How to Clean Upholstery Yourself in Simple Steps

Updated September 29, 2021
Man cleaning sofa with steam cleaning in home

Is your chair starting to look dingy? It might be time to give it a good cleaning. But should you clean it with water, steam, solvents, or something else? Rather than wrack your brains wondering if you'll wreck your loveseat, get some simple tips for upholstery cleaning to take your furniture from yuck to yeah!

1. Know Your Fabric Codes

Before you can even grab your cleaning materials, you need to know the type of fabric you are working with. This ensures that you don't destroy your upholstery by using the wrong cleaner. Grab the tag and look to see which of these abbreviations you're working with:

  • W - Water-based cleaners are acceptable.
  • S - You must use a solvent cleaner, also known as dry cleaning detergent.
  • WS - Use mild water cleaner or dry cleaner detergent.
  • X - Vacuum this only or call a professional.

By looking at the tag, you know just what types of cleaners you need to grab when you get started.

2. Gather Your Supplies

You know whether you are working with an S or a W, so it's time to grab your supplies. You won't need all of these for every job, but these are some of the tools and supplies that will help you get your upholstered furniture clean.

Supplies for effective house cleaning

3. Vacuum Out Your Furniture

Vacuuming your couch or chair might be all you need to get it clean if you do it right. This can pull up all the dirt, dander, and pet hair that's making your furniture look dingy. Before you start vacuuming, you want to pull the sofa or chair away from the wall and any tables. Then you can follow these instructions.

Vacuum Couch
  1. Grab the couch cleaning attachment for the hose on your vacuum.
  2. Pull off the cushions. If they are W, pull off the covers and throw them in the wash. Otherwise, vacuum them off.
  3. Start with the sides of the furniture and work from the top down. Maintain a connection with the fabric for maximum suction.
  4. Once the sides and arms are dirt-free, use the same method to clean the front cushions of the couch. Use slow strokes with medium pressure.
  5. Use the crevice tool to get all the crumbs and dirt out of the sides of the couch.
  6. Lastly, vacuum down the bottom and back of the couch.

4. Clean Upholstery Stains

After you've spent time vacuuming down the couch, you begin to see your problem areas. Your loveseat might have an overall dinginess or a few places in need of a thorough spot clean. Whatever the case, you need to consider your fabric type when it comes to removing stains. Additionally, you will use different methods for specific stains like ink.

Clean Upholstery Stains

Cleaning W-Code Fabric Upholstery

If you have fabric upholstery with a W symbol, it can be cleaned using a water-based cleanser. To do this, grab the bristle brush, cloth, white vinegar, Dawn, and a bucket or bowl.

  1. Remove any chunks by softening them with a damp cloth. Use the bristle brush to gently get them free.
  2. Mix ¼ cup of vinegar, a tablespoon of Dawn, and a cup of warm water in a bowl.
  3. Wet the bristle brush with the mixture and scrub the stains or your whole couch or chair.
  4. Use a damp clean cloth to rinse the area by patting it. Continue until the spots are gone.
  5. If your fabric needs an overall cleaning, grab your steam cleaner and follow the instructions of your cleaner to remove all the dirt from the upholstery.

How to Clean Upholstery Made of Leather

If you have leather upholstery, you need a cloth and white vinegar. Now it's time to get cleaning.

  1. Create a 1:1 mixture of water to white vinegar in a bottle.
  2. Spray the area that's dirty.
  3. Blot the stains with a cloth.
  4. When the piece is dry, use a leather conditioner to keep it supple.

Removing Stains From S-Code Upholstery

Upholstery with an S code needs to be professionally cleaned or cleaned with a dry cleaning solvent. If you are feeling daring, you can try this at home. Make sure to clean your upholstery in a well-ventilated area and wear protection like rubber gloves.

  1. Apply the solvent to a cloth.
  2. Brush the solvent over the area to lift the stain.
  3. Use the bristled brush for a heavily soiled area.

If you are worried about doing this by yourself or about damaging your furniture, call a professional upholstery cleaning company.

5. Wipe Down and Polish Wood and Metal Areas

The stains are all gone, and your upholstery is looking pretty good. With the fabric all handled, you'll want to turn your attention to any wood or metal parts of the furniture. For metal, you can take the microfiber cloth and buff the area to remove water spots from your cleaning or other dirt and dust. For wood, use wood polish to remove any stains and bring out the shine.

Wipe Wood and Metal Areas

6. Allow Upholstery to Dry

Upholstery should dry completely within 24 hours. Of course, it is best to clean on a warm day with the windows open and a breeze circulating. If that is not possible, these steps on how to dry couch cushion covers and other parts of the upholstery will help you speed up the process.

beige chair and a large vase on the floor
  1. Take a hairdryer and go over seamed or corded areas.
  2. Turn up the heat by two or three degrees.
  3. If you have a ceiling fan, flip the switch on the fan to counterclockwise to push the warmer air down to the floor and furniture level.
  4. Keep the family off the furniture. Sitting on it before it is completely dry pushes the moisture in and makes it more difficult to dry completely.
  5. Make sure curtains and drapes are open to get as much natural light and warmth as possible.

Problem-Solving Tips for Getting Upholstery Clean

Sometimes upholstery cleaning isn't as easy as it should be. Try out these tips to ensure your upholstery looks fantastic all the time:

  • Use a lint roller to help remove any hair your vacuum missed before cleaning with water or solvent.
  • Choose a vacuum with a HEPA filter and good suction.
  • Vacuum your couch off every few weeks to avoid dirt build-up, more if you have pets.
  • If you don't have a steamer, you can use the steam on your iron to freshen up your couch.
  • If your couch looks a bit dingy, wipe the whole thing down with a damp rag to freshen up the upholstery.
  • If upholstery still looks dirty after cleaning, consider renting a shampooer to remove embedded stains.
  • Remove and wash couch cushion covers according to the manufacturer's directions.
  • Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your cleaning remedy for W fabrics to have your upholstery smelling fresh and looking clean.

How Often Should You Clean Your Upholstery?

How often you need to clean your upholstery depends on wear and tear. If you have a furniture set that is hardly used, you maybe only need to clean it once a year. However, if you have kids and pets roaming around your home, every three months or so is a reasonable timeframe. More important than following a strict schedule is to watch for when it starts to look dirty.

Upholstery Cleaning at Home

You don't need to rent an expensive service to keep your upholstery looking on point. Instead, you can easily clean it yourself at home with a few simple tools. You can even add upholstery cleaning to your regular house cleaning schedule to keep your furniture looking fresh and new.

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How to Clean Upholstery Yourself in Simple Steps