11 Gross Things Hiding in Your Couch and How to Clean it Now

The couch is the center of the home. It’s the place we go to rest, relax, and socialize. Your couch is likely one of the most frequently used (and most expensive) things in your home. And yet, most of us don’t take care of this treasured possession nearly enough.

Since the couch gets cleaned much less frequently than other surfaces in the kitchen or bathroom, it can be a hotbed for dust, dirt, and more. A 2013 article from British news source Express reported that the average family couch harbors more bacteria than a toilet seat. You wouldn’t take a nap on your bathroom floor – however, that location is statistically cleaner than your current favorite spot to catch some z’s.

Here are some other surprisingly nasty things that are likely hiding out in your couch:

Body oils: The existence of hair and body oil is normal and helps the skin and scalp remain soft, preventing them from drying and cracking. However, when this oil comes in contact with upholstered furniture, it can leave a greasy stain that eventually becomes a discolored dirt magnet.

Cooking odors: If you have an open-concept home, your couch will pick up the smell of whatever you’re cooking for dinner. Over time, this can result in a seriously funky-smelling piece of furniture.

Hair: Whether we like it or not, every human being sheds up to 100 hairs a day. With each person that uses your couch, the collection of hair grows.

Skin: Though you can’t see it happening, every minute of the day, we lose about 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells off the surface of our skin. In the time it’s taken you to read this far, you’ve probably already lost a few thousand cells. That adds up to almost 9 pounds of skin cells every year, per person. Guess where many of those skin cells end up? That’s right – your couch.

Pet fur: If you have cats or dogs (or both!), hopefully, you’ve got a leather sofa – because we all know how pet hair clings to fabric. Alas, leather furniture is expensive, so most of us are left on our hands and knees with a roll of tape, trying in vain to reduce the coating of pet hair clinging to our furniture.

Food and drink: There’s nothing like a good TV dinner, and most of us are enjoying that dinner on – you guessed it – the couch. Even the tidiest eaters can’t avoid the odd crumb or accidental spill – and if you’re not causing them, your kids or houseguests are.

Environmental toxins: Airborne particles such as pollen, cigarette smoke, and air pollution can gather on your clothes and accumulate in soft furnishings. Your couch could even be harboring mold, which can cause symptoms such as fatigue and irritability.

Dust mites: Unfortunately for the more asthma and allergy-prone amongst us, dust mites are one of the most common triggers for symptoms. The dead mites, along with their shed skins and feces, can be inhaled by us, causing irritation to the airways. If that sounds highly unappealing to you, it’s a good idea to keep your upholstery and soft furnishings thoroughly cleaned.

Bacteria: Disease-causing bacteria can live on soft surfaces like couches for 24 hours or more. These pathogens include listeria, flu virus, staph, strep, and the common cold. Just imagine what’s on your couch after you host your family for Thanksgiving dinner!

Urine and feces: While most of us might blame the traces of urine or feces found on our sofas on the kids or pets, the truth is that even clean, hygienic adults carry these substances around. A body of research has found that either the coliform bacteria, which is found in feces or small traces of fecal matter exist on innocuous, everyday items like coffee mugs, keyboards, kitchen sponges, and even your bag or purse. Your couch is no exception.

How to detox & deep clean your couch now

We get it – daily life happens on the couch. Many of us have likely scrubbed at a stain on the couch when we’ve dropped food on it or (heaven forbid) a toddler decided to “decorate” it. It may have even gotten a quick once-over with the vacuum when we were feeling really generous.

But the vast majority of couches have never gotten a full-on cleaning – which is pretty gross when you consider that many of us spend hours sitting, eating, napping, and reclining on its surface every week. And not only us, but our kids, pets, and houseguests too.

If you’ve begun to realize just how filthy your couch might be, don’t worry – here are the simple steps to deep clean your couch and restore it to a fresh state.

Step 1: Remove pet hair

Remove pet (and human) hair from upholstery and fabric with dampened rubber gloves by running your hand over the surface to attract hair. Simply rinse off the glove when it’s covered with hair and repeat as needed.

Step 2: Treat stains

For any immediately visible stains, you can use an enzyme-based formula or a simple water, vinegar, and dish soap solution along with a clean cloth for blotting away stains. Combine ingredients in a spray bottle, apply to the couch, and let sit for a few minutes before moving on to the next step.

Step 3: Steam clean

Use a handheld garment steamer to go over the entire sofa, allowing just the steam to touch and penetrate the fabric. This will help remove overall grime and also reduce the population of dust mites. If you don’t have a steamer, skip this step and go straight to vacuuming.

Step 4: Vacuum

With your vacuum’s upholstery attachment, go over the entire sofa: back, arms, skirt, and cushions. If the cushions are removable, take them off and vacuum the fabric underneath, going as far under the back and arms as your vacuum can reach. With the crevice tool, go along the seams, around any buttons, and along the trim.

Step 5: Clean the cushions

If the cushion covers can be removed, unzip, and launder them. Otherwise, take them outside and beat them to remove dust and debris. Optionally, let them air out in the sun for an hour or two.

Step 6: Refresh

If you have a fabric sofa, finish off by spritzing with some refreshing essential oils. For leather furniture, use a natural leather product to refresh and protect the finish.

Try giving your couch a light clean every one to two weeks to keep it looking (and smelling) fresh. You’ll be able to enjoy your next game night or Netflix binge on the couch dirt-free!

-Liivi Hess


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