Your Guide to Upholstery Maintenance Tips and Techniques

Upholstered furniture adds comfort and style to our homes, but keeping it clean and well-maintained requires some effort and know-how. Whether it’s a sofa, armchair, or dining chairs, understanding the basics of upholstery maintenance can significantly prolong their lifespan and keep them looking fresh. Here’s your comprehensive guide to upholstery maintenance, covering essential tips and techniques to help you keep your furniture in top condition.

Understanding Clean Codes

One of the first steps in upholstery maintenance is deciphering the clean code found on furniture tags. These codes, often represented by letters like W, S, S/W, and X, provide guidance on how to clean the upholstery without damaging it.

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For instance, W indicates that water-based cleaning solutions are safe to use, while S suggests using solvent-based cleaners. S/W means you can use either water-based or solvent-based cleaners, and X means that professional cleaning is required to avoid damage.

Finding the Clean Code

If the clean code is missing from your furniture tag, you can determine the best cleaning method by consulting the manufacturer’s care instructions online or contacting the retailer where you purchased the piece. Another method is to test a small, inconspicuous area of the upholstery with a cleaning solution to observe how it reacts. This test helps ensure that the cleaner doesn’t cause any discoloration or damage.

Thorough Vacuuming

Before diving into upholstery cleaning, it’s crucial to thoroughly vacuum the furniture. Vacuuming helps remove dust, dirt, and debris that accumulate on the surface and within the fabric fibers. Use a soft brush attachment to gently vacuum the upholstery, paying attention to crevices, seams, and corners where dust tends to settle. This step prevents dirt from embedding deeper into the fabric during the cleaning process.

Choosing the Right Cleaner

Selecting the appropriate cleaner based on the clean code is essential for effective upholstery cleaning. For water-based upholstery (W or S/W), a DIY cleaning solution can be made by mixing one cup of rubbing alcohol with one cup of water and adding a few drops of mild dish soap like Dawn. This solution effectively cleans the upholstery without causing water stains or damage. For solvent-based upholstery (S), it’s recommended to use specialized solvent cleaners designed for upholstery to avoid residue buildup.

Cleaning and Extraction

Once you’ve selected the correct cleaner, apply it sparingly to the upholstery using a soft-bristled brush or a clean towel. Gently scrub the cleaner into the fabric, working in small sections to ensure even application. For those with access to an extractor or a carpet cleaning machine with an upholstery attachment, this tool can be used with water only to flush out the cleaner and embedded dirt thoroughly. Proper extraction ensures that no cleaning residue remains, leaving the upholstery clean and refreshed.

Alternative Cleaning Methods

If you don’t have access to an extractor, you can still effectively clean your upholstery by misting warm water onto the fabric and blotting it with a dry microfiber towel. This method helps lift dirt and soil from the surface, although it may not be as thorough as using an extractor. It’s essential to blot gently to avoid spreading the dirt and causing water stains.

Drying Techniques

After cleaning, it’s crucial to dry the upholstery quickly to prevent mold and mildew growth. Open windows or use fans to create airflow over the furniture, aiding in faster evaporation of moisture. If your upholstery has reversible cushions or pillows, stack them to ensure all surfaces receive adequate airflow. Avoid using heat sources like hairdryers or direct sunlight, as these can damage the fabric fibers and cause shrinkage.

Regular Maintenance Tips

To maintain upholstery cleanliness between deep cleanings, vacuum regularly and promptly address spills by blotting them with a clean cloth. Avoid rubbing stains, as this can push the stain deeper into the fabric. Use upholstery protectants or fabric guards as recommended by manufacturers to create a barrier against stains and dirt buildup.

Professional Cleaning

For heavily soiled upholstery or persistent stains, consider hiring a professional upholstery cleaning service. Professionals have the expertise and specialized equipment to deep clean upholstery effectively without causing damage. They can also provide treatments like stain removal and fabric conditioning to restore the upholstery’s appearance and prolong its lifespan.


Upholstery cleaning is a crucial part of maintaining your furniture’s appearance and longevity. By understanding clean codes, choosing the right cleaning products, and following proper cleaning techniques, you can keep your upholstery looking its best for years to come. Regular maintenance and prompt attention to spills ensure that your furniture remains clean, comfortable, and inviting for family and guests alike. With these tips and techniques, you can confidently tackle upholstery cleaning and enjoy well-maintained furniture in your home.


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