Upholstery Cleaning

Your family is constantly wearing down your furniture. The living room is a hub for all television watching, snack eating, and game playing. It’s more than likely that your upholstery has faced it's fair share of spills and stains. Sometimes you don’t have the funds or time to hire a professional cleaning service but good for you: with a little advice and some elbow grease, upholstery cleaning can be made easy. Here is your guide to cleaning these tricky pieces:

Pre-Cleaning Steps to Help Make the Overall Experience Easier:

Pre-Cleaning Upholstery


  • It is often essential to use water to clean your upholstery. Before you start cleaning, make sure that the fabric cannot be damaged by water. Fabrics like silk, wool, linen, and rayon are susceptible to water damage. Also look for cleaning suggestions the manufacturer may have.
  • If you are cleaning general dirt and dust from your upholstery, pull your furniture away from the wall/area where it sits. Vacuum and dust this area and clean the wall it was up against with a damp washcloth or sponge. Check the wall for any marks or dings and fix accordingly with spackle, sand paper, and paint.
  • Vacuum the upholstery to remove dirt and dust. If you skip this step and wet your fabric, your furniture could become even more dirty.
  • Vacuum under where the cushions rest to get any old crumbs or lint out. If there are metal or wood legs to your furniture, polish or wipe down these parts.
  • Remove as much pet hair as possible. If vacuuming doesn’t do the job, try a pet hair remover.
  • Ensure that your furniture is working properly (that a reclining chair still reclines and that the lever still works properly).

Treating the Stain:

Stained Upholstery

  • If you suddenly spill something or stain your upholstery, act right away. Don’t let the stain sink into the furniture stuffing, wood or into the upholstery fabric.
  • Blot the stain with a dry white washcloth (so it’s fabric color can’t further stain your furniture), or use plain white paper towels. Do not rub the stain in; just blot the spot to not risk damaging the fabric.
  • Start at the outside of the stain and move towards the center to prevent spreading. Continue until the spot is barely damp.
  • Identify your stain: many agents like food, dirt, wine, and coffee respond well to steam cleaning but more stubborn spots may need more than one treatment. Oil based or hard-to-lift stains will most likely require a chemical-based cleaner.
  • Look at the tag of your furniture to see what cleaner can be used on it. The tag usually tells you how to clean the piece via this code:
W:Clean the upholstery fabric with a water based detergent.
S:Clean the upholstery fabric with a water free product, such as dry cleaning solvent.
WS:You may clean the upholstery fabric with either a water based cleaner or a water free cleaner, depending on the type of stain.
X:This upholstery fabric must be professionally cleaned. You should only vacuum and brush it - never use any type of upholstery cleaner on it yourself.
  • If you happened to lose your tag, test a cleaner in an inconspicuous area to see if it will keep the fabric and color intact at your own risk.
  • If your upholstery is made with leather, you will generally need to get a leather furniture-cleaning agent, along with a leather conditioner. This can help you maintain your furniture over time.
  • If your upholstery can be cleaned with a water-based detergent, use a mild fabric or upholstery cleaner and spray a small amount onto the stain. Begin to dab the cleaner into the spot in the same way you blotted the stain originally (outside-in). Again, do not rub as this can set the stain and damage the fabric. Some cleaners can cost up to $20 so consider making a DIY cleaner such as adding half a teaspoon of detergent or liquid soap to a quart of water.
  • Avoid any wood or metal parts of your furniture as they can rust or change color when in contact with an upholstery cleaner.
  • Consider renting or buying a steam cleaner. If you will only use the steam cleaner once or twice a year it’s probably in your best interest to rent one. There are even hand-held spot-lifting steamers for smaller projects like a small stain on your couch.
  • After taking a damp clean cloth to wipe off as much cleaner and whatever stained your fabric, use a clean, dry towel to dry up as much moisture as possible.

Drying Your Upholstery: Your Fabric Should Dry Within 24 Hours but If You Need to Speed up the Process…

Drying Upholstery

  • Open up your curtains and blinds to welcome natural light and warmth.
  • Use a hair dryer to go over damp areas.
  • Switch your ceiling fan to spin counter-clockwise. This will push warmer air down to the furniture.
  • Make the piece of clean furniture off limits to everyone in the house. Sitting on damp furniture will force moisture back in and can make it hard to completely dry.

Voila! Your upholstered furniture should be looking as good as new. To prolong the life of your fabrics, try to clean them at least every 18 months. In between, vacuum your cushions every two weeks and treat stains as soon as they occur. Keeping this up will have your furniture look clean to welcome your friends and family.


Images: hbsandiegocarpetcleaning.com, surfsidecarpet.com, pintrest, boiserealestatetitan.com, ehow.com.