Linen is a natural fabric made from fibres of the flax plant. It has a beautiful, breezy look that adds elegance and style to any sofa or sitting area. Many homeowners are also drawn to linen furniture due to its strength as a fabric and quick-drying properties.

However, while linen has an airy appeal, it can be tricky to clean properly without damaging the fabric. Like many natural fabrics, it can suffer from shrinkage, discolouring, or puckering when it isn’t handled properly.

Here’s a guide on the best practices for keeping your linen furniture fresh and spotless.

Can you Steam Clean Linen Upholstery?

Generally speaking, steam cleaning can be an effective way to deep clean upholstery fabrics. The pressurised steam helps release dirt and grime from the fibres. It can also avoid the need to remove sofa covers from the sofa or to heavily handle the fabric, so many find it appealing. 

However, precautions need to be taken with delicate materials like linen. The high heat and moisture of steam could damage or shrink the fabric. It can also result in an inconsistent puckering affect which is difficult to reverse.

 If you want to steam clean a linen couch, we recommend you call in a professional upholstery cleaner with experience in handling linen fabrics. They are likely to use the lowest setting and keep the attachment constantly moving. 

Read our blog “The Average Cost of Upholstery Cleaners in the UK”

With any cleaning method, you should test an inconspicuous spot first and check if the linen shrinks or changes texture. If so, discontinue.

Can you Machine Wash Linen Sofa Covers?

For linen sofa covers or cushions with removable covers, machine washing may be an option if the manufacturer recommends it. Make sure to check the fabric care label for recommendations and follow them carefully.

Use cold water on a gentle cycle and mild detergent. Never use bleach. Linen fabric can shrink easily when washed improperly. You can also help to keep the shape of the cushions by stuffing them with towels while covers are being cleaned.

linen material

To prevent damage, wash linen covers individually and air dry away from direct sunlight, never tumble dry linen as it is likely to become creased and damaged.

Even when it’s included as an option on the fabric care label, machine washing comes with risks. Dry cleaning along with regular spot cleaning and hoovering is the safest choice for removable linen upholstery covers. 

Spot Cleaning

For general upkeep and handling small stains on a linen sofa, spot cleaning is best. 

  1. Start by vacuuming up any loose dirt or debris in the sofa, making sure to use the correct attachments for corners and gaps in the seat.
  1. Prepare a cleaning solution of warm water and a small amount of mild, enzyme-based upholstery cleaner or soap.
  1. Use a clean white cloth to blot lifted stains. Never vigorously rub stains if you want to avoid damaging or pillaging the linen fabric. Simply dab gently moving from the outer edge in toward the middle of the stain. 
  1. Rinse the area well with clean water to remove all soap residue.
  1. Allow the spot to air dry fully before using the furniture. 

Spot cleaning as soon as stains occur will help prevent them from setting into the linen fibres, so make sure to do this as soon as possible after a spill or accident.

Using Fabric Protector

Applying a fabric protector spray to linen upholstery can act as a shield against dirt, oil, and stains. It creates an invisible barrier that repels spills, so they don't absorb deeply into the fabric. 

To use this protection, just mist the protector evenly over the surface and let it fully dry. Fabric protectors are impermeable, so they simplify spot cleaning by preventing stains from taking hold right away. 

Reapply a protector every 6 months or after a thorough cleaning to keep the linen fibres shielded. Using a linen fabric protector can buy time for spot cleaning minor spills before a stain has the chance to form.

All of A Cleaning Service’s Upholstery Cleaning services can include a Scotchgard stain protection treatment. 

linen cloth

Treating Stains on Linen Fabrics

If stains make their way through a protective barrier or cleaning routine, extra steps may be needed to remove them from linen upholstery. Here are some common stains and remedies:

  • Oil/Grease Stains - Immediately apply talcum powder or cornstarch to soak up the excess oil, then spot clean with dish soap using a soft brush to work it into the stain. Rinse well.
  • Drink Stains - Rinse the stain right away with club soda or diluted vinegar, dabbing gently from the edges inward. Avoid rubbing the fabric.
  • Ink Stains - Use isopropyl alcohol on a cotton ball, gently rolling the stain away.
  • Blood Stains - To remove the stain, rinse it first with cold water, then spray it with an enzymatic cleaner. Let the product sit 5-10 minutes before dabbing clean with water.
  • Food Stains - Scrape off any solids first. Apply a mix of warm water and enzyme cleaner, allowing the cleaning product time to break down the stain before blotting.

Avoid using laundry pre-treatments or products containing bleach, which can discolour linen permanently. 

Many people also swear on the effectiveness of frequently refreshing their linen sofa by sprinkling baking soda over the furniture and letting it sit to absorb and grease or unpleasant smells. This can then be vacuumed.


Caring for linen upholstery requires gentle techniques like vacuuming, spot cleaning, and using protective repellents. 

For sofa covers, laundering or dry cleaning on delicate settings may be options if recommended by the manufacturer. However, on upholstery attached to the frame, saturating the linen fabric with water should be avoided. 

If stains prove difficult to remove at home, contact ACS's professional upholstery cleaners. Our effective solutions, specialised equipment, and fabric-safe techniques can deep clean linen sofas while preserving their beauty and integrity. With the proper care, linen furniture will maintain its refined style for years of use.