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When Your Sofa Smells: Beating The Stink In Your Upholstery

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Furniture has a unique way of taking on some pretty nasty smells. It's not surprising, considering the porous nature of the upholstery and wood. Some smells run deep, and you'll need a variety of techniques in your arsenal to get things smelling fresh again. 

Pesky Pets

Yep, Fido might be your best friend, but he will not be friendly to your sofa. The problem with indoor pets is that even if you are an extremely clean owner, some smells are hard to contain, and even harder to remove from upholstery. Once your armchairs start to have that funky smell, it will permeate the house. You can combat pet-smell by:

  1. Training your dogs or cats not to jump on the couch. Sometimes, the best treatment is prevention. If your pets know the couch is out of bounds, your furniture will automatically be safe from potty accidents, drool, and hair. 
  2. Treating your upholstery regularly. Once every few weeks, strip the couch of cushions and covers, and vacuum it thoroughly. Wash all removable covers in apple cider vinegar, and allow them to dry outdoors if possible. Finally, you can sprinkle baking soda on all the surfaces and allow it to rest overnight. Vacuum all remaining soda the following day. This regular treatment will prevent any smell from getting ingrained.
  3. Using an upholstery treatment. Some pet stores sell deodorizing powders made especially for stubborn pet smells. 
  4. Steam or click here to professionally clean your upholstery at least once a year. You can usually rent a steam cleaner from a hardware store that will lift dirt and hair from the couch better than a normal vacuum. A professional may have access to stronger cleaning machines than a rented tool, so they may be worth the investment every once in a while. 

Stubborn Smoke

Getting nice, gently used furniture is a great way to save money on furnishing your home. However, some smells from the previous owner can be really stubborn. The king of these stubborn smells is smoke.

Smoke is so difficult to remove because it is acidic in nature and has the ability to permeate deeply into upholstery fibers. You can try to remove the acrid smell of smoke by:

  • leaving the furniture in the sun. Ultra-violet light may give you a sunburn, but it will also give your furniture a nice, deep clean. Be careful not to leave the upholstery in the sun too long if the fabric is delicate-- you don't want it to fade.
  • add more acid. Lemon juice and vinegar are amazing when it comes to deodorizing. If you wash furniture covers in vinegar, or spray them periodically with diluted lemon juice, the smoke smell will be reduced.
  • being patient. Time heals all wounds, even ones caused by smoke. You can help the process along by investing in an air purifier, getting some house plants, and airing your house out with fresh, moving air for a few hours each day. 

Odorous Old

That adorable chair you just bought at the second hand store might look great, but the smell leaves something to be desired. You can't put your finger on it, but it just smells old. Of course, "old" isn't really a smell; your new-to-you furniture just took on the smell of the last owner. Sometimes, if they aren't very clean or have a penchant for cooking seafood, the furniture becomes the victim.

The baking soda method works well here, as does allowing the furniture to air out in the sun. Another great method includes spraying the couch with diluted vodka  (especially if the smell is mildew) and allowing it to air out. However some smells cannot ever be removed fully, and you may need to reupholster the couch or chair in order to truly beat the stink. 

Your "new" furniture does not have to perfume your home with less-than-heavenly smells. Try any of these deep cleaning methods to get your furniture smelling and beautiful as it looks.