and water are safe to use for cleaning fabric sofas unless the couch has a tag that indicates an “X” meaning it is a dry-clean-only fabric. However, it will require using water to rinse it out sufficiently.

Mix half a cup of laundry detergent and one gallon of water until bubbles start to show up on the surface. If you are using soap and water, use a mild soap like Dove, Neutrogena, or a dish liquid. Dip a cloth into the solution, and start scrubbing the sofa with the soapy damp towel.

Let is sit for 10 to 15 minutes, and then use a clean cloth to wipe away the residue. Since water is involved in this method, you will need to make sure the sofa is completely dried before using it.

Dry it out quickly with a fan or a hairdryer.

Can I Steam Clean My Fabric Sofa?

Yes, you can steam clean your couch provided the cleaning code that is recommended for that specific sofa is a “W”. Of course, steam cleaning is a method using water.

If the code is a “WS”, also check the manufacturer’s instructions since some WS sofas are not able to withstand the heat of the steam.

Do I need to remove the cushions to clean my couch?

Yes, to properly and thoroughly get a good cleaning, you will want to remove the cushions.

Vacuum on the top and the underside of the cushions. Ideally, you should already be in the habit of flipping the cushions over every so often, as you would with your bed’s mattress, provided they are designed to be flipped.

Once the cushions have been removed, you will be able to get to the base of the sofa and use special vacuum hose attachments to get nooks and crannies of the back, creases, and armrests.

Final Thoughts

Follow these helpful tips on how to clean a fabric sofa without water. Be sure that whatever method you choose that your sofa can handle the cleaning solution you use. Even though no water was used, sometimes the cleaning solution can leave behind dampness that will need to be thoroughly dried before using the freshly cleaned sofa.