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How To & DIY

How to Clean Furniture Upholstery

Let’s face it, life happens, and your furniture upholstery is going to be exposed to a lot of dirty situations. Pet hair, sweat, dust, and spills are some of the common things that your sofa may endure, and you’ll want to clean upholstery the right way to extend the life of your investment.

There are many different types of furniture upholstery, and they each need different care when cleaning. Luckily, the majority of upholstered furnishings have a tag that contains a cleaning code to help you navigate through the messiest of situations.

Cleaning Codes

Here is what upholstery cleaning codes mean:

W: Clean upholstery with a water-based detergent. This means it’s safe to use an upholstery/carpet cleaner on your spill or stains. You can also use a little foam from a mild detergent mixed with water to clean that couch or chair. Try to use distilled water for cleaning pieces with this cleaning code as tap water has minerals in it and create rings or fading on your furniture.

S: Clean upholstery with a water-free product, such as a dry-cleaning solvent. Use just a little to start (as directed) and make sure you have plenty of ventilation. This type of fabric is dry clean only; so do not clean this type of furniture with water.

WS: You may clean upholstery fabric with either a water-based cleaner or a water-free cleaner, depending on the type of stain. You may use the foam of a mild detergent, a dry-cleaning solvent, or upholstery shampoo to clean the spot safely.

X: Rarely seen anymore, this upholstery must be professionally cleaned. You may only vacuum or brush it, but never use any type of upholstery cleaner on it yourself. This type of furniture requires a professional upholstery cleaning service.



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How-to Remove Stains

  1. The first step in avoiding stains on your upholstery is preventing them! Vacuum regularly to remove soil from your furniture, and be sure to check between the cushions for stain-causing items. If the couch is leather, apply a leather conditioner every six months to maintain your sofa.
  2. If a spill does happen, remove all excess soil/food from the furnishing immediately. The longer a spill stays on a fabric, the harder it is to remove the stain. If the spill is thick, gently scrape the excess off with a spoon or a dull table knife. If the stain is old, try steaming it with a steamer or the steam feature on your iron to loosen the stain.
  3. If the fabric can be cleaned with water, use 5 teaspoons of mild dishwashing liquid mixed with about a gallon of water. If the spill is grease or something that has caramelized sugar, use 50% water and 50% vinegar. You also can use water-based cleaners found at the grocery store. If your fabric cannot be cleaned with water, combine half a cup of baking soda with a half-cup of cornstarch to create a cleaning powder, or purchase a pre-made dry cleaning solvent.
  4. Find an inconspicuous spot to test your cleaner to make sure it won’t alter the color. The bottom hem in the back of the sofa/chair is usually a good spot.
  5. Don’t soak the upholstery. Let the foam of the solution do most of the work, blotting it frequently and work from the outer edge to the center of the stain to prevent rings. Be sure to avoid rubbing the fabric too hard as it may pill. If you are using a dry-cleaning solvent, dust the stain with the powder and let sit for 30 minutes.
  6. Rinse the fabric with a clean sponge and distilled water for W/WS codes. For S codes, use a fabric brush and a vacuum to restore the nap.
  7. Blot the spot with an absorbent material such as a white cotton towel (to prevent color transfer). If it was a big stain, place a heavy object on top of the towel and replace it with a new towel periodically to lift the water from the furnishing.
  8. If the stain remains, repeat the entire process. Although exhausting and irritating, the extra persistence could pay off and remove the stain.

How-to Remove Smells

Leather Upholstered Furniture:

  1. Combine a cup of water with one teaspoon of a liquid neutral soap, such as castile or saddle soap. Wipe down either the smelly area or the entire sofa if needed, wiping a small area at a time with a soapy sponge.
  2. Get a rag moistened with distilled water and immediately wipe the couch/chair with the clean rag. Wipe the entire furnishing with a soft dry rag.
  3. If the odor remains, you can use an enzyme leather cleaner with break down odor-causing bacteria. Be sure to follow the package’s directions and test in a discrete area before use.

Other Upholstered Furniture:

  1. Vacuum the entire sofa/chair, removing all dust, debris, and hair. If possible, remove cushions and vacuum both sides.
  2. Sprinkle baking soda on all upholstery until a visible white layer remains. Let the baking soda sit at least 15 minutes, or overnight for severe odors.
  3. Vacuum the upholstery a second time to remove the residue. Hopefully, the baking soda will have absorbed the smell and you will be left with a fresh and clean piece!

Clean upholstery using all of these helpful tips to keep your upholstered furniture looking new, as well as stain and odor free. Have any other tips or cleaners that have worked well for you? Comment below!

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