Many people believe that upholstery is a pain to clean. It's hard to find the time, it's hard to find the right products, and it's just plain hard work.
In this article, we've got you covered with these easy-to-follow tips for cleaning upholstery at home.
Let's get right into it.
How to clean upholstery
Safety is key when it comes to cleaning upholstery. Your upholstery may look clean, but in reality, it can be covered with dust mites and dirt.
It's important to wash your upholstery only if you know what you are doing. Here are the tips to keep in mind when cleaning different kinds of upholstered furniture.
Keep hard-to-get stains away from furniture
Before getting started on your home cleaning adventure, grab an old towel and lay it over your sofa/seats/chairs, etc… This will make the job easier and save time by keeping hard-to-get stains from transferring onto other parts of the furniture.
Dirt is one cause of allergies and asthma. It can also spread dust and contaminants from one room to the next, which is why it's important to vacuum frequently, at least once a week.
You should invest in a good quality vacuum cleaner – preferably one with adjustable height settings so you can clean under furniture and get right into those corners.
Dealing with stains
Try this quick tip: dip a cotton swab or piece of cloth into rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol), squeeze out any excess liquid, then rub the spot gently in circles.
You may need to repeat several times before the stain is lifted completely. Make sure you test an inconspicuous area first if it's an expensive fabric; rubbing alcohol is effective but some fabrics don't like it.
Tired of trying to remove pet hair from your carpet?
Try this method: fill a spray bottle with lukewarm water, then add a few drops of dishwashing liquid and shake vigorously.
Spray the soiled patches on your upholstery, squeeze out any excess liquid with paper towels or old rags, and leave them for about 30 minutes to an hour. Then blot dry with more paper towels/old rags. (Tip: make sure you don't use too much detergent – just a little bit will do.)
What kind of upholstery can I clean at home?
Depending on the fabric, different kinds of upholstered furniture may only be suitable for professional cleaning or they may be conducive to at-home stain removal.
For example, cotton and microfiber fabric are easy to clean – they're washable, so you can just throw them in the machine. On the other hand, silk (or any material that's prone to shrinkage) is very delicate and should only be dry cleaned.
Microfiber fabrics on chairs: If your upholstery is made of microfiber fabric you'll have an easier time cleaning it yourself: all you need is a vacuum cleaner and some mild detergent/soap on a clean cloth or sponge (for dry cleaning stains).
Liftoff the cushions and gently wipe both sides of each cushion with soap and water using a soft-bristled brush first, then wash them in hot water and mild detergent on a regular cycle.
Linen: Grab your vacuum cleaner and clean the upholstery thoroughly to remove any stubborn stains, then wring out an old towel with vinegar and place it over the spot overnight. In the morning, rinse off the vinegar with lukewarm water and let your upholstery air dry.
You may need to repeat this process several times before all traces of tarnish are removed from your furniture.
Leather: Clean stained leather upholstery using a pre-softened pencil eraser; don't use anything more abrasive or you'll end up scratching the surface. For scuff marks wipe on some shoe polish, leave for about 5 minutes, then wipe clean with a soft cloth.
Some people think that you can't wash or clean leather sofas and chairs at home: it's either dry-cleaned only or never use soap on them because the foam will ruin the surface of the upholstery. Well, not true. All you need is mineral spirits (aka paint thinner).
First, check the tags – if it says “dry-clean only” then do just that. If not, try gently wiping off any dirt/muck using a slightly damp rag and some mineral spirits (don't worry too much about getting rid of every last bit of dirt; all you're trying to do here is get it presentable for guests).
Then use a dry brush or degreaser to remove the soap left on the surface. Once both of these processes are complete, wipe with a clean rag dampened with mineral spirits so that you can just see sheen (not all shiny). Then let the air dry completely.
The best ways to deal with stains
Use a dry erase marker to mark around the stain in several directions, then dab it with rubbing alcohol.
The best thing about this method is that you don't need to worry about possibly ruining your fabric (just remember to use rubbing alcohol only – regular alcohol will mess up your furniture).
If your couch has waterproof fabric, make sure you avoid getting water onto the leather, or else it'll stain. Also, make sure not to rub too hard while cleaning plastic parts as they may get scratched.
Wax scratches easily so try rinsing them off with water several times before you use any detergent to remove oily stains.
Lastly, be very careful when bending or flexing the couch – don't force it out of shape because this will cause stress fractures and make the furniture break prematurely.
What cleans upholstery best?
What works best for cleaning upholstery at home? Here are some of the major factors to consider before choosing an agent:
Nature of soiling/staining
You'll need different types of solutions to remove grease stains, rust, ink, grass, and paint stains. For example, cold creams will only work on fat stains.
Type of fabric
Most fabrics can be cleaned very easily at home if you know the right method. If your upholstery has leather or vinyl, don't use too much pressure because they're delicate materials that can be damaged by excessive rubbing.
Remember to read the tags attached to them before using any agents – if it's dry clean only then take it to a professional.
Tools and materials
Use the appropriate cleaning agents for your upholstery and make sure that you have the necessary tools. Don't use anything abrasive or a strong solvent (like kerosene) as this may damage your furniture.
Compatibility of solution with soiling/staining
Some fabric types will be damaged by certain chemicals. For example, oil can stain polyester but not cotton.
Also, check if your couch is resistant to water – soaking it may cause permanent damage.
Final thoughts on how to clean upholstery.
Cleaning upholstery at home is a great way to get rid of dirt and stains.
Just remember to use a light rubbing or covering motions, avoid any items that are dry clean only and follow directions on the tags attached to your furniture.
With this in mind, you'll be able to have a clean couch again and even impress guests with how clean and bright your living area looks.