Frank Knighton's Definitive Sofa Care & Cleaning Guide


Last updated 11th November 2019

A high-quality sofa or suite is a big investment, but one that truly makes a house a home. At Frank Knighton, we pride ourselves in providing only the finest, most comfortable and most durable suite options in the country. This is why we want to help you get the maximum long-term enjoyment out of your sofa.

This definitive sofa care guide will show you how to look after your suite and make sure your perfect sofa stays perfect for longer.

Life brings spillages, accidents and other nasties, and your poor sofa can find itself in the firing line more often than you’d like. If you’re hit with a stain, spillage or mark, don’t panic – most are easy to tackle with these handy tips.

How do you clean a leather sofa?

A leather sofa is a stunning addition for any room. They can be a pricey investment, but thanks to their durability, they can last decades when looked after and cleaned properly. Here’s how to do just that.

Before you start!

Did your leather sofa come with any documentation? If so, be sure to check this before cleaning as the manufacturer may have included detailed cleaning guides. Also, be sure to check the label of the sofa, as this is likely to include information about what cleaning methods can and can’t be used.

What do the letters on a sofa label mean?

Your sofa’s label will provide useful information about cleaning. It may include letters to indicate how it may be cleaned. These letters include: 

  • W: You can clean with water
  • S: Must be dry cleaned – do not use water
  • X: Clean with a vacuum cleaner only

These tag letters may also apply to fabric sofas. See later in the article for more information.

How do you dust a leather sofa?

You might not think so, but leather furniture can attract dust just as much as your wooden tables, cabinets and other surfaces. Worse still, sitting on a dusty sofa means getting dusty clothes too. We recommend lightly dusting your leather sofa as often as you can, particularly down the sides and in the places that are usually hidden (such as the back). This will prevent any nasty dust build-up. 

Leather sofa quick surface clean: Weekly 

Even if your leather sofa is not stained or marked in a severe way, regular surface cleaning is essential. Giving the surfaces a good wipe down with a soft cloth or feather duster will prevent build-up of dust, crumbs and other foreign objects we like to avoid! There are no cleaning agents required for this.

How do you clean sweat or oil from a leather sofa?

It’s not nice to think about, but we all sweat, and our hands, arms, hair and other body parts will pick up natural oils that get transferred to your leather sofa when you sit down. This is especially true during warmer months. Sweat and oils from skin can damage your leather finish, so it is worth cleaning more often during the hotter months or depending on your personal needs. 

How do you vacuum clean a leather sofa?

Crumbs and little bits can be a lot more damaging than they first appear, especially hard objects with sharp or angular edges. These can lead to unpleasant scratches on the surface.

For your deep clean, you’ll need to use your vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to prevent any scratching. Simply work your way around the sofa, paying special attention to the gaps down the sides and beneath the cushions; this is where the muck build-up can occur worst.

Top tip: Keep an eye out for coins. You’ll be amazed how much change you might find!

Wipe down with cleaning solution

Next, we want to remove any marks and clean any dirty areas that the vacuum has missed. There are a number of different cleaning solutions available, but a popular choice is a solution consisting of the following: 

  • Water
  • Leather cleaner

Can you clean a leather sofa with washing up liquid?

If you want to give your sofa a basic clean that doesn’t involve any heavy stains or marks, you can use a solution of warm water and hand soap. Washing up liquid and other heavier soaps are not recommended for leather.

The directions for cleaning with a home-made solution such as this are the same as the above. 

How do you remove stains from a leather sofa?

Stains are a fact of life and can be a source of real panic, especially on your pristine leather sofa. Don’t panic, though! There are simple solutions to staining. The golden rule is to act fast.

Pre-clean the area

Before tackling any stains on your leather sofa, be sure to give it a good clean beforehand using the method mentioned above.

Apply a purpose made stain remover

There are plenty of reputable and affordable stain removers available, including ones designed for leather. Following the instructions carefully, gently rub the stain remover onto the affected area using a cloth or sponge. You want to rub hard enough to remove the stain, but not so hard as to damage the finish. 

Can you use stain remover twice?

For really nasty stains, a once over with stain remover may not be sufficient to remove it. You can repeat the process and apply more stain remover until the stain is gone. If your cloth starts to become stained itself, you know it is working. Make sure to change cloths when one becomes heavily stained.

Important tip: If you start to see the colour of your leather sofa coming off onto your cloth, stop right away and wait for the leather to dry before continuing. 

What stain removers can be used on a leather sofa?

  • Specially mixed leather stain removers can be found at most supermarkets or DIY stores

How do you remove oil based stains from a leather sofa?

Oil based stains can be a little more awkward to deal with. For these stains, try using corn starch. Simply sprinkle on to the stained area and rub in to the leather. The rubbing must be sufficient to create a little heat. Then simply wipe away with a dry cloth and repeat if necessary.

Tip: Water based solutions will not work very well on oil-based stains. These should be kept as dry as possible while cleaning. 

How do you remove biro from a leather sofa?

If a child (or adult for that matter) has accidentally drawn on your leather sofa with a pen, try using rubbing alcohol. Be very careful, however, as rubbing alcohol could potentially damage the leather. Test on a small area first to see how the leather responds, and do not use too much of the solution. 

How can you prevent stains on a leather sofa?

It is highly recommended that you apply leather protection cream to a new leather sofa or one that has been recently cleaned. Leather protection cream blocks all types of staining and keeps dirt on the surface, so it can be wiped away easily with a cloth.

You can apply leather protection cream by applying small amounts to a clean cloth and wiping the areas you wish to protect. We recommend protecting the whole sofa – it will be worth it in the long term!

How do you clean a white leather sofa?

White leather sofas are among the most beautiful additions to any room; however, they can also be the most susceptible to dirt and stains. You may be understandably concerned about hitting your white leather with standard cleaning products or chemicals. If care is taken, you need not fear damaging your sofa. Just make sure you follow these important rules: 

  • It is important to always test any chemicals or products before applying to the whole surface, but this is extra important with white leather due to the possibility of discolouration, which will be a lot more apparent with white. Always test your product on a small and discreet area before commencing with a full clean. 
  • Unless your stain is severe, try using a milder soap, such as a body wash. Clean with a damp and soft cloth and apply gentle pressure in a circular motion. Do not scrub or soak.
  • As soon as your cloth begins to look soiled, replace with a fresh and clean one to prevent re-staining.
  • Always ensure your leather is dry after cleaning 
  • If your stain is persistent, consider using household non-acetone nail polish remover. Just remember the golden rule: always test first! 

How to clean a cream leather sofa

Cleaning a cream or beige leather sofa is very similar to cleaning a white one. We recommend following the same steps outlined earlier in this article, whilst taking the special considerations listed above for white leather too. Remember the golden rule: always test all products on a small, discreet area before committing.

How to clean a fabric sofa

Fabric sofas are cosy, attractive and versatile. They can also be a bit of a pain to clean if you don’t know how. Fortunately, that’s exactly what the next section will show you. Spills and stains are unavoidable, and this guide means you don’t need to coat them in plastic for protection!

Before you start!

Did your fabric sofa come with any documentation? If so, be sure to check this before cleaning as the manufacturer may have included detailed cleaning guides. Also, be sure to check the label of the sofa, as this is likely to include information about what cleaning methods can and can’t be used.

Fabric sofa quick clean: Weekly

A quick clean of your fabric sofa is recommended weekly to prevent the built up of any dirt or other unwanted bits. A vacuum cleaner is the way to go, ensuring the suction is strong enough to remove any bits lodged in the fabric fibres. Remember to vacuum beneath the cushions and down the sides too.

Fabric sofa deep clean: Monthly at least

Your deep clean is where you will really tackle any dirt or stains and ensure a long life for your fabric sofa. There are number of approaches you can take to deep clean; always be sure to check which are compatible with your particular sofa type by consulting your tag or instructions. 

How to clean a sofa with baking soda

Baking soda is great for removing light stains in fabric sofas. It can also be helpful for removing odours and restoring freshness. The process is simple, just sprinkle the baking soda over the sofa, with good even coverage. Leave this for between 20 minutes and an hour before vacuuming it away using a brush attachment.

Removing bad smells

Pet owners will attest, smells can take hold of fabric sofas in an unpleasant way. Fortunately, they are very easy to deal with.

You can use a store-bought fabric odour killer or, alternatively, try using bicarbonate of soda. Simply sprinkle the powder all over the surface, leave overnight and vacuum away in the morning.

Fabric sofa stain removal

It is the nightmare scenario: a spilled drink while relaxing on your comfy fabric sofa. Just remember the golden rule here is to act quickly and the stain will be history before you know it. The longer a stain in a fabric sofa is there, the tougher it can be to get it out. 

Gentle stain removal for fabric sofa

The first step is to hope the stain is fairly mild and requires a nice easy solution. To find out, simply blot the affected area with a sponge that has been soaked with a little dish soap and cold water. Be careful not to rub at the stain as this may cause problems with your fabric – all you need to do is dab.

Simply rinse the sponge and blot away any remaining soap and then dab dry with paper towels or a dry cloth. It may take a little while for the fabric to dry completely. 

Important: Make sure this is only attempted if your sofa is suitable for cleaning with water. Your sofa label will let you know if it is or not.

Getting rid of tougher stains

If the above method has been unsuccessful, don’t panic. There is a huge range of stain removal products available at supermarkets or hardware stores. If you decide to use a stain remover, the golden rule is to always test the cleaner on an isolated, discreet area of the sofa first. 

Repeat if necessary

In the event your stain is persisting after each of the above, you may just need to rinse, repeat and try again. Providing your upholstery does not react badly to any of the cleaning substances, repeat applications are often required for stubborn stains. It’s tiring and frustrating but keep at it and you will eventually have the stain beaten.

Alternative methods of stain removal

If you prefer a DIY solution for removing nasty stains, then some of the following may be of interest. Please note, none of these are guaranteed solutions. If in doubt, stay with store-bought solutions and always read the label!


Salt has 101 uses around the home (an estimate), and one of these is that it can be a handy stain remover. Immediately after a spillage, cover it with a pile of table salt and leave overnight. You should find a lot of the stain has been soaked up by the salt before it could really take hold. Salt is regarded as a handy solution for smaller stains, but less suitable for severe ones.

Club soda

Similar to salt, club soda can also be poured onto a stain and is generally considered to be effective. Sometimes you may wish to use club soda as well as salt. Again, however, this solution is most effective for gentler stains. 

How to steam clean a sofa

If your sofa is suitable for wet cleaning, steam can be a very effective measure to loosen stains. You don’t necessarily need a steam cleaner either – try using your iron and using the steam button a short distance away from the surface. 

How to get blood out of a sofa

Accidents unfortunately happen in and around the home. If you have an accident which has resulted in one or two blood stains on your sofa, it will naturally need removing as soon as you can to avoid long term damage or staining.

Depending on your sofa type, the recommended course of action to tackle a blood stain is the same as a regular stain, so we recommend taking the same precautions and following the same steps listed above for general stains. 

Make your leather sofa last

Beyond keeping your leather sofa clean, there are plenty more ways you can keep your leather sofa healthier for longer. Not all of these will apply for your specific sofa or room, but all are worth considering.

Leather sofas and prolonged sunlight

Genuine leather is made of animal skin. Like any animal skin, prolonged exposure to intense sunlight can be harmful. You don’t need to keep your leather out of the sun at all times; however, be way of where you position it in your room. Too much UV will cause problems. Be sure to take this into consideration when planning your room.

Leather sofas and air conditioning

Your leather sofa can also react badly to prolonged exposure to air conditioning, heaters or other appliances which alter the air moisture significantly. Keeping your leather sofa too close to an active air conditioning vent or heater for extended periods can cause the leather to dry out, fade or crack. 

Keeping leather sofa in storage

If, for whatever reason, you need to place your leather sofa into storage, you might be tempted to protect it by covering it with plastic wrapping. Never do this, as it will prevent the leather from breathing and will also cause moisture to build up and ruin the leather.

To prevent moisture seeping in, you can place a plastic sheet under the sofa and atop wooden pallets to keep it off the ground. 

Do not place any items on the sofa, such as boxes, during storage. This can irreparably damage the leather if edges dig in and form indentations.

How do you remove dents from a leather sofa?

If you do find your leather sofa mildly dented, perhaps from a set of keys being sat on, you can repair this using a hair dryer or heat gun (should you own one). Using a low setting, you want to warm the leather, not make it hot, heat the affected area.

This makes the leather a little more malleable. Gentle stretch the leather outwards from the dent, and this should reduce or remove it. If unsuccessful, simple repeat the process. Just be careful not to overheat the leather.

How do you repair leather sofa tears?

A tear in your leather sofa is a real nightmare, but it doesn’t have to mean a new sofa! Depending on the severity of the torn section, you can use a patch to mend it.

Similar to how you would repair a pair of jeans, take a denim patch a little larger than the affected area of the sofa.

Gently stuff the patch inside so it can lay flat beneath the surface of the tear. Using a flexible glue suitable for plastic or vinyl, you can glue the tear together by squeezing the edges over the patch. The patch beneath will prevent the repaired section from forming an indentation.

Using leather balsam or conditioner

Leather balsam is a special substance that helps nourish, condition and restore leather surfaces. Generally made of natural waxes and oils, leather balsam can restore softness and extend the life of your leather sofa quite significantly.

If you decide to use a leather balsam, always make sure you read the label and ensure it is suitable for the kind of leather you wish to condition or restore. Avoid using on non-smooth leather surfaces such as suede or nubuck.

As with all substances, always test on a small, discreet area of leather before committing.

How can you make fabric sofas last longer?

Just like a leather sofa, there are several simple ways you can ensure your fabric sofa lasts for years beyond cleaning. Again, not all of these suggestions will apply to all sofas, but all are worth taking into consideration.

Take it easy

It sounds very obvious, but sofas take a lot of weight over years of use. Sofa frames are strong and sturdy but can still be damaged if you are too rough with them.

Sit down slowly and deliberately; do not throw your weight on to it, no matter how light you are. Keeping weight distribution nice and even can also prevent warping of the cushions.

Keep cushions plump

Fibre filled cushions should be plumped up every couple of days (once a day can’t do any harm). This helps them to retain their desired shape and prevents deflation of the cushions as pressure from being sat on meshes fibres together. Doing this regularly will prevent you having to replace inner cushions as often, saving time and money.

Keep away from spill zones

Fabric sofas are much more at risk of spillages and stains than leather sofas due to their absorbency. When positioning your sofa, try to keep it a fair distance away from any splash zones such as your kitchen or dining area. Be extra careful when dining near or on your sofa and be even more careful when drinking red wine!

Remove bobbles regularly

Bobbling, or polling, is a very common occurrence with fabric sofas. They can also make your sofa look significantly older and more worn out than it actually is. Once every week or so, remove these with a fabric shaver and your sofa will immediately look 3-5 years younger.

Make use of reversible seat & back cushions

If your fabric sofa has reversible cushions, it is recommended that you flip these regularly so neither side is subjected to more stress than the other. This will keep your cushions in great condition for much longer. We recommend that this is done weekly for sofas that are applicable.

How to clean a suede sofa

Suede is a stunning material that offers tremendous comfort and a true premium feel. Unfortunately, it is also one of the more difficult materials to keep clean, healthy and soft. Do not let this put you off, however, as our guide has you covered. 

How to protect a suede sofa

The first thing all new suede sofa owners should do is give it the recommended suede protection treatment. The sofa specialist who you acquired your suede sofa from should have given you this advice – if they haven’t, here it is again!

Suede protection spray is widely available at DIY or furniture shops. When applied, this will help protect the surface from stains and moisture.

Remember to always test the spray on a discreet area first, and always follow the label to make sure the spray you have chosen is compatible with your suede type. 

For your own safety, ensure the spray is applied in a well-ventilated area as fumes can be potentially harmful. 

Apply the spray from an even distance of around a foot away from the surface. Too close and you may leave running marks or oversaturate, too far away and the desired effect will not be reached. 

Brush cleaning a suede sofa

Due to the suede surface, it is important that your suede sofa is dry cleaned and not dampened. For this there are a few options – we recommend trying all of them:

  • Use a dust buster or other vacuum to remove any crumbs or other bits of debris that may have accumulated. We recommend doing this once a week depending on use. Naturally, we do not recommend eating or drinking on your suede sofa!
  • Use a specially designed suede brush or other suede appropriate tool to wipe the material down. Suede brushes will be available at most good furniture stores. This is especially important if you have pets that may sit on your suede sofa. 

Cleaning spillages on a suede sofa

If you spill a drink or any food that is moist, the golden rule is to act quickly and clean them up as soon as they happen. This greatly improves your chances of removing it altogether, and reduces the risk of the moisture damaging the suede.

Tell us some of your own tricks!

Countless different methods of sofa care exist beyond what we have outlined here. Some will not be applicable to all sofa or suite types, but there’s no harm in learning more! Do you have any sofa care hacks that you find effective? If so, please tell us about them and we’ll be happy to update our blog and include them – we will be sure to credit you with any suggestions.

We hope this guide has been useful to you, and we wish you a lifetime of comfort from your leather and fabric sofas!

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