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How to Get Water Stains Out of a Couch

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Water stains can, especially on lighter-colored fabrics, look like a bathtub ring. They are clear in the center but brownish on the outside.

If you see one on your favorite couch, don’t worry. The bark on this dog is a lot worse than its bite. They are unsightly, but not all that hard to clean.

We put together this set of tips on how to clean your couch. We included tips on how to clean a few different kinds of upholstery, just in case you’ve got a couch that’s a little different. We also included a quick guide on how to avoid letting stains set.

How to Get Water Stains Out of Couches in General

vacuuming a couch to remove water stains

1. Vacuum the stain. A good first step is to always vacuum a stain. This will allow you to get as much of the easy stuff out, which might be enough to remove the stain. If you have a shop-vac, this is also useful in case your couch remains damp. You want to get rid of the water.

2. Check your care tags. Read your care tags. If it has only an “S” on it, you’ll need to get a specialty product to clean up the stain. You might also wish to take it to a professional.

3. Mix water and vinegar. White vinegar is a great water-based cleaner to remove lots of different kinds of stains from furniture. Mix white vinegar and warm water in equal parts. Warm water will help loosen dirt so it can be more easily lifted away.

4. Gently blot. Working from the outside going in, wipe up the water stain. Repeat as needed until the stain is gone.

5. Using a hairdryer set on its lowest setting, completely dry the area where the stain was.

How to Get Water Stains Out of Polyester Couches

Polyester is a durable fabric that is also highly resistant to stains. That doesn’t mean they can’t happen.

If your polyester couch develops a water stain, your first step is to moisten the stained area with a damp sponge. Fold some paper towels to create absorbent pads. Place the pads over the entire stain and place books or other heavy things on top for five minutes.

This should lift most of the water stain away. What doesn’t come up should if you follow the basic guide for cleaning water stains from couches.

How to Get Water Stains Out of Fabric Couches

removing water stains from a fabric couch

In addition to a basic cleaning of blotting up extra water and a mild mix of either white vinegar or mild dish soap to remove a water stain, for fabric couches you can also try a steam cleaner.

The steam and heat from a cleaning unit’s furniture brush will both loosen and make it easier to lift away the grit and water impurities that cause most furniture stains.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind, of course. The first is making sure that your couch is compatible with steam cleaning. Most fabric is.

The other is to be sure that your couch is dry after you are done. You don’t want to swap in a new stain for the old one you’ve removed.

How to Get Water Stains Out of Microfiber Couches

removing water stains from a microfiber couch

Microfiber’s densely packed fabric has some natural water resistance, but it can attract water stains.

If you spill water on a microfiber couch, be sure to sop it up as quickly as possible. If you can’t, you can soak the stain with rubbing alcohol. It dries more quickly and doesn’t contain the same staining impurities as tap water.

Blot at the stain with a baby wipe. The dirt creating the water stain will lift away with the wipe, discoloring it. Each time you do this, make sure you use a clean part of the wipe to avoid resetting the old stain.

Once the wipe comes away without showing any dirt, dry the fabric with a hairdryer set on its lowest setting.

What Causes Water Stains on a Couch

For the most part, water by itself doesn’t stain. Pure water is clear and dries clear. Most of what you see as water stains are minerals and impurities in the water left behind when it evaporates.

By itself, the stain isn’t all that damaging, but it’s important to clean it up because if the fabric remains damp you might find yourself with a couch that smells of mold.

If your couch remains wet for a prolonged time, that’s a different story. The color of fabric that remains wet for a long time can fade. It isn’t quite a water stain, but it is related. If that is your couch, you should probably just get rid of it.

How to Prevent Waters Stains From Forming on a Couch

preventing water stains on a couch

The best way to clean water stains is to prevent them. We’re not just telling you to avoid spilling things on your couch. You already know that. But there are a couple of tips you can use to prevent stains from taking hold.

Create a barrier between your couch and the rest of the world. The age of plastic sheets is over, thankfully. So, there is no need to pull out a roll of sheet plastic. But a blanket or dedicated couch cover placed strategically could absorb most of what you spill.

There are also treatments you can apply that can make your couch more water-resistant. Check your care tag to make sure the one you buy is compatible with your couch. If it’s the wrong kind, you could wind up staining your couch.

At some point, you will probably still spill something on your couch. When that happens, clean it up as soon as possible. If you just let it airdry, those impurities in the water might set into your couch.


Water stains are scarier looking than they really are. Usually, you can remove them with no sweat and you can get back to enjoying your furniture. Just keep in mind that in most cases, it isn’t the water itself that is causing the stain but dirt and impurities in the water.

There are some tricks to different kinds of couch fabric. Depending on what your couch’s upholstery is made from, you might want to try something a little different.

One key for all couches is avoiding stains. That doesn’t mean enshrouding your couch with sheet plastic, but it might mean a cover or some kind of spray treatment.

We hope you found this guide helpful. If you did, we’d love it if you left a comment down below, or share it in your social media feeds. You might help someone avoid a little unnecessary stress worrying about a water stain on their favorite couch.

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