How to clean upholstery

Published On: July 25, 20170 Comments on How to clean upholsteryTags: Last Updated: February 13, 20248.4 min read

When we lean back on our couches or comfortably sink into our sofas, we rarely stop to think about when was the last time we’ve properly cleaned the house. That is until mishandled ink, coffee, or a pancake suddenly motivate us to dash into the kitchen and clean the whole thing inside-out.

However, you’ll probably agree with us when we say that waiting for the next disaster to strike before lifting a finger may be one of the worst maintenance strategies to ever be conceived, not to mention if you have to get your deposit back.
How to clean upholstery

To save you some stress and regret, we offer you invaluable tips on how to clean upholstery that you can (and, frankly, should) use to keep your furniture fresh before and after the fated stain lands on its surface.

General Upholstery Care Tips

1. Learn the strong and weak suits of your fabric

A quick online search will reveal that the sheer number of fabric types can rival that of the bright stars on a cloudless night. That’s why you should always read your cleaning tag’s description before subjecting your upholstery to any of the methods listed below. With that said, it never hurts to learn a thing or two about the most widely used types of fabric, for instance:

  • Wool – one of the easiest fabrics to maintain. It’s durable and can be usually spot cleaned in a variety of different ways without worrying too much about discoloration;
  • Cotton – usually, you’ll be able to freshen up the fabric using nothing but liquid soap and water. Its colours, however, can quickly lose their lively hues if exposed to direct sunlight;
  • Linen – the delicate nature of linen makes it extremely child- and pet-unfriendly. It should only be vacuumed with a soft brush attachment or wiped with a damp cloth;
  • Silk – a very demanding material, its colors will quickly fade if situated near windows or other abundant sources of sunlight. Tough stains should only be handled by a pro;
  • Suede – similar to linen, suede hates water and enjoys vacuum treatment only. Smaller spots can also be masked with gum erasers or removed with suede cleaning products;
  • Leather – yet another delicate fabric that tolerates only vacuum cleaners and detests sunlight, as well as nearby heat sources (both may cause the leather to crack). Unlike suede, some water can be used to deal with spills, but leather conditioners or saddle soap are by far the safer option. Linseed oil can also be used to buff the surface of boat upholstery materials.

2. Unleash the power of your vacuum cleaner

Turns out, the best vacuum cleaners are suitable for more than just cleaning of floors and carpets. Running an attachment with soft bristles across your upholstery’s surface at least twice a year will eliminate pesky dirt and dust particles that will otherwise agitate the fibres and damage your fabric. It will also revive its colors and hide many of the marks left from continuous use.

For better results (especially if you own microfiber furniture), you will do well to remove any solids with a soft brush to prevent the vacuum cleaner from clogging. Once you’re done cleaning your upholstery, swap out the soft bristle attachment for a crevice tool to cover all those awkward nooks and crannies, for instance the areas between the cushions or around the arms. If you want to remove the spots immediately then you can try with the special vacuum cleaner designed for cleaning upholstery.

3. Use a brush or tape to deal with pet hair

Few things are more annoying than cleaning carpets that have collected a seemingly endless supply of Fluffy’s matted fur. But there’s a quick fix for furnishing. Simply grab a bristle-headed or a napped fabric-headed brush and gently go over your upholstery’s surface to collect all stray hair. Other alternatives include using a clothes lint remover or wrapping your hand in masking tape (yes, we’re serious) and using its inner, glue-covered side to quickly dispose of the unruly hairs.

4. Show your cushions some love

Cushions are a great and inexpensive way of enhancing our furniture’s appearance or adding that extra level of comfort that we have come to expect from our living room sofas. Unfortunately, most cushions tend to show signs of wear and tear pretty fast, which can be countered by turning over every cushion on a regular basis.

This will prevent the forming of wrinkles, scratches, or other visual defects and will significantly extend their lifespan. Don’t forget to also fluff them up after every use and vacuum them from time to time to deal with accumulated dirt (especially useful if you have the habit of falling asleep on your couch after an intense day at work).

5. Move your upholstery away from sunlight

While the healthy benefits of sunlight cannot be overstated enough, it’s effect on more delicate textiles can be a very frustrating one. For instance, prolonged exposure to sunlight may cause the colors of suede or silk to fade, and the fabrics themselves may unravel along the edges.

A good way of preventing this is to dress up your windows in either shades or draperies (blinds are recommended only for the brave of heart since they are difficult to maintain). You can also simply move your furniture away from your windows, provided you have the free space to do so. If you employed an experienced interior designer when revamping your room, she would probably plan your layout with these kind of things in mind for longevity of the decor.

Emergency Stain Removal Tips

6. Do damage control with spot cleaning

It may have been an overzealous gesture or a not-so-gentle nudge that pushed the glass of red wine over the edge of your coffee table. Either way, the stain is there now, soaking into your upholstery. Panicking will get you nowhere, so here’s what you can do to mitigate the damage.

Usually, newly bought furniture will arrive pre-treated with various fabric protectors and water repellents. While these will not make your furniture stain-proof, they will greatly facilitate the cleaning process and, sometimes, blotting the stain in time is all you need to remove it fully.

To do so, get a regular or a paper towel (don’t use colored ones as they may leave some of their dye behind) and gently blot the spillage. Avoid rubbing the stains as this will only drive them further into the fabric and might lead to permanent discoloration. If you spilled some food, get a scraper or a spoon to remove all solids before blotting the rest with a clean towel.

7. Clean upholstery with homemade cleaning concoction

But before that, let’s have a quick rundown of all those mysterious capital letters that you will no doubt encounter on your cleaning tag’s description.

  • W”, for example, will indicate that you can safely use water-based cleaning products;
  • S” means the opposite – no liquid detergents allowed, only dry variations (powder, etc.);
  • WS” combines the best of both worlds (liquid and dry detergents can both be applied);
  • X” limits your options to mere vacuum cleaning.

Armed with that knowledge, you should now be able to pick the right home cleaning recipe to suit your needs and you’re ready to clean upholstery. Here are a few recipes that you can use on “W” and “WS” upholstery types:

  1. Mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar with ⅔ cup of rubbing alcohol (for fruit/berry stains).
  2. Mix ½ cup of baking soda with ½ cup of cornstarch and add water (for mild stains).
  3. Use a mixer to blend water and liquid dishwasher soap together and use the resulting thick foam to treat your stains (suitable for a wide variety of food and drink blemishes).

8. If all else fails, turn to commercial detergents

Isn’t it annoying how some stains just cannot take a hint that they are no longer welcome? When this happens, you’ll usually have no other choice but to bring in the heavy guns. Before you do that, however, research the market for eco-friendly alternatives or at least pick milder versions. The reason for this is because many manufacturers tend to use chemicals whose particles will end up polluting the indoor air for days or even weeks after you’ve used them.

You should also always test the product in a discreet spot on your upholstery before applying it on the stain, even if you’ve read the cleaning tag.

“For best results, use soft brushes and clean upholstery in circular motions to work the product deep into the fabric, then vacuum the stain. If you are left with bright rings or discolored spots, leave this detergent be and hire a certified expert instead.” – the Fantastic Upholstery Cleaners advise.

9. When it’s a good time to call in a professional to clean upholstery

If your furniture didn’t come with a cleaning tag or you had it previously removed, seeking the services of a certified upholstery technician is your only remaining choice. Sometimes, modern bedroom furniture,(sectionals and loveseats, for instance) will also feature unconventional shapes, the numerous gaps and crevices of which can only be accessed with professional tools.

Most of the time, however, you will need a specialist mainly because you simply won’t be able to remove the stain with any conventional methods which can be a common problem with outdoor furniture. Each upholstery technician will usually have access to a wide range of chemicals and tools that are not available over the counter and that are much more efficient at removing the stains than their commercial counterparts.

If you lost your cleaning tag, the expert will bring a special testing kit to determine the type of fabric you own. This will also allow the technician to pick a suitable treatment that will leave your upholstery completely unscathed. You can even have them bring eco-friendly detergents in case you are worried that some of the chemicals will trigger allergies in you, your family, or your pets.

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