How to Clean a Velvet Couch

This luxurious fabric is surprisingly easy to care for.

blue velvet sofa with gold drum coffee table
Photo: Edmund Barr

Velvet sofas are enjoying a moment in the spotlight. With the emergence of the grandmillennial style, the midcentury modern and minimalist, all-white aesthetics that have dominated interior design in the past are taking a back seat to bold styles that favor overstuffed and plush furniture that's heavily trimmed and richly colored. 

Velvet has a reputation as a fussy fabric, and while it's true that there are some common issues, such as a tendency for the fibers to compress, in many ways velvet is a fairly easy upholstery fabric to care for. This guide details the best ways to maintain a velvet couch, how to treat stains, and how to deep clean a velvet sofa when necessary.

What to Know Before Cleaning Velvet Upholstery

Not all velvets are created equally: Natural velvets are made of silk, linen, or mohair; synthetic velvets are made of nylon, rayon, or high-quality polyester. If you are considering purchasing a piece of velvet furniture, take the type of velvet into consideration, especially if your household is one with children or pets. Synthetic velvet is easier to maintain, offering more stain resistance than other upholstery fabrics, which makes it better suited for high-traffic homes. 

Regardless of which type of velvet you choose, synthetic or natural, it's important to check the care tag, which is usually found on the underside of the seat, for cleaning instructions. The care tag offers special cleaning instructions, as well as a lettered code, outlined below, that indicates the type of cleaning products that are safe to use on the fabric.

  • W = Wet/water cleaning only
  • S = Dry solvent cleaning only
  • SW = Dry solvent and/or wet cleaning
  • X = Professional cleaning or vacuuming only

There are four primary methods used to clean and care for velvet couches: Vacuuming, spot cleaning, steaming, and deep cleaning. These methods should be safe for most synthetic and natural velvets, however, it's important to check the care instructions for your particular piece of furniture and/or perform a spot test in an inconspicuous section of the couch.

Use a Vacuum for Day-to-Day Upkeep

When it comes to routine upkeep, vacuuming is the best way to keep a velvet couch clean and looking fresh. 

Vacuum the sofa regularly using an upholstery brush attachment and a light touch; do not push or grind the vacuum into the fibers, which can abrade the fabric, causing bald spots or other damage. In addition to vacuuming the body of the couch, it's worth employing the vacuum's crevice tool for detail work, like vacuuming along a sofa's seams, where crumbs, hair, and dust collect. While velvet is forgiving when it comes to stain removal, it will show dust and debris more than other upholstery fabrics typically do, making regular and focused vacuuming a must.

Given the frequency with which velvet furniture should be vacuumed, a handheld vacuum that can be stored nearby can help to make this chore less time-consuming. Upholstery brushes can also be used to freshen up velvet as an alternative to regular vacuuming.

gray and pink elegant living room with velvet ottomans
Adam Albright

Spot Clean as Spills and Stains Occur

When a spill occurs, soak it up immediately using an absorbent light-colored cloth or paper towel. Velvet can be a surprisingly forgiving fabric when it comes to stains, and absorbing a fresh spill when it happens may be all that's needed to leave the couch looking like new. Giving the area a once-over with a vacuum or upholstery brush will help restore the nap if it has been tamped down by a liquid spill.

If a stain does linger on velvet upholstery, use a method called spot cleaning to remove it. To spot clean stains, dilute a small amount of dish soap or gentle liquid laundry detergent in water, and agitate the solution to create suds. Dip a light-colored cloth in the suds so that it's just barely damp and, using a gentle touch, work the detergent into the stained or soiled area in the direction of the fibers. Do not rub in a circular motion or grind the stain to avoid damaging the fabric.

When the stain is gone, rinse the cloth with clean water and wring it out well so that it's just damp, and go over the area to remove detergent residue.

Use a Steamer to Restore the Nap

While velvet is surprisingly forgiving when it comes to stain removal, it does suffer from a problem that other types of upholstery fabric typically don't: It has the tendency to compress, leaving behind creases and white streaks where the nap has been exposed to pressure. 

To prevent or remove compression marks, use a steamer on the lowest setting to gently steam out creases. Then, use an upholstery brush, working against the pile, to return the nap to its original state.

jeweled toned velvet furniture in living room with oval shaped coffee table
Kim Cornelison

Deep Clean with an Upholstery Cleaning Machine

Upholstery cleaning machines work by forcing a cleaning solution deep into furniture, then using suction to pull the cleaning solution, dirt, pollutants, and stains out of the fabric and cushions. Provided the velvet upholstery on your couch can be safely cleaned with water-based products, these machines are an excellent way to deep clean a velvet sofa.

Deep cleaning using an upholstery cleaning machine should be done one to two times a year, at a minimum. Households with pets or children may find it necessary to deep clean velvet furniture more often. Upholstery cleaning machines are available in sizes ranging from handheld models to large upright units; mid-sized portable cleaners are the most popular type of this machine and will be the right choice for most households. Upholstery cleaning machines can be purchased or rented from hardware, home improvement, and grocery stores.

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