Cleaning a Water Stained Sofa

by Carolanne Strong
(last updated January 21, 2013)

Imagine this scenario: one of your kids was outside playing in the sprinklers on a hot summer day and when he was done he came inside and sat down on your sofa—before he dried off. You scold him for making your furniture soggy, but you don't worry to much about it until you walk past the sofa a few hours later and notice that the spot is dry, but you can tell exactly where your son sat because there is a slightly darker circle right where he planted himself. You have a water stain.

Water is supposed to clean things, right? So how is it possible that a water spill on your sofa could leave stain? The answer to this question is that water doesn't actually stain, but the sediments or other particles that are often suspended in water stay behind when the water evaporates. Kids, pets, and spilled glasses all contribute to leaving these dark marks on your upholstery. Luckily for you, this is one case of easy come, easy go.

You can approach this job a few different ways depending on your budget, the amount of time you can spend and the area the stain is on. Whichever method you use, make sure you test a small, hidden area first and allow the sofa to dry completely before use. Taking these steps will protect your sofa from further damage.

The most effective option would be to use an upholstery cleaner because it will first loosen the sediment and then remove it. If you have thoroughly removed as much moisture as the machine will allow, you will also have a shorter dry time, but unless you have a steam cleaner or wet vac on hand, it will cost you to rent the machine.

Another option solution is to machine wash your upholstery, but this is only feasible if the stain is on a removable portion of your sofa and if your upholstery type is washable (check the tags to find out). If this is the case, then you can wash the piece on a delicate cycle with a gentle detergent such as Woolite. NEVER put your upholstery in the dryer, which will shrink the fabric. Lay the piece flat and allow it to air dry.

If you can't use the washing machine and you are on a budget, my next suggestion would be to first vacuum the water mark to remove any loose sediment and then gently scrub the area with a mixture of water and a liquid laundry detergent. Once you have removed the water mark, rinse the spot thoroughly with clean water so that you don't leave behind any soap reside. You may want to consider using distilled water for this project if your tap water created the stain in the first place.

Finally, if the sofa in question is valuable or the previous methods were unsuccessful, I recommend you give your local cleaning company a call. Most carpet cleaners will clean upholstery as well as flooring.

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