Expert tips for tackling tricky stains in your living room

From red wine and coffee to everyday dirt and grime, those in the know share their top tips.

Press Association
Last updated: 6 July 2018 - 5.54pm

You’ve finally got your lounge looking lovely – now the challenge is to keep it that way.

[Read more: How to clean a fabric sofa or leather couch on a budget]

But homes aren’t just for show, they’re for living in, which means spillages and scuffs will happen, and those beautiful, brand-new covers and carpets will eventually get grimy. After all, what’s the point spending ages hunting down your dream sofa, if you can’t drape yourself over it with a smooth glass of red after a busy week? And why bother indulging in that extra fluffy rug if you’re not going to sit on it for Friday-night movie marathons?

Instead, there are things you can do to help tackle stains, marks and general filth build-up. Add these expert tips to your list of spills and stain solutions…

Red wine spillage on carpet
Yikes! (Thinkstock/PA)

Act fast

Ideally, you don’t want to leave spillages to soak in – taking quick action is usually the best bet. “Over a sofa’s lifetime, we know that however hard we try, accidents happen and spillages can occur. Quick action can help minimise the risk of permanent stains. As soon as a spill occurs, take a kitchen roll or a clean towel to soak up as much of the excess spill as possible, and then consult your manufacturer’s care guide to treat the rest of the spillage,” advises Simon Nicholson, furniture buying director at sofa and carpet specialists ScS.

Remember: Blot don’t rub

Rubbing a spillage is never a good idea – or you could end up ‘spreading’ the stain. “The aim is to absorb the excess liquid, so remember you only ever blot a stain or spillage. Rubbing will only cause the stain to become further embedded in the fabric,” explains Glen Ball, furniture technologist at Sofology), who offers customers a five-year stain and scratch removal service with their ‘sofashield’ cover. “Use a clean, dry cloth and always ensure that it’s colour-fast. Cotton is best, but if in doubt, tissue paper will do the trick.”

[Read more: 4 ways to prepare for the ultimate spring clean]

Raid the kitchen cupboards

Try a DIY remedy on small, easy stains (Thinkstock/PA)

For a carpet/rug red wine or coffee spillage you’re tackling yourself, some quick action with a homemade remedy might be useful. We’ve all heard about chucking white wine on top of a red wine spillage… the jury’s out on how effective this really is, but lots of people swear by using baking soda, or a baking soda paste (mix three-parts baking soda with one-part water. Apply to the affected area and leave to dry and ‘suck’ up the offending spillage, then vacuum it up – hopefully lifting the stain in the process). Another method is to mix a tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent with a tablespoon of white vinegar and two cups of warm water. Then apply this to a clean cloth and repeatedly blot the stain, alternating with a separate dry cloth, until the stain lifts.

Know when to call in the professionals

“Everyday stains and spillages are fine to deal with yourself. Liquids like cordials and hot drinks can be removed with a little gentle persuasion,” adds Ball. “Things like red wine and orange juice are better handled by the professionals once you have tried the ‘blot, don’t rub’ approach.”

The experts at ScS also advise seeking help from a professional upholstery cleaning service or visiting an upholstery specialist, who may be able to offer a specialist cleaning kit for stubborn stains, or if the manufacturer’s care guide recommends it. This is especially important with fabrics that are delicate or require specialist care and cleaning methods. And Nicholson adds: “However tempted you may be, never machine wash the [sofa] covers, even if they appear to be removable.”

Be careful about the products you use

This might sound like a no-brainer, but make sure you check that any cleaning products you’re going to try are definitely suitable for your sofa/fabrics. If in doubt, call the manufacturer’s customer helpline, or pop into a specialist store to ask for advice.

The same applies when using substances that might seem completely harmless, like water. “Many people think using water to clean their carpets will mean fresh, bright floors, but over time, the repeated wet cleaning can wash out wool’s natural waterproofing, resulting in the carpet acquiring a hard, crusty feel,” says Peter Hollier, a cleaning expert with home appliance manufacturer Vorwerk, who sell a range of products designed to make light work of deep-cleaning your home ( “Water can also cause the carpet fibres to shrink and stretch and the dye to bleed, leaving a less-than-luxurious finish. So, if you are going to clean your carpets with water, it’s important you don’t use too much and you dry the carpet quickly.”

Factor in some thorough deep-cleans

To really keep carpets and rugs looking their best, the experts advise routine deep-cleans twice a year, or when required.

“Carpets collect a lot of dirt and dust over time, from children running in with their shoes on after they’ve been to the park, pets rolling on the floor, and not forgetting the countless times food or drink has been spilt. Regularly vacuuming your carpets will result in the top layer of dust and grime being sucked out, however, you are leaving behind worn in dirt and allergens that only a good deep-clean can remove,” says Hollier. “So, in addition to regular vacuuming, your carpets and rugs need a deep-clean to remove stubborn dirt that’s become embedded in the fibres. We believe dry-cleaning is the best solution, with a powder-based cleaning agent that you sprinkle on the carpet, massage in and then vacuum away. It might take a little longer than other cleaning methods, but it will ensure you achieve the desired results without damaging your carpet in the process.”

You can often run the vacuum over your sofa too, and the Sofology experts suggest: “For extra TLC, we recommend a weekly wipe down with a slightly damp cotton cloth and a quick vacuum with the soft tip brush attachment.”

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