How to Clean Upholstery

Follow these upholstery care and cleaning strategies to keep your sofa, chairs, and other upholstered furniture looking better longer.

Upholstered furniture is a big investment that deserves protecting. With upholstery fabrics comprised of natural or synthetic fibers or a blend of both, each type requires a specific cleaning method. Happily, there are a few simple measures that you can employ to maintain your upholstery's appearance and longevity, as well as an industry-approved cleanability code that you can follow when spot cleaning your furniture.

Maintenance Task

Upholstered furniture takes a beating. People (and pets!) plop down, stretch out, and spill on it and airborne dust lands across its exposed surfaces. The following recommended care strategies help keep your upholstered pieces looking as good as the day you bought them.

Flip and rotate back and seat cushions a couple of times a year to ensure that fabrics wear evenly and that the cushions stay uniformly plump. Keep upholstered furniture fresh by lightly brushing with a stiff-bristle brush and vacuuming using a small brush attachment. Vacuum the exterior, all sides of the cushions, and under the seats to remove animal hair, surface dust, and errant crumbs that can become embedded into the fabric and are likely to amplify stains should spills occur.

When spills do occur, gently blot (don't rub) off excess and treat stain following the appropriate cleaning code that's written on the furniture's tag. Let thick masses, like mud from a dog's paws, thoroughly dry before scraping off.

Click here to use Stain Fixes, our encyclopedia of solutions for stains, and learn how to treat specific upholstery stains.

Never wash or dry clean removable cushion covers as cleaning may destroy the fabric's backing, cause shrinkage, and change the fabric's color. If needed, remove the cover and spot clean any stains following the appropriate cleaning code.

Upholstery Cleaning Tips and Fabric Codes

Check furniture tags for the appropriate cleaning code and method before you attempt any cleaning or stain removal. Leather upholstery requires only dusting (no polishes, oils, or cleaners), but can be spot cleaned with a clean cloth and a mild soap and water solution. Pretest any cleaning solution, including water, on an inconspicuous area to ensure it won't discolor or damage the fabric. Apply all approved cleaning solutions sparingly so you don't spread the stain or soak furniture padding or cushion forms. When spot cleaning, lightly dab the solvent or cleaning solution from the stain's outside edges toward the center, taking care not to saturate the fabric. Use a soft-bristle brush to restore the nap and pile on fabrics such as velvet, corduroy, mohair, and faux suede. Call in a professional when your upholstery needs a thorough overall cleaning.

Here's a look at upholstery fabric cleanability codes and their related cleaning methods.

S. These solvent-based methods are usually used with natural fibers, such as cotton, rayon, and wool. Spot clean only with a water-free dry-cleaning solvent, such as Blue Coral Dri Clean or Guardsman Professional Strength Dry Cleaning Fluid.

W. W indicates water-based cleaners that are most often applied to synthetic fibers, such as olefin or nylon. Use only water-based shampoo or foam upholstery cleaner when treating these fabrics.

WS. Either water or solvents can be used to clean some fabric blends. Spot clean with upholstery shampoo, foam from a mild detergent, or mild dry cleaning solvent.

X. The code X designates vacuum-only fabrics, such as textiles woven with metallic Lurex yarns. Clean only by vacuuming or light brushing with a non-metallic, stiff bristle brush.


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