cleaning sofa

How to get undesirable smells out of your sofa

16th September 2021

Chances are you spend a lot of time on your sofa, so when a strange or offensive smell starts to develop, it can make life pretty unpleasant quite quickly. Happily though, you’ve got plenty of options for dealing with the smell, even if you’re not totally sure exactly where it’s coming from on your sofa. If you’ve got fitted sofa covers on your furniture, you can simply start by taking them off and putting them in the washing machine. But if that’s not an option just yet for whatever reason, here are a couple of other things you can try…

Start by removing any visible stains from your sofa

If you can easily see any actual stains on your sofa, they’re the most obvious culprits for causing an unpleasant smell, so it’s a good plan to deal with those first. Begin by removing crumbs or dirt from the surface and from between the cushions. You can just use a dry cloth or a vacuum to do this. For the most stubborn dried-on spots, you might need to use a stiff brush.

Once you’ve done everything you can with the cloth and brush, now it’s time to deal with the stains themselves.

For this, you’ll need:

Washing up liquid
White wine vinegar
Baking soda
Warm water

Take a teaspoon of each and mix it all together. The soda and vinegar should react with each other to give you a frothing lather, which you can then apply directly to any stains or smudges you can see. Once you’ve got them all, leave the entire thing to dry for about ten minutes. Then, come back and wipe it all down with a clean cloth to get rid of the last of the residue. What you should end up with is a lovely stain-free sofa – and hopefully one that’s free of smells too! If not though, keep that baking soda on hand – you’ll need it for what comes next.

How to use baking soda to remove unpleasant smells

If you find that smell’s still lingering, here’s what you’ll need for the next step:

Baking soda
Stiff brush (optional)
Dry carpet cleaner (optional)
Your favourite essential oil (optional)
Handheld steam cleaner

One of the main reasons why baking soda is so useful for cleaning is because it has odour absorbing properties, allowing it to easily shift bad smells. For best results though, make sure to double check a final time that all the crumbs are gone from your sofa, especially if it’s been a few days since you cleared those stains using the method above. That’s the easy bit – just use a vacuum to hoover them all up, and a stiff brush to dislodge any of the stubborn ones.

Once your sofa is clear, sprinkle the entire thing with baking soda, and leave it for at least 20 minutes. Some people recommend letting the baking powder sit overnight, and tackling it in the morning. When that time is up, come back with the hoover and use the brush attachment to collect every last bit of that powdery residue.

If you can still detect an unappealing scent, you can try mixing the baking soda with dry carpet cleaner. If you’ve previously struggled to remove it by leaving it for just 20 minutes, you may want to leave it longer this time.

If you do plan on leaving it overnight, you may also want to consider putting a few drops of essential oil into it, which will infuse your sofa with a more pleasant scent. (You might want to exercise a bit of caution with this initially though – if you’re not successful in removing the unpleasant smell first, you might simply end up just mixing the two smells, which can just compound your problem!)

When you’ve hoovered up all the baking powder residue, you can use the handheld steam cleaner to remove any remaining odours. You can use a combination of any or all of the methods above, but just make sure to leave a little bit of time between each one, so that you can tell whether or not it’s really working.

Keep your sofa smelling fresh with your own DIY fabric freshener

This one is a cheap and easy way to keep your sofa smelling fresh. You can either do it once you’ve removed the initial unpleasant smell, or use it to mask it if you haven’t been entirely successful. It costs next to nothing; you just need to start with one cup of white wine vinegar, and one cup of water. Stir them together, and then add half a teaspoon of vegetable glycerine, and your favourite essential oil (peppermint or lavender are some particularly popular examples). Pour that mixture into an empty spray bottle and voila! Your very own DIY fabric freshener.

Or if you’re a fan of the classic lemony freshness, you can enjoy some of that in your living room the old fashioned way, too. Squeeze the juice from a single (whole) lemon into a cup 3/4 full of hot water. Mix that well, dip a sponge or cloth into it, and firmly wipe down your sofa fabric. (Don’t forget to use a circular motion.) And there you’ll have it – a sweet, fresh-smelling sofa.

Enjoy a little ray of sunshine

Another way to tackle bad smells in your sofa is by using natural light, which can be a highly effective measure in the brighter months of the year. I’ll spare you the detailed science lesson, but essentially what happens is that when your sofa is exposed to direct sunlight, the UV rays in those beams will kill the bacteria that’s causing that odour, helping to eliminate the smell. This one’s easy enough to take care of – you’d just need to move your sofa into the path of direct sunlight.

However, a word of warning here! Before you do this it’s really important to check the details of your sofa fabric, as some of them can be very prone to bleaching under direct sunlight. Just as the UV rays can kill bacteria, they can also weaken the chemical bonds in the dye that gives your sofa fabric its colour, so check the labels (or with the manufacturer) beforehand.

Switch out your sofa covers

Of course, if you’re still struggling to remove the smell from your sofa fabric rather than the sofa itself, then you can always… well, cheat slightly. Loose sofa covers can give you an excellent means of keeping your sofa looking and smelling good as new. If they ever get stained or smelly, you can simply remove them at will, and pop them in the washing machine, so when they come out again, you can enjoy that pristine look for your sofa all over again!

And if the idea of that appeals to you, you’re in exactly the right place. Here at Cover My Furniture, we take care to provide a comprehensive range of sofa covers, chair covers and more in a wide variety of colours to choose from, so that you’ll always be able to find plenty of options to suit you.

If you’re having trouble making a decision, or you’re looking for something in particular, don’t hesitate to let one of us know. You can get in touch using the contact form on our website, or through our Facebook or Instagram. We’re always happy to hear from you!

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