How To Clean Your Fabric Upholstery

Last Updated on February 13, 2023 by Kravelv

Good quality fabric upholstery furniture, such as a sofa and chairs can definitely transform a room for the better, and are often the feature pieces in any living room. However, that clean, fresh newly delivered look can quickly fade if the fabric is not looked after correctly.

Some fabric chairs and sofas have the blessing of removable covers; these can simply go in a washing machine for a regular freshen up. Unfortunately the majority of upholstery fabric is non-removable and can either be professionally cleaned at a cost, or with some basic home care tips can be kept nice and fresh at a low cost.

Vacuum Regularly

This really is the key to maintaining your fabric upholstery furniture. A good vacuum once a week will help keep your sofa and chairs looking cleaner and brighter. Most vacuum cleaners come with upholstery attachments that people often forget to utilise. Using the correct attachment, vacuum the fabric from left to right, overlapping the strokes to be sure not to miss anything. It is also important to vacuum under and around all the cushions and seams. Vacuuming frequently will prevent dust and any crumbs from settling into the fabric and the body of the furniture. This also helps prevent allergens from spreading such as house dust mites. If there are any old or dry stains on your chair or sofa, make sure you vacuum the area thoroughly before getting stuck in with any stain removal products. It is surprising how much an old or dry stain will fade after being vacuumed.

Check Your Furniture for Its Cleaning Code

Different types of fabric need different types of care. To ensure that you won’t damage your upholstery by cleaning it, look for the upholstery tag. These are often hidden on the underside of the furniture and should provide you with one of the following cleaning codes:

  • ‘S’ – Dry cleaning only, this means that you must only use dry cleaning solvents and water free products to clean your upholstery.
  • ‘W’ – Your piece can be cleaned using a water based detergent, this means you can safely use an upholstery/carpet cleaner.
  • ‘S/W’ – A combination of both water based products and dry cleaning solvents can be used.
  • ‘X’ – This type of product is not a common sight and can only be professionally cleaned, usually with great difficulty.

An Overall Clean

Providing your upholstery fabric is suitable for water based products, for an overall clean you can perform the following steps.

You will need:

• A vacuum cleaner
• A can of compressed air
• An upholstery brush (preferably made from horse hair)
• Clear washing up liquid
• A small bucket
• A cloth
• Water

Compressed air is commonly used for cleaning computer components, but it can also be very effective for cleaning difficult to reach areas in your upholstery fabric. Having given your piece a good vacuum, use a can of compressed air to clean areas such as the buttons or any other nooks and crannies you couldn’t get at with the vacuum cleaner, it is a great way to remove surface dust and crumbs.
Once you have vacuumed as well as possible, make a solution of clear washing up liquid with warm water. Add enough detergent to create a a sufficient amount of soapy suds. Taking the upholstery brush, dip it into the suds and gently brush the upholstery. Do not saturate the fabric. Then take a damp cloth and wipe the area you have brushed with the suds. Keep the room well ventilated to allow the piece to dry.

Steam Cleaning

Provided your upholstery can be treated using water, this can be a highly effective way to give your upholstery furniture an overall clean. The high temperature of the water not only removes dirt and particles, but also kills dust mites. Steam cleaning can be done professionally or non-professionally by buying or renting a steam cleaner. Having the job done professionally may cost more but the professionals will know exactly how much water and detergent is needed. Home owners frequently make the mistake of over saturating their furniture, leaving it vulnerable to damp and its odours as well as mould growth.

steam cleaning

Spot Cleaning

Stains are probably the biggest problem when it comes to looking after your upholstery fabric and unless the furniture is rarely used, it is likely that some sort of staining will occur. This is especially true for families with young children. It is a good idea to keep some stain removal products in stock at home. Choose a fabric cleaner suitable for the type of fabric the upholstery is made from, then check to see which types of stains it tackles (you could even check out a resource like this page to learn about some of the best products on the market). The quicker you treat a stain, the easier it is to lift off. Once a stain has set, it can become more of challenge to remove. A fresh liquid spill should be blotted immediately, wiping may spread the stain even further.

Some popular old fashioned remedies for stain removal on fabrics include:
• Water
• White vinegar
• Vodka
Baby wipes can prove useful too for cleaning small spots, as they are gentle and don’t saturate the fabric.


Odours can permeate fabrics and set it into the furniture. Keeping the room well aired is advisable. Another home remedy is to sprinkle baking powder on to the sofa and chairs in the evening and then vacuum thoroughly the following day. Using baking powder is a good method of neutralising bad odours which can be caused by spills or pets. Alternatively, there are a number of “fabric freshener” products on the market such as Febreeze.

Kravelv is a full time digital marketer and part time furniture and cabinet maker. During his free time he would like to create something out of recycled woods, this varies from toys, furnitures plant boxes etc. Follow him on Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook

One Reply to “How To Clean Your Fabric Upholstery”

  1. Thanks for the cleaning advises! I had no idea how to clean and maintain my fabric sofa. It’s great idea to look the signs over the labels so they will guides me about the cleaning instructions. Best regards

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