How to Clean Upholstery (and Keep It Clean Over Time)

Cleaning upholstery is like folding a fitted sheet in that it feels like pure magic. How do people do it? Where did they learn? Cleaning upholstery is a necessary part of owning furniture. Especially if you have family members that are prone to leaving stains. Or if you have light-colored furniture that attracts stains over time. 

What Kinds of Upholstery Can Actually Be Cleaned?

Upholstery refers to a textile applied to a piece of furniture that is used to cover it. But not all fabrics used to upholster are one and the same.

Leather, for example, requires a different set of cleaning instructions than most fabrics. Manufacturers often use tags on their furniture with cleaning codes to identify the kind of fabric you should use. These codes also explain if you should use water or water-based products on the fabric. Explore the different manufacturer codes here.

Most of the time you can clean materials using a water-based solvent or cleaner. But there are certain fabrics that you can’t clean with traditional cleaners. So be sure to identify your furniture’s needs before you clean.

What Products Do You Need?

For most fabric sofas, having warm water, dishwashing liquid, a dry cleaning solvent, and baking soda is pretty much all you need. If you have stains that have dried out, having a brush with strong, dry-bristles can help lift some of the dried matter from the cloth. If you don’t have a vessel for your warm, soapy water, we’d recommend grabbing a bucket as well as several sponges and microfiber cloths to clean with. 

Check out these options for the best products to use to clean your upholstery:

If you’re nervous about your pets or kids’ safety, consider using products that are non-toxic. Also, ensure that you’re checking your product labels.

How Do You Get Started?

Everyone you know likely has a different way of cleaning furniture. While there are many methods, most sources agree that you should clean stains first. Especially set-in stains.

If your fabric is water-safe, use a cloth and dab lightly at the stain with a mixture of water and detergent. Then use a clean, wet cloth to rinse the fabric by pulling away the dirtied water. Repeating the process a few times should pull away the stain.

Use this guide to determine the best way to clean your entire fabric couch or furniture piece. Make sure to use the cleaning code that applies to your item. One common theme is to avoid using heat to speed up the drying process. This is because applying heat to some fabrics can cause them to shrivel or wrinkle. 

Some cleaning instructions recommend wiping down the area with the stain. But many experts recommend using as little cleaning solution, like detergent, as possible. This is because it can attract more dirt. Many experts also recommend avoiding using too much moisture if possible. Understanding your fabric will help you determine what products to use, and what cleaning methods to follow.

Check out the following guides to cleaning upholstery: 

What Are the Best Practices for Having and Maintaining Upholstered Furniture?

  • Vacuum—often. This is one way to avoid having to get furniture cleaned by professionals, or having it fall apart. Stains aren’t the only enemies of cushions and sofas. Pet hair and dust can leave lasting consequences on furniture if left on for too long. 
  • Treat stains immediately. If you spill something, be sure to treat it as best you can before it has a chance to dry. Spot-cleaning is possible. But if you’re worried about having to clean later, it’s best to clean immediately. 
  • Treat your fabric. Most fabrics come pre-treated, but some don’t. You can buy fabric shields like this one from many retailers. You can then apply them to your cushions and coverings. Leveraging an expert can also help you feel less anxious than doing it yourself.
  • Don’t only clean the furniture. Cleaning the blankets and pillows can help keep your furniture clean over time. We recommend it, even though it adds a bit more to your to-do list.

If you follow the items listed above, you’ll be able to keep your upholstery clean over time. You can also avoid large cleaning bills, and/or having to invest in solvents to do a deep clean later on. 

Bobby the Bee

Bobby the Bee is our honey-loving mascot. He currently holds a degree in making Missions, and making honey from Mobee University.