Cleaning upholstered furniture can be a rewarding experience if you use the proper techniques, methods and products. However, it’s also tricky, and if you aren’t careful, you can permanently damage your favourite sofa. The best way to prevent stains on your upholstered furniture, such as sofas, chairs, ottomans, and other fabric-covered pieces, isn’t to ban food and pets from the living room. It’s to have the knowledge of what to do when stains occur. Follow these easy and simple tips to preserve your upholstered furniture and keep it looking fresh and clean.
Read the Manufacturer’s Cleaning Guidelines
Before you attempt to clean your sofa, check the manufacturer’s cleaning code that is at the seam or attached to the bottom of it. This can be confusing, so we’ve made up a quick introduction to what the letters on it mean:
- “W” means that your upholstery can be cleaned with water;
- “S” indicates that the upholstery can be cleaned with solvents;
- “SW” means that you can use either water or solvent to clean your furniture;
- “X” indicates that the material should be dry-cleaned or cleaned by a professional.
By following these guidelines, you won’t accidentally ruin your upholstery by using the wrong cleaning product. Professional upholstery cleaners always read the label before working on furniture pieces. You can also contact the manufacturer to inquire which products they’d recommend. Not following the manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines also poses the risk of invalidating your warranty, which can be a problem if any defects appear in the future.
If your children or pets have torn off the manufacturer’s label, you can always perform a test on a small inconspicuous area before using any detergents or cleaning agents.
Upholstery Cleaning Tips
Before using any detergents, vacuum the furniture piece well to remove any dust, dirt and debris. Doing this regularly will help the fabric breathe and last longer. Cleaning your upholstery once a week will prevent it from getting dirty before anything else, minimising the chances of you having to do a major upholstery cleaning and furniture damage.
If you want to maintain and clean your upholstery effectively, invest in a good vacuum with the right attachments for cleaning upholstery. This attachment looks like a smaller version of the big vacuum, with a brush that rotates to lift up dirt and stains.
Vacuum in one direction and once you have covered a section, do it again in the opposite direction. Always be delicate, and don’t press too hard onto the furniture.
Be careful not to use too much wet cleaning products when cleaning your upholstery. Use the minimum amount to get the stain out and give it enough time to dry completely.
Using too much cleaner can cause it to soak deep into the furniture padding, making it a breeding ground for bacteria or damaging the padding. Solvent cleaners, in particular, should be used sparingly as they can seriously damage it if you let them sit for too long without drying.
A good technique is spraying a little cleaner onto the furniture and immediately blotting it up with a clean cloth. Repeat this until the spot or stain is fully gone. This will ensure that none of the cleaners has time to soak in.
Baby wipes are a surprisingly effective tool for quick DIY upholstery cleaning. They’re great for leather, cotton, or polyester, offering a gentle mixture of water and soap with very little moisture. However, always test first on an inconspicuous area to ensure that they won’t cause any damage to the fabric.
If you’ve got spills on your upholstery, clean them as fast as possible. The general rule with furniture stains is that the quicker you act, the better the chances are that they won’t leave a permanent mark. If you wait too long, the liquid will penetrate your upholstery’s surface and make the spot very difficult to clean.
Blot up the spill with a clean cloth, absorbing as much of the liquid as possible. Don’t rub, as this can make the liquid go deeper into the upholstery material. You can also try vacuuming the spill, as this will remove the material without rubbing it.
Avoid harsh or abrasive cleansers. These products may cause damage to the surface of your furniture, especially if it’s leather. Never use ammonia-based solutions, varnish or bleach, as they can easily cause discolouration. Don’t use furniture polish products on upholstered furniture because the solutions contain wax and silicone, which can damage or stain the fabric.
Avoid positioning your upholstered furniture in direct sunlight, near air conditioners, fireplaces or heating vents. This can fade, dry or even crack the upholstery material.
To replenish and condition leather furniture, use a vinegar-based cleaning solution. Mix 2 tablespoons vinegar with 3 tablespoons linseed oil into a small bottle. Shake well to mix the solution and apply it on a leather surface using circular motions. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and remove it with a clean, soft cloth.
DIY Upholstery Cleaners
There is no need to buy expensive pre-made products. You can actually DIY your own cleaning solutions with ingredients you already have at home that can be just as effective.
- Blood stains: use hydrogen peroxide. Spray a little on the spot and let it sit for a few minutes. Blot it up afterwards, and it should dissolve the stain completely.
- Oil or grease stains: sprinkle some salt on the area and let it absorb the oil for a few minutes. Afterwards, vacuum it up.
- Coffee stains: diluted vinegar mixed with a bit of dish soap should take care of the stain.
- Wine stains: sprinkle salt on the area and spray some hydrogen peroxide. Clean with a cloth soaked in water.
- Pet hair: put on a pair of rubber gloves and run them over the surface of your furniture. This creates static that pulls the hair to the edge of the piece, where you can vacuum it. You can also DIY a static spray by mixing water and a small amount of fabric softener. Spray the solution on the furniture and wipe off the hair with a cloth.
- Crayon stains: dab a bit of non-gel toothpaste and rinse with water.
If you have doubts about how to clean your upholstered furniture, don’t hesitate to hire a professional. Expert cleaners use high-quality products and equipment, and they know how to preserve your upholstery and can easily restore it if you’ve damaged it. A professional service will also do all the work, leaving you time to enjoy a relaxing activity without worrying about cleaning. Upholstered furniture is a comfortable and beautiful part of your home decor, which you should take all the necessary steps to keep clean and maintained.