The Ultimate Guide to Sofa Stain Removal

Before we begin, we would like to underline a few important points regarding sofa stain removal. The first and foremost rule when it comes to spillages – don’t panic. You don’t want to start grabbing vinegar, baking soda and whatnot to concoct some DIY recipe you read online. This is the biggest mistake people make. Do not go touching it, rubbing it, or trying to wipe it up either. You could end up rubbing it further into the fabric and causing permanent damage. Rather, take your time to read our guide on stain removal to calmly and adequately evaluate the situation and the best approach to take.

When you are dealing with a stain, it is important to take the fabric you are treating, the type of stain, and the method you are using into great consideration. You should also be sceptical of advice from friends as the material they are dealing with will most likely be a completely different textile from the one you need to treat. Another big no for stain removal is bleach. That is why our team of experienced technicians at Cleaner Cleaner has decided to put together the ultimate guide to sofa stain removal and put an end to the countless myths on dealing with spills.

Stain removal, no matter whether you are treating your upholstered furniture, carpets, or clothes, is a nightmare everyone has to face at some point in their life. The nightmare, however, always has the potential to get worse and in some cases, the process of tackling the issue can cause irreversible damage. Countless stain-removal guides floating around the internet can also throw a spanner in the works.

All-purpose stain-removal products are not always the best solution either. If you read the back of the bottle yourself, you will see that they come with a warning label saying you should test out the product on a small, less-visible area to avoid potential damage. It is also worth noting that stains usually occur in the more central areas that are likely to be noticeable. That is why it is also worth testing out the product on a small area of the stain as well to see how effective it will be in removing the spill.

sofa stain removal

Something you Must Consider before Taking Any Stain-Removal Action – Types of Stains

One of the key things in stain removal that people overlook is the type of stain they are treating. Many people find a method that worked on one stain and think that they can apply the same technique to just any old stain. Well, unfortunately, this is not the case. That is why it is important to have some basic knowledge of the range of stains you can happen upon.

Permanent Stains – this type of stain occurs when the substance damages the fibres of the upholstery. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done about these. At best, you can improve the area if the stain is small enough. Substances that cause such damage or irreversible colourings include food colourings, cosmetic products, old urine stains, strong dyes, strong acids, alkalis, paint, varnish, hot tannin-based stains, set stains, and water damage.

Tannin Stains – this type of stain typically leaves a yellow-brown discolouration. Tannin is a complex natural organic compound that can be found in wood, tea and coffee, beer and cider, red wine and balsamic vinegar, cola drinks, fruit juices, and chocolate (especially dark chocolate).

Solvent Soluble Stains – solvent-soluble stains can be caused by greasy/oily foods, tar, bitumen, motor oil, chewing gum, wax, cosmetics, creams, ointments, fresh gloss paint, solvent-soluble adhesives, solvent-soluble inks, varnishes, and wood stain. Basically, we are talking about oil-based stains and others that are solvent-soluble. This type can only be treated with a mineral spirit solvent or a citrus solvent for solvent-sensitive materials.

Protein Stains – this stain type originates from living organisms. This category covers a wide range of stain types, including all food/drink types, blood, bodily fluids, medicines that contain sugars, moulds, and mildew. Due to the vast variety of stains this category covers, some substances will more than likely require attention that falls under a different stain type. This is because some foods or medicines may contain other substances that will need a higher level of care.

Dye Stains – colourants from food dye, artificially-coloured drinks, dark berry or red grape drinks, furniture stain, and some water-based inks or markers will cause this type of stain on your fabric. Dye stains are treatable, but dye bleeds are a whole other ball game that usually falls under permanent stains.

Difficult Stains – although there aren’t really “straightforward” stains, there are ones that are definitely more tricky than others. This type of stain includes soil, mud, urine, nicotine, and grass stains, as well as cellulosic browning, draught marks, and other charged particle stains like soot, for instance. The thing that makes this category more difficult than others is that the treatment usually contains several steps and reapplications where necessary.

Now, not everything comes down to the stain type either. It is important to keep that in mind. The type of fabric that the stain is on is also a vital factor not to be ignored. Some fibres are more sensitive than others and this will dictate the methods and solutions applicable to each instance.

stain removal

Check out also: Things you can do to keep your carpets clean. 

How to Tackle Different Stain Types

As each of the stain types mentioned above contains its own subcategories, we will make it easy for you. We will walk you through the process of dealing with more common spillages, such as drinks, food, or pet stains. Then, we will point out the similar types that can be dealt with in more or less the same manner. And don’t forget to think about the fabric when cleaning upholstery. Without further ado, let us walk you through the ultimate guide to sofa stain removal.

The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Drink Stains:

1. Coffee and Tea Stains

sofa stain removal

As one of the most common stains (because who doesn’t love a good old cuppa’), let us take a look at how to tackle coffee/tea spillages. Both beverages fall into the tannin category, although they are generally taken with milk.

Furthermore, because the drink is hot, this allows for the spill to penetrate the fabric more than cold drinks. This is why it is better to catch this stain type on time before they dry out. They can be very tricky to deal with, depending on milk or sugar content and how long the spill has been there. Coffee and tea are highly likely to cause permanent damage and even professional cleaning guides advise against promising complete success to clients. However, if you insist on trying to do it DIY, here is our advice on how to deal with tea/coffee stains:

  • Rinse out the area thoroughly with water, lifting as much of the liquid as possible. Using towels to rinse and dry may be a good idea. Also be careful to consider the fabric you are dealing with, as many are not so moisture resistant.
  • Professionals use a combination of stain removers and fibre & fabric rinsers, applying and lifting using either the rinser or just plain water to extract the products. You may need to repeat this a few times before you get the desired result.

We would also like to note that if the coffee stain is from decaf coffee, the stain will fall under the colourings category, so don’t try this method on it. Similar stains to this would be beer. If you were having a few beers with the lads and had an unlucky incident, you could try out the same method to lift the sticky spill.

2. Dealing with Fruit Juice Stains

fruit juice

When dealing with fruit juice stains, one of the things to consider is the type of fruit juice you have on your hands. Citrus fruits are tannin-free, while dark fruits, such as blackberry, blueberry, red grape, cranberry, etc., that contain tannin. If you are dealing with a darker spillage, using tannin-remover may be a good idea. Another thing to consider is whether or not the fruit juice contained artificial colouring or not. If it does, you will want to use a dye-remover for the job. Here is our advice on tackling fruit juice stains:

  • Use a stain-removal solution to cover the affected area.
  • Lift using cool water.
  • Repeat the process if you are still seeing residue.

Similar stains include beer, cider, dark alcohols, cola-based drinks, artificially coloured sodas, and red wine.

3. Dealing with Milk Stains


sofa stain removal

Milk is a protein stain, so using a protein stain remover would be the best option here. The bad thing with milk stains is that they can be fatty, they attract bacteria, and if unnoticed, they can cause awful smells. That is why it is important to catch it on time. If this was not possible, we highly recommend you seek professional help for this one. However, if it is fresh, here are our tips on dealing with the mess:

  • Get your protein stain remover and cover the stain and around it with the product.
  • Lift it using cold water (hot water can really mess up the situation, milk being a protein stain).
  • Now blot the area using paper towels to lift as much of the moisture as possible.
  • Rinse the area again, blotting well with paper towels or absorbent cloths, leaving the area as dry as you can.

Your similar stains for this method include all milk-based products, chocolate milk, yogurts, dairy ice cream, and vomit.

4. Dealing with Wine Stains

wine stains

The method of removing wine staining depends on the wine – red or white. White wine can be treated just like any other alcohol:

  • Apply a spot cleaner onto the stain.
  • Extract using cold water.

Red wine, however, needs to be treated using a coffee stain remover product Another point worth mentioning is that if you spilt red wine on natural fibre fabric, you won’t be removing the stain at all. Try contacting a professional for advice on how to proceed.

The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Food Stains

Now that we have dealt with the stains caused by drinks, let us take a look at the types of food stains you may encounter.

1. Dealing with Butter Stains

Butter stains need solvent-based stain-removal products to be able to deal with the greasiness. Other similar stains include margarine, salad oils, meat juices, and other cooking fats/grease. Here are the instructions on how to tackle butter and similar stains:

  • First thing first, scrape up any residue using a flat spatula or knife.
  • Blot away until all you are left with is a grease stain.
  • Now apply a solvent-based cleaning product, unless your upholstery is solvent-sensitive, in which case, try using upholstery stain removal product.
  • Now rinse using clean water.

2. Dealing with Chocolate Stains

sofa stain removal

Chocolate shouldn’t require the use of solvents to lift the stain. Similar types of spillages include raw egg, gravy, jam, fruit, and more water-soluble food stains, i.e. low-fat content/non-greasy.

  • First off, gently scrape off any lumpy bits on the surface using a flat knife or spatula.
  • Now get a solvent-based stain-removal product and start blotting using paper towels or white towels.
  • Continue reapplying and blotting the area until no more of the stain is lifting.
  • Now rinse as thoroughly as you can using water or some type of fabric rinse.

3. Dealing with Honey Stains

The trouble with honey and other types of sticky stains is that they may be hard to scrape off. That is why you should try using hot water to rinse out as much of the residue as possible before starting the cleaning process. Similar stain types include sticky syrups (including cough syrup), jam, large gravy spillages, as well as some hair removal products. Other than that, you can follow the same steps for dealing with fruit stains.

4. Dealing with Ketchup Stains

Ketchup and other sauces that contain tomatoes may be quite difficult to lift from natural fibre materials due to the natural and possibly added colouring. Similar stain types include mustard, tomato paste, curry sauces, pickles, relish, and other condiments such as Brown or Soya Sauce.

  • Start by getting rid of any residue. Be careful not to rub it into the fabric.
  • Now get a water-based stain-removal product and start blotting at the stain. Keep doing this until it stops lifting the stain.
  • Time to rinse out the remaining stain and any product that is left in the fabric.

The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Stains from Bodily Fluids

1. Dealing with Blood Stains

One of the things you need to keep in mind when dealing with blood stains is that this type falls under the protein stain category. This means that hot or warm water is a big no. Always wear gloves and eye protection during the cleaning process to avoid possible contamination. Another thing worth mentioning is if the stain has dried, you are definitely better off calling the professionals to lend you a hand.

  • The first step is to rinse out as much of the stain as possible using cool water only.
  • Get a water-based stain-removal product (solvent-based should not be needed) and spray over the area, feathering out the product at the edges.
  • Now start blotting away using clean absorbent towels. Be careful not to rub the product in. Repeat the application and blotting until no more of the stain lifts.
  • And now it is rinsing time. If at this point there is still any residue of the stain left, we advise you to contact professional cleaners to give you some tips as blood stains can be tricky.

2. Dealing with Stains from Feces

Although this is an unpleasant topic, anyone with pets or children will have probably grown immune to it. Furthermore, it is very important to know what to do if you are faced with this kind of stain, as if you do something wrong, you might end up with an unbearable stink in your house that just won’t go away. A similar stain type includes vomit.

  • Our pros reckon the best way to deal with this kind of stain is to leave it to dry for a day. If needed, cover it with something so it doesn’t completely stink out the house.
  • After it has completely dried, now brush off the stain using a medium-hard brush. This is to avoid wetting the stain and pushing it further into the upholstery. Don’t forget to be mindful of the type of fabric you are dealing with, as you don’t want to damage your furniture.
  • Apply stain removal product and blot the upholstery until its clean.
  • Rinse with towel, dipped in clean clod water.

3. Dealing with Urine Stains


sofa stain removal

Another not so pleasant stain type, but life is life and all parents know that this can be quite a common one. Whether you are dealing with pet or child stains, the method is the same. Urine stains can be tricky or impossible to remove if they have dried, especially in more absorbent materials.

  • If you are going to try cleaning this kind of stain at home, we advise you to buy a urine neutraliser. Spray it over the area and leave it to neutralise and deodorize the stain.
  • Professionals usually use special techniques and machinery to then extract it, but it is not the end of the world to leave it on. If your upholstery is not too moisture-sensitive, you could try rinsing the area. Alternatively, if it is a cover, you can take it off and wash it per instructions on the label.

The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Stains from Cosmetics and Hair & Beauty Products

1. Dealing with Stains from Cosmetics

Luckily, most stains from cosmetics, such as lipstick, foundation, mascara, blusher, and cream or powder eye shadows, can be treated in the same manner.

  • Start by gently removing any excess residue with a blunt knife or spatula.
  • Now get citrus gel or a solvent-based stain remover and apply to the stain carefully.
  • Time to start spotting straight away using dry paper towels.
  • Now you should rinse out the area as best you can with clean water and absorbent towels. Keep blotting up the moisture until there is none left.

2. Dealing with Fake Tan Stains

Unfortunately, fake tan is another matter and can not be treated in the same way as normal cosmetics. Due to the dyes in this beauty product, if you get any on your furniture, it will likely be a permanent stain. However, if you still insist on trying to remove it, here are our tips:

  • First off, if there is any excess residue, gently remove it using a blunt knife or spatula.
  • The best product for tackling this type of stain is solvent-based cleaner or sofa stain remover. Start blotting using white paper towels, you should notice the fake tan transferring to the paper towels. Keep blotting until no more of the product is lifting.
  • Now it is time to rinse using cool water and absorbent towels and then try out a neutral spotter product. Blot using the same method until no more of the product comes out and then rinse again.

Keep in mind that the results may not be satisfactory due to the nature of fake tan. We also strongly advise you to contact professionals for dye stains. Other similar stains are suntan lotion, hair dye, or medicinal tinctures, like Iodine.

3. Dealing with Hair Spray Stains

Hair spray can be a bit of a tricky one to deal with. It can also cause discolouration in fabric. Similar stains include any oily cosmetics or oily hair products, such as hair gel. Also, a pre-test area is mandatory, as it is well-known that hair spray can react with cleaning chemicals.

  • When treating this stain, it is a good idea for the surface to be horizontal, rather than vertical. A solvent-based cleaning product is what you need, and don’t forget to pre-test a small, less visible area if possible.
  • Use paper towels or white pads to blot the area. If the stain is quite large, work your way from the outside inwards.
  • Now you will want to get a fabric restorer and spray it onto the surface. Start blotting to avoid any ring marking.

4. Dealing with Stains from Nail Polish

Nail polish, and any kind of varnishes, will cause what we call “hardened stains”. In order to be able to successfully treat the stain, you will have to first soften the varnish. It is also worth mentioning that if the stain is large, it would be quite impractical to completely remove it. This is because the cleaning process requires a lot of time, patience, and care.

  • To soften the varnish, you will most likely have to apply a softener several times. Alternatively, get citrus gel and apply a small blob. Leave on until the varnish has softened.
  • Whichever product you decide to use, keep reapplying and blotting using paper towels until no more of the nail varnish transfers.
  • Now it is time to rinse the area and blot dry using absorbent towels.

The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Stains from Medicines

When dealing with medicines, you will have to treat them according to the type. Here are the categories and the methods for each one:

  1. Dealing with Stains from Ointments and Creams
    Stains from ointments and creams can be treated with a solvent-based product. We advise you use the same methodology for treating the stain as you would with cosmetics (see above).
  2. Dealing with Stains from Cough Mixtures and Linctuses
    Seeing as medicines like cough mixtures and linctuses contain high proportions of syrups and sugars, you will need to treat them similarly to honey stains.
    – First off, rinse out the area using hot water. Do this until you have removed as much residue as possible without making the fabric too moist.
    – Now get a water-based stain-removal product and start blotting using paper towels or white towels.
    – Continue reapplying and blotting the area until no more of the stain is lifting.
    – Now rinse as thoroughly as you can using water or some type of fabric rinse.
  3. Dealing with Stains from Tinctures – Unfortunately, as is with the case with all types of dye stains, these ones are most likely to be permanent. When we say tinctures, what we mean is alcohol-based antiseptics, such as Iodine and Mercurochrome. If you do try to tackle this type of stain, just use the same method for all dye stains (see above Dealing with Fake Tan Stains).
  4. Dealing with Stains from Medications Containing Benzyl Peroxide – Medications containing benzyl peroxide are permanent. Any kinds of cosmetics or medicines with it will leave something like small orange spots on the furniture. Unfortunately, there is no way to treat these. Our advice is to keep the cosmetics and medicines far from your soft furnishings.

As for any other types of medicines, we advise you to apply a small amount of solvent to a small area. Start blotting and see if anything will transfer to a paper towel before continuing.

The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Other Common Stains

1. Dealing with Stains from Adhesives

When we say stains from adhesives, we are talking about all types of adhesives, such as residue from masking tape, tackifiers on carpet tiles, rubber cement, household adhesives, etc. All of these, except for some water-based glues, will need a solvent to successfully treat the stain. It is also worth mentioning that if the area of the spillage is large or dried, it is no longer considered a stain, but rather permanent, irreversible damage.

  • In the event that the adhesive has hardened, you will want to apply a softener and leave it to work its magic. You may need to reapply a few times, so be patient. To start, you will want to apply a solvent-based solution or citrus gel (it may be an idea to try both) and start blotting using paper towels.
  • Now it is time to get a neutral, water-based spotter and continue blotting.
  • Try and rinse out as much as you can by blotting with hot water.
  • You may have to repeat the previous 3 steps a few times if necessary.

Similar stains include blu tack, plasticine, play-doh, putty, and silicone sealant.

2. Dealing with Water-Based Glue Stains

Water-based glue stains aren’t such a big problem to deal with. However, do keep in mind that it will not respond to solvent-based products, so get out your neutral, water-based ones.

  • Apply your neutral product and start blotting gently.
  • Then rinse using cool water and blot dry with a clean towel or absorbent paper towels.

3. Dealing with Oil-Based Paint Stains

All oil-based paints, such as gloss, are solvent-soluble stains. Here are the instructions from the pro’s when dealing with this type of stain:

  • Get your solvent-based stain remover or citrus gel and apply it to the area. Leave to sit for a while to soften the paint.
  • As it begins to soften, start blotting continuously to avoid the paint spreading.
  • Now re-apply your solvent-based stain remover and keep blotting. Repeat this step until as much paint as possible has been removed.
  • Place towels over the stain and weigh them down. Leave them for several hours or overnight so as they loosen any remaining residues.
  • Now apply a neutral product and start working the paint with a flat spatula.
  • After that, blot up all remaining residue with paper towels until there is no more transfer of pain onto them.
  • Now it is time to rinse with water.
  • Blot up any remaining moisture using absorbent towels.

4. Dealing with Water-Based Paint Stains

Water-based paints, such as latex or emulsion paint, are water-soluble. However, if the paint has dried, it will be hard to remove. If this is the case, try and break up and remove as much of the paint as you can and use the method above for oil-based paints. For paint that has still not dried, here is what you can try:

  • Get a neutral stain-removal product and blot up as much of the paint as you can.
  • After this, dry it as best as you can using absorbent towels.
  • If this doesn’t work, try the same method using citrus gel.

Similar stain types include furniture or floor varnishes.

5. Dealing with Draught Marks and Soot Stains

stain removal

We will start with draught marks. With this stain type, we strongly advise you to hire a professional to help you out. This is because draught marks need a series of special products and machinery for them to be successfully dealt with.

As for soot stains, we have the same problem. It is highly unlikely, if not impossible, that you could deal with them with regular shop-bought products. That is why we will, again, strongly recommend you talk with professionals about these types of stains.

6. Dealing with Grass Stains

There is nothing worse than getting grass stains in the house. These can be a bit tricky to deal with, but not impossible.

  • Start by applying citrus gel and working it into the stain with a spatula.
  • Now it is time to rinse using hot water.
  • Apply a neutral stain remover and leave it to sit for 5 minutes before rinsing thoroughly using water and absorbent towels to blot.

7. Dealing with Mud Stains

It is just awful when a pet or child runs in all muddy and starts climbing over the furniture. With mud, sometimes the stain can be impossible to remove. This is because of the complex components in mud.

  • First off, you need to scrape off as much of the mud as possible. This is important to be done before applying any solutions or moisture.
  • Now get a neutral stain removal product, apply and blot. Keep doing this until no more of the mud is lifting.
  • Rinse the area thoroughly using water and then blot up as much moisture as possible using absorbent towels.
  • If this method was unsuccessful, you might want to try the same process using citrus gel.

Similar stains include clays, potting soil and growing compost.

8. Dealing with Stains from Chewing Gum

sofa stain removal

DIY cleaning of chewing gum stains may not be the best idea. This is because the professionals use a special gum remover to make the gum brittle and easy to remove. Alternatively, if the gum is dried, it can be broken up with a blunt knife and the pieces removed. We strongly advise that you contact the professionals for this one.
Similar stain types would include blu tack and sticky sweets, for instance, toffee.

9. Dealing with Wax Stains

When dealing with wax stains, it is good to know that this one is a solvent-soluble type. Of course, you will have to break up and remove as much of it as you can before initiating the treatment process. Similar stains would include hair removal wax.

  • Cover the candle wax with a nice piece of kraft paper.
  • Now apply a hot iron to the paper. Be mindful not to touch the fabric of your furniture with the iron.
  • Very slowly and very carefully, pull the paper under the iron. This will work because as the wax melts, it will be absorbed into the paper. It is worth mentioning that this method takes a lot of practice for it to be successful.
  • If the stain remains, you can apply some citrus gel or a solvent-based product and star blotting with absorbent paper until all residues have been removed.

Feeling Uncertain about Tackling the Stains at Home?

sofa cleaning

This is completely normal, and understandable. DIY stain-removal attempts don’t really have a great success rate. Every different fabric could react differently to cleaning agents, so don’t be surprised if your home cleaning attempt goes wrong.

Precisely because of this, it is better to rely on people who specialise in the area of stain removal. Professional cleaners undergo a series of training courses and have a lot of hands-on experience that enables them to act quickly as well as efficiently when it comes to stain removal. As you may have noticed, cleaning up spillages is not always that easy. Not even the vetted technicians can guarantee a 100% success rate. That is why we strongly advise against home attempts, at least with the more tricky stains.