How To Clean Upholstery

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No matter how much care you take in keeping your upholstery clean, it’s bound to get dirty eventually. The good news is that cleaning and maintaining the fabric on your furniture doesn’t have to be a chore.

In this article,  we’re going to discuss how to clean upholstery, so you can be prepared for whatever cleaning challenges come your way.

Let’s get right into it.

Vacuum the furniture.

To clean the upholstery, you’ll want to vacuum it first. Not only will this remove dust and loose dirt from the fabric, but it will also loosen whatever has become embedded in the material, such as pet hair. It may seem like a lot of trouble, but it is very important because vacuuming before moving on to other steps helps ensure that you don't spread dirt around the room. If you have pets or small children at home, do not forget to check for pet dander and other pet-related dirt. Don’t forget to vacuum the crevices of your furniture, too.

How to Clean Couch Upholstery
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Clean loose soil. 

Try to wipe up as much loose soil from the fabric as possible with a dry cloth or soft brush. This step doesn't involve any water at all, so it's completely safe if you have leather or wood furniture. However, be sure not to rub too hard because this could cause damage to delicate materials.

Otherwise, you can try using a vacuum hose without the attachment on it to suck up even more dirt directly from fabric and carpets, which is particularly effective when working with really stubborn spots. If you don’t want to do that, take an old toothbrush and scrub the dirt out by hand. Buying carpets that are more dirt resistant might also be a good idea.

Take care of spots. 

If there are any minor stains, try using warm water with a little mild detergent or dish soap and rub them lightly with a sponge or cloth. Alternatively, you can use rubbing alcohol mixed with water, but it will work best on oily stains like sunscreen lotions or baby oil.

Use a small brush to dust off any dirt or lint that has accumulated on the fabric.

This is a really important step. Most upholstery in homes today is made from synthetic materials, which means it's important to vacuum the furniture regularly; otherwise, dirt and lint will keep accumulating and make your upholstery look dirty when it isn't. It would also be best to periodically use an anti-static cleaning spray on your furniture if the material is very susceptible to attracting dust.

Also, don’t forget to check for dirt on the underside of your furniture. Not many people realize it, but there is a lot of dust and lint that collects on the bottoms of upholstered pieces, so make sure to clean it regularly by turning over your furniture and vacuuming from underneath.

If you have any leather furniture in your home, this step will be extra important for you because leather requires more maintenance than fabric does. After all, its material is delicate. To keep your leather furniture in good shape, all loose soil should be wiped off with a soft rag or brush immediately after spills occur.

small brush to dust off any dirt on fabric
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Wipe down with a damp cloth and mild detergent, then dry with a towel.

Even if your upholstery isn't soiled with major stains, you should wipe it down periodically to remove dust and debris that might have accumulated on the surface of the fabric. To do this, use a clean cloth or sponge dampened with warm water mixed with a little mild detergent or dish soap, then work the solution into a lather by rubbing lightly. 

Rinse well and pat dry with a clean towel immediately after. Be sure not to rub too hard because doing so will damage delicate fabrics. If your upholstery has gotten dirty while vacuuming, blot it gently with a damp cloth instead of wiping it with a sponge or cloth with soapy water. 

This will prevent you from rubbing dirt into the fabric, which will require more work to clean up later on. If any stains won't come out, try cleaning them with alcohol diluted in warm water; blot well and do not rub too hard.

Cover any stains by sprinkling salt over them and allow them to sit overnight before vacuuming again.

You may be surprised to learn that salt is a very effective stain remover. All you need to do is sprinkle some salt over the area where the stain has occurred and then vacuum it away in the morning. Be sure not to use this method on upholstery with delicate or shaggy materials, however, because placing undue stress on them could cause damage.

Another surprising way to clean your upholstery is using baking soda. Just mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into 1/2 cup of baking soda and make it into a paste; rub it onto any stains and let sit for at least an hour before vacuuming.

If you have old or stained fabric upholstery, you can use hydrogen peroxide to remove stubborn stains. Just be sure not to leave it on too long, as it can bleach your fabric.

If your upholstery has suffered an odor-causing incident, try placing bowls of white vinegar around the room and letting them sit overnight to neutralize odors. Be sure to check with the manufacturer about any fabric-damaging solutions before using them on your furniture.

Apply scented oil or spray for freshening up the room's smell.

For freshening up a used piece of furniture, apply oil or spray that has a pleasant scent to it. This will help your home smell better on top of making the furniture look clean.

While you can use most products designed for cleaning fabric-covered furnishings, those that are made specifically for upholstery work best because they contain conditioners with sunscreen protection and deodorizers. These special formulas make them more effective as well as lock in softness and sheen. Be sure not to use these cleaners on natural fabrics or delicate materials though; have a close look at the ingredient list before using just in case there’s anything dangerous in there.

Keep in mind that if you apply oils or sprays in your bedroom, consider how these may affect you while you sleep. This is also important to consider at the initial stages when it comes to decorating your bedroom.

How do you make upholstery stain-resistant?

After wiping the upholstery, sprinkle on a powder or liquid that contains a solution of one part borax and two parts baking soda. Allow drying for 24 hours before vacuuming. This treatment makes spills easier to clean up and reduces staining.

having a great upholstery cleaner is important
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Which substances should be avoided on upholstery and which ones could be safely used?

Avoid using most soaps and detergents on upholstery because they can leave a sticky, greasy residue or cause the fabric to pill. They’re also not very effective when it comes to getting rid of stains. Avoid them at all costs.

However, if you notice an odor coming from your upholstery, that is probably caused by the off-gassing of these chemicals. There are a couple of options for dealing with this problem. For larger pieces of upholstered furniture, simply airing out the room should take care of the smell as long as you don’t use any perfumed sprays or other fragrances. For smaller pieces, placing bowls of white vinegar around the room and letting

Final thoughts on how to clean upholstery

In conclusion, the easiest way to clean upholstery is by vacuuming frequently. This will prevent loose dirt and hair from becoming a major problem. If you spill something on your upholstery, blot it as much as possible with a paper towel before using any cleaning products because this will help to absorb a large amount of the liquid before it can do any damage.

Be sure not to use anything too abrasive or aggressive when trying to remove stains from your upholstery; always be with it gentle if you want your upholstery to last for a very long time.


Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is an expert DIY home remodeler and mom to three. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her working on new home improvement projects or writing about her favorite kitchen appliances or DIY projects on Kitchen Infinity blog.

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