Caring for and Cleaning Different Fabrics (9 Fabric Types)

Caring for and cleaning different upholstery fabrics is a game-changer for keeping your living spaces vibrant and fresh. Trust me, it’s not as challenging as you might think.

This article deeply explores different fabric types, from reliable Cotton and delicate Silk to modern Polyester and resilient Nylon. Proper maintenance can prolong their beauty, whether with natural fabrics like wool and linen or synthetics like polyester and nylon.

Let’s roll up those sleeves and deep dive into the essentials of upholstery fabric care! Say goodbye to wear and tear and hello to furniture that feels just as good as it looks.

Understanding Fabric Types

When it comes to fabric care, knowing your fibers is essential! In this guide, I’ll give you a brief intro to some common fabric types and what to do. Here we go!

Upholstery Fabric TypeHow to Care for It
🍃 CottonBlot spills immediately; consider professional cleaning for tough stains.
🕸 SilkAvoid sunlight, and opt for professional cleaning when needed.
🐑 WoolRegularly vacuum and blot spills promptly.
🌾 LinenAvoid high humidity and opt for professional cleaning.
🌱 HempKeep dry, vacuum regularly, and spot clean as needed.
🧵 PolyesterVacuum regularly and use mild soap for spot cleaning.
🎈 NylonVacuum regularly and clean spills with mild soap.
🍂 RayonVacuum regularly, avoid moisture, and opt for professional cleaning.
🛋 LeatherAvoid sunlight, condition regularly, and wipe spills immediately.
🕊 LaceDust gently, avoid harsh chemicals, and consider professional cleaning.

Caring For Natural Fabrics

Natural fabrics bring a touch of organic elegance to any space, but they demand special care. Here’s how to keep them in tip-top shape:


Ah, cotton! A fabric that’s as versatile as it is comfortable. Like most fabrics, cotton upholstery requires regular care to maintain its look and prolong its lifespan.

Vacuuming or light brushing is the way to go to prevent dust and grime from settling in. A quick weekly run-over with your vacuum’s upholstery attachment should do the trick. Remember, we’re working to avoid the accumulation of dust that can embed itself into the fabric and cause untold harm.

Stains the nemesis of any furniture owner! When dealing with cotton, you’ve got a secret weapon: 70-91% isopropyl alcohol. It’s easy enough to find, and with a cotton cloth, it can work wonders.

Here’s a tip: always start by wiping without spreading the stain. If necessary, a second application with vigorous circular rubbing can help. For textured material, a soft brush can clean those hard-to-reach areas. After the alcohol treatment, a rinse with fresh water and a thorough drying should leave your cotton upholstery as good as new.

You might be tempted to reach for water-based foam cleaning agents. Resist that urge! These may cause excessive shrink, staining, or distortion of cotton upholstery.

“Cotton” is also marked with an “S” code. This means it must be cleaned with solvents, or, in layman’s terms, dry clean only. Spot-treating stains with a water-free solvent or dry-cleaning product is acceptable. However, always use solvent cleaners in a well-ventilated room far from open flames.

And finally, steer clear of any cleaners containing carbon tetrachloride. This stuff is highly toxic and best avoided.


Silk, oh, the luxury! It’s a natural protein fiber known for its luster and delicate feel. It’s also one of the strongest natural fibers out there. But don’t let that fool you – it requires gentle handling to keep its allure.

How do we maintain that glossy finish and regal appearance on our upholstery?

Vacuuming or light brushing is the go-to method for regular maintenance. You’d want to do this often to prevent dust and grime from settling in. But remember, be gentle! No vigorous rubbing or scrubbing. You might end up damaging the fibers.

If you’re dealing with stains, use a mild, water-free solvent or dry-cleaning product. It’s important to note that silk and water aren’t the best friends. Water can leave unsightly rings on silk. So, it’s best to avoid it when trying to remove stains.

Have you ever seen a ‘W’ or ‘S’ on your silk upholstery tag? That’s your guide on how to clean it. ‘W’ means you can use water-based cleaners, while ‘S’ means only solvent-based cleaners should be used. But with silk, ‘S’ is often the safer bet.

Should disaster strike, it’s always best to consult a professional cleaner. They’ll have the right tools and know-how to handle your precious silk upholstery without causing further damage.

Before you go, let me leave you with this: Silk may require extra effort to maintain, but the payoff is worth it. Its natural sheen and luxurious feel are unmatched. So, treat your silk upholstery with the care it deserves, and it’ll reward you with enduring elegance.


Ah, wool is a classic choice for upholstery. It’s rich, warm, and incredibly durable. But when it comes to cleaning, it can be a bit tricky. Unlike other fabrics, wool can’t be cleaned using any old method. It has its own set of rules.

Rule number one: no water-based foam cleaners. That’s right; these can cause wool to shrink, stain, or distort the surface pile. So, what should you use instead?

Rule number two: focus on dry methods. Vacuuming or light brushing is the way to go with wool. This helps remove any dust or grime without damaging the fabric.

Let’s talk about those pesky stains. You may be thinking, “Can I use a solvent on wool?” My answer: proceed with caution. Only use mild detergents that are water-based. And remember, always use sparingly and in a well-ventilated room.

If you’re unsure what to use, check the tag on your upholstery. If it’s marked with a ‘W,’ you can clean it with a water-based cleaner. But if it’s marked with an ‘S,’ stick to solvent-based cleaners. And for those marked with an ‘X,’ keep it simple with a vacuuming or light brushing—no liquid cleaning agents.

Trust me, with the right care, your wool upholstery can stay fresh and new for years.


Let’s talk about linen upholstery. Linen, a natural material made from flax, is a popular choice for a sophisticated and sustainable look. It’s got a tactile feel and textured appearance that’s truly timeless.

But there’s a caveat: Linen furniture doesn’t play well with direct sunlight. Sunlight can cause sun damage and fading. So, if your living room’s a sun-soaked paradise, opt for lighter-colored linen to minimize noticeable fading. And if you’re placing your linen sofa in a conservatory, ensure you have blinds or curtains to block out harsh rays.

Onto cleaning. Daily care is the key to maintaining the beauty of your linen sofa. A protection plan, like the one provided by Staingard, can be a smart investment. This ‘clean, care, or replace’ policy makes dealing with spills and damages much easier.

Gentle is the name of the game when it comes to stain removal. A mild detergent can lift stubborn stains, but remember, no scourers! They’ll damage the linen’s surface. Use a light-colored flannel or the soft side of a sponge instead.

And what about washing linen couch covers? Dry cleaning or professional cleaning is your best bet. Some removable covers can be removed, but leaving it to the pros is always safer.

Remember these tips, and your linen upholstery will age like fine wine. No, it won’t turn into wine, but it’ll keep looking good year after year.


A person's hand gripping a hemp frabric
Video | Timothy Riley

You might be surprised to hear this, but hemp reinforcement could be the future of durable upholstery. It’s stronger than steel reinforcement and offers three times the protection against corrosion. This is a huge deal for the lifespan of structures like bridges, roads, and buildings, not to mention your favorite armchair.

Let’s talk cleaning. The hot water extraction method is popular with professional upholstery and carpet cleaners. This method involves injecting hot water and cleaning solution into the fabric’s pile to dislodge debris, then using a powerful wet vacuum to extract any dirt and stains. It’s a fantastic option for medium or ground-in stains.

Remember, proper care is essential to preserving the appearance of your upholstery, whether it’s hemp, wool, or linen. With the right cleaning method and a little love, your furniture will look great for years.

Caring For Synthetic Fabrics

Now, let’s talk about synthetic fabrics. These include a wide variety of Crypton, polyester, and rayon. Synthetic fabrics have their own care instructions that you should follow to maintain their beauty and durability.


Let’s talk about Polyester, one of the popular choices for upholstery. This synthetic fabric is loved for its durability and aesthetic appeal. But how do we keep it looking as good as new? Here’s the scoop:

Polyester needs regular care to prevent the build-up of dust and grime. The best method? Vacuuming or light brushing. This simple routine can keep your polyester upholstery in top shape. But here’s the kicker: you’ve got to avoid water-based foam cleaning agents! These can cause shrinking, staining, or distortion of the fabric pile. So, put down that foam cleaner.

Regarding spot cleaning, water- and solvent-based products can be used on polyester. But here’s a pro tip: if you see an “X” on your upholstery’s care label, avoid any cleaning agent. Instead, call in the pros or stick to vacuuming.

For those stubborn stains on fabrics labeled with an “S,” you’ll need solvents. This means it’s a dry-clean-only situation. Use these cleaners cautiously – only in well-ventilated areas and far from open flames. And remember, never use cleaning products with carbon tetrachloride – it’s highly toxic!

If you are dealing with Crypton fabrics, you’re in luck. All Crypton fabrics can be cleaned easily with soap and water. If a spill occurs, wipe it off immediately, then clean the area with a mild soap and water solution. Rinse


Now, let’s talk about nylon. Nylon is a tough cookie in the fabric world. This synthetic fabric is known for its high resilience and ability to withstand wear and tear. No wonder it’s a popular choice for upholstery, especially in homes with kids and pets.

Cleaning nylon is a breeze. It’s generally safe to use both water-based and solvent-based cleaners on this fabric. However, as with any upholstery, first test your cleaner on a small, hidden area. Not all nylons are created equal; some may react differently to certain products.

Avoid using cleaning agents on fabrics labeled with an “X.” These fabrics should only be cleaned by vacuuming or a professional. Home cleaning products can potentially cause damage.

Nylon does have a knack for attracting dirt, so regular vacuuming or light brushing is key to keeping it looking fresh and clean. It’s about daily care and maintenance with these fabrics. Trust me, a little bit of effort goes a long way.

If you’re still shopping for a sofa and have a bustling household, you might want to consider upholstery with more durable materials. Leather or vinyl are great choices for busy homes.

Why? Because spills are bound to happen, these materials can save you a lot of hassle. Imagine coming home from a fun-filled weekend at the park to a spotless home. Now, wouldn’t that be something?


Let’s talk about Rayon. It’s a fabric that brings a touch of luxury to your furniture with its silk-like appearance and feel. But just like all other fabrics, it needs tender, loving care to keep it looking its best.

You might wonder, “What’s the best way to look after my Rayon upholstery?” Well, I’ve got some tips that’ll help you out. Unlike nylon, Rayon isn’t the biggest fan of water-based cleaners. They can cause the fabric to shrink, stain, or distort. And we don’t want that, do we?

So, what’s the solution? A vacuum or a light brush will do just fine. It’s a simple yet effective way to prevent dust and grime from building up on your upholstery. But remember, be gentle! The last thing you want to do is damage the fibers of your fabric.

Let’s say you’ve got a bit of a mess on your hands. Maybe your little one decided to express their artistic side on your couch, or a glass of red wine took a tumble. Don’t panic! Spot cleaning is your friend here.

Blot the liquid with a clean, soft towel to soak up as much as possible. Then, brush off any loose dirt. Be careful not to brush too hard, as you could break or mat the fibers.

And if you’re dealing with a tough stain that won’t budge? Crypton fabrics have got you covered. These fabrics are designed to repel most liquids and are easy to clean. Just use some soap and water, and you’re good to go.

But remember, always test a small, hidden area before cleaning. And if in doubt, don’t hesitate to call a professional. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry about your precious upholstery.

Caring for Specialty Upholstery Fabrics

Navigating the realm of specialty upholstery fabrics? Let’s break it down so you can keep those pieces looking showroom-ready.


Regarding leather upholstery, maintenance is a walk in the park. You’ll find keeping it clean isn’t much of a hassle. Here’s how you can keep your cherished leather pieces looking spick-and-span.

I recommend treating your leather with a leather conditioner once or twice a year. Remember to use cleaning products specifically designed for leather. It’s also crucial to keep your leather dust-free. A good vacuum using the crevice tool along seams, around buttons, and along the trim should do the trick.

Work a leather cleaner into the leather one small area at a time using a soft, damp cloth. If you don’t have a leather cleaner handy, a mild soap solution works, too! Remember to rinse the cleaner or soap with another damp cloth until it’s removed. Then, buff with a dry cloth.

Here’s a pro tip: blot rather than rub for best results. Allow it to air-dry, and use an absorbent cloth or sponge for stubborn stains. Rubbing side to side, not in a circle, will help eliminate those nasty stains.

Finally, always apply a leather protectant. This conditions the leather and makes it easier to remove future stains.

If you’re still furniture shopping and have a lively household with kids and pets, consider opting for more durable materials that are easier to clean. Trust me, leather or vinyl furniture can save you a lot of hassle.

Lastly, when your sofa is clean and dry, kill lingering bacteria and eliminate odors on water-safe upholstery with a fabric sanitizing spray.


Let’s talk about Suede now. It’s an absolute favorite for those who love a touch of luxury in their homes. But boy, does it need some TLC!

First off, regular vacuuming is key. It’ll help keep the dust and dirt at bay. Also, don’t forget to fluff and rotate the cushions to prevent any wear pattern.

For those inevitable spills, don’t panic. Blot it up gently with a clean, absorbent cloth. Remember, it’s a blot, not a rub. Rubbing will just spread the spill and make it worse.

Stains? A specialized suede cleaner is your best bet for those tougher ones. Always do a test spot first to ensure it won’t discolor your furniture. Follow the directions on the bottle, and you should be ready.

A clean, soft brush can work wonders with a dry stain. Gently brush the stain to loosen any particles before applying your cleaner.

Remember, suede is delicate. It’s best to avoid any harsh chemicals; they can damage your beautiful suede furniture.

And lastly, consider a suede protectant. This little step can make a huge difference in the long run, making your furniture more resistant to spills and stains.

So, take care of that suede, folks! It might need a little more attention, but it’s worth it for that luxurious feel under your fingertips. Now, let’s move on to the next fabric.


A green couch with velvet cushion
Video | Furniistic

The pinnacle of luxury in upholstery fabrics.

Its plush nature demands regular light vacuuming using an upholstery attachment to stay lint and dust-free. In case of wrinkles, a gentle steam can smoothen things out. Blotting (not rubbing) is the way to go if there’s a spill.

With velvet, it’s best to vacuum and avoid harsh chemicals gently. Professional cleaning might be your safest bet for dealing with a tough stain. Just like suede, a good protectant can work wonders in keeping your velvet furniture looking its best.

Regular care and prompt attention to spills and stains are key to maintaining beautiful upholstery. With the right knowledge and a little effort, you can keep your fabrics looking fresh and extend the life of your furniture. Happy cleaning, folks!

Velvet can be sensitive to rough handling. Gentle care ensures it remains luxurious and sophisticated for years.

With a little TLC, these specialty upholstery fabrics will exude luxury and sophistication for years.

Common Upholstery Cleaning Mistakes

A couch and pillows in a living room with cleaning tools placed on the carpet floor

When it comes to upholstery, sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do. Here’s a list of common mistakes I’ve seen over the years, and trust me, avoiding them can save you a lot of heartache:

  • Overlooking Care Instructions: It’s easy to think one size fits all, but those care tags are a goldmine of information tailored for your specific piece. They’ll tell you everything from the type of detergent to the ideal water temperature. Before diving into cleaning, please take a moment to read them.
  • Wrong Detergents: Here’s the deal – not all cleaners are created equal. Using an overly harsh detergent or one not designed for upholstery can lead to fading, staining, or fabric damage. Stick to gentle, upholstery-approved cleaners to treat your pieces right.
  • Exposing to Direct Heat or Sunlight: Upholstery fabrics, especially natural ones, can be sensitive to prolonged heat and sunlight. Direct exposure can lead to fading colors and weakened fibers. If you’re placing furniture near windows, consider UV-protective treatments or shades to keep things looking fresh.
  • Improper Drying Techniques: Damp upholstery can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew. After any wet cleaning, allowing the piece to air dry thoroughly is crucial. Avoid the temptation to speed things up with heaters or hair dryers; they can shrink or warp the fabric.
  • Scrubbing Stains Too Hard: I get it; when there’s a spill, the first instinct is to scrub it out. However, doing so can push the stain deeper into the fabric or cause unnecessary wear. Instead, blot gently, working from the outside in.
  • Skipping Regular Maintenance: Waiting until a noticeable stain or spill isn’t the best strategy. Regularly vacuuming your upholstery removes dust and allergens, and a periodic professional clean can keep it looking and smelling fresh.

Being mindful of these common mistakes can make a difference in fabric longevity.

Upholstery Storage Tips: Keeping It Fresh and Ready

Storing your upholstered items, whether furniture or just the fabric itself, requires a bit of know-how to ensure they remain in peak condition. If you’re prepping to stow away some items or just looking to rearrange and keep some pieces safe, here are the essential tips to keep in mind:

  • Clean Before Storing: It sounds simple, but it’s a step many overlook. Ensure your upholstery is clean, free of stains, and dry. This way, you’re not allowing mold or mildew to grow.
  • Avoid Damp Areas: Basements and garages might seem convenient but can be humidity hotspots. Upholstery thrives in cool, dry places. Consider climate-controlled storage for valuable items.
  • Use Protective Covers: Opt for breathable fabric covers rather than plastic. While plastic might seem like a good barrier, it can trap moisture and cause mold or mildew.
  • Keep Away from Direct Sunlight: Direct sunlight can be a culprit for fading fabric colors even in storage. If you’re storing items near a window, ensure they’re well shielded from those rays.
  • Proper Positioning: Store sofas and chairs upright and avoid stacking or placing heavy items on them. This prevents warping or misshaping of cushions and frames.
  • Rotate Occasionally: If you’re storing items for an extended period, consider occasionally repositioning them. This ensures no one spot bears prolonged pressure, which can lead to indentations or deformations.
  • Pest Control: Moths and pests can wreak havoc on certain upholstery fabrics. Use natural repellents, like cedar blocks or lavender sachets, to keep them at bay without introducing harsh chemicals.
  • Vacuum Sealed Bags: Consider using vacuum-sealed storage bags for loose upholstery fabrics or cushions. They save space and offer airtight protection, keeping fabrics fresh.
  • Keep Off the Floor: Elevate your upholstered items slightly off the ground. This simple step offers extra protection from potential dampness or water damage.
  • Accessibility: Ensure that your stored items are easily accessible. This makes it easier to check on them periodically and reduces the risk of damage from pulling them out of tight spots.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I Use Household Items for Cleaning Upholstery?
    • Absolutely! Natural solutions, like a mix of vinegar and water or baking soda, can work wonders on certain fabrics. But remember, always do a spot test on a hidden area first to ensure no discoloration or damage.
  • Is Professional Cleaning Worth It?
    • Sometimes, giving your furniture a professional touch can be a game-changer. Professionals have specialized equipment and cleaning agents to refresh and rejuvenate your pieces. Especially for high-end or delicate fabrics, bringing in the pros occasionally is a smart move.
  • How Can I Protect My Upholstery from Pets?
    • Our furry friends sure do love lounging on the couch! To protect your upholstery, consider using a washable throw or slipcover. Regular grooming for your pets also helps reduce shedding and the transfer of oils onto your furniture.
  • Can I Mix Different Cleaning Solutions for Better Results?
    • It’s tempting to think combining two good cleaners might give you a super solution, but it’s often not the case. Some chemicals can react negatively when mixed, potentially harming your upholstery or posing health risks. Stick to one solution at a time, and always follow the recommended guidelines.
  • Should I Rotate My Upholstered Furniture in the Room?
    • Rotating your furniture isn’t just about changing up the look of your space. By changing its position, you can ensure it wears evenly, especially if some pieces are exposed to more sunlight or traffic than others. Consider giving your room a little shuffle every few months!
  • Can I Iron My Upholstery to Get Rid of Wrinkles?
    • Tread with caution here. Use the lowest setting and always place a thin cloth between the iron and upholstery if necessary. But for many fabrics, a handheld steamer might be a safer bet. And remember, always refer to the manufacturer’s care instructions.
  • Is There a Way to Prevent Fabric Pilling?
    • Fabric pilling can be a nuisance! Regularly vacuuming your upholstery and avoiding direct friction (like rough clothing materials) can reduce pilling. If it does occur, gently use a fabric comb or a pill remover tool. Remember, be gentle and avoid pulling on the fabric.



  • “The Complete Guide to Upholstery: Stuffed with Step-by-Step Techniques for Professional Results” by Cherry Dobson.
  • “Upholstery Basics: Repair, Restore, Revive” by Amanda Brown.
  • “The Furniture Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Identify, Restore & Care for Furniture” by Christophe Pourny.

Websites Resources:

Video References:

Ultra Steam Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning

Rodriguez Cleaning Services

Principle Volvo Cars San Antonio

Optimum Cleaning Services

Timothy Riley

ROSSO Home Textile


Oxy-Dry® Carpet Cleaning

Boulevard Home



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About Shelly

ShellyShelly Harrison is a renowned upholstery expert and a key content contributor for ToolsWeek. With over twenty years in the upholstery industry, she has become an essential source of knowledge for furniture restoration. Shelly excels in transforming complicated techniques into accessible, step-by-step guides. Her insightful articles and tutorials are highly valued by both professional upholsterers and DIY enthusiasts.

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