Cleaning and Caring for Upholstered Furniture (Guide)

Upholstered furniture is the centerpiece of our homes, the comfort zone after a long day, and the backdrop for countless memories. But let’s face it, life happens. Spills, stains, and dust can affect your beloved pieces. But don’t worry, I’ve got your back!

Quick Summary: A little know-how can make all the difference in upholstered furniture. Check out the summary of these tips to keep your furniture looking top-notch.

Understanding Your Furniture Labels 🏷️– Check upholstery labels for cleaning methods.
Routine Maintenance and Care 🧽– Dust and vacuum regularly.
– Act swiftly on spills: dab, don’t rub.
– Rotate and fluff cushions often.
Deep Cleaning Techniques 🛁– Use spot cleaning for specific areas.
– Opt for steam cleaning for deep clean.
– Seek professionals for special fabrics.
Protection and Prevention 🛡️– Use spot cleaning for specific areas.
– Apply fabric protectants after cleaning.
– Choose pet-resistant fabrics and covers.
Inspection and Repairs 🔍– Monitor for wear and damage.
-Address saggy cushions and zipper issues.
– Seek expert repairs for major issues.

This article will dive into cleaning and caring for upholstered furniture. It’s not as daunting as it may seem. With my simple recommendations, anyone can keep their furniture fresh and cozy.

Understand Your Upholstery Labels

Before cleaning your furniture, it’s essential to check the upholstery labels. These tags provide guidelines on the safe cleaning methods or products to use.

  • W: This label indicates that the item can be cleaned with water-based cleaning solutions. Use a mild detergent and water, but apply sparingly to avoid over-wetting.
  • S: Furniture with this label requires a solvent-based cleaner. Do not use water or water-based solutions.
  • WS or SW: Items with this label can be cleaned with water- or solvent-based solutions. However, testing a small, inconspicuous area before cleaning the entire piece is recommended.
  • X: This label means the furniture should only be vacuumed or brushed. Avoid using water or cleaning solvents.

Routine Maintenance and Care

Ever heard the saying, “Better safe than sorry”? Well, a little proactive care goes a long way regarding your furniture. Let’s chat about game-changing moves that keep your pieces sharp and spill-free.

Daily Maintenance Practices

Maintaining your upholstered furniture doesn’t have to be a chore. With simple daily practices, you can keep your furniture looking fresh and new for the long haul.

Dusting and Vacuuming

A person cleaning a mattress with a vacuum cleaner
Video | World snap

  • Think of it like brushing your teeth but for your furniture. Regular dusting and vacuuming remove dirt particles that can cause wear and tear on your upholstery.
  • Got pets? You’ll want to vacuum more often to combat pet hair. Also, consider investing in a vacuum with a special upholstery attachment. It’ll make your life a lot easier, trust me.

Immediate Action on Spills to Prevent Stains

  • Spills happen. It’s a part of life. But acting fast can save your upholstery from a permanent stain.
  • When a spill occurs, don’t rub, just dab. Rubbing only pushes the spill deeper into the fabric. Use a white cloth or paper towel to blot the spill gently. If you need a cleaner, ensure it’s suitable for your type of upholstery.

Fluffing and Rotating Cushions for Even Wear

  • Finally, let’s talk about cushions. You’ll want to fluff and rotate them regularly to keep them comfy and looking good.
  • Fluffing helps keep the filling distributed evenly. Rotating, on the other hand, ensures even wear and tear. If you’ve got removable covers, wash them regularly to keep them fresh.

Deep Cleaning Techniques

Taking care of your upholstered furniture goes beyond regular dusting and vacuuming. Sometimes, they need a bit more love with some deep cleaning. Let’s delve into a few techniques that you can use to refresh your furniture.

Spot Cleaning

  • Think of it as your go-to move for tackling those unexpected spills or pesky marks that just randomly appear. Instead of washing the entire piece (which, let’s be real, is a hassle), you target just that trouble area.
  • Grab a suitable cleaner, dab it on, and watch that stain say its goodbyes. Quick, effective, and no fuss. Keep in mind, always test any cleaner on a hidden spot first. Better safe than sorry, right?

Steam Cleaning

  • Let’s talk steam cleaning. This method can get deep into the fibers of your furniture, getting rid of dirt and grime that regular cleaning might miss.
  • It’s also a fantastic option if you’ve got any allergy sufferers in your home, as it can help eliminate dust mites and other allergens.

Professional Cleaning

  • Sometimes, your furniture might need a professional touch despite your best efforts. This is particularly true for antique or high-end pieces that require specialized care.
  • When you hire a pro, you can expect them to use industrial-grade equipment and expert techniques to restore your furniture to its former glory.

Protection and Prevention

A lot of effort goes into maintaining upholstered furniture, but it’s equally important to protect it. You don’t want to spend all that time cleaning to have it ruined, right? So, let’s talk about ways to keep your furniture safe and sound.

Using Slipcovers and Furniture Protectors

  • Ever heard the phrase “prevention is better than cure”? Well, it’s true, especially for upholstery. The use of slipcovers and furniture protectors can save your day.
  • They’re easy to remove, wash, and shield your precious furniture from spills, stains, and wear and tear. Plus, they can give your space a quick makeover!

Using Fabric Protectants

A person holding a spray bottle of fabric protector
Video | Republic Lab

  • Fabric protectants, now there’s a magic potion for your furniture! These nifty products form a protective barrier on your upholstery, repelling spills and making cleanup a breeze.
  • Best part? They don’t change the look or feel of your fabric. But remember, apply fabric protectants right after cleaning to get the most bang for your buck.

Keeping Pets and Upholstery in Harmony

Two dogs lounging on a couch in a living room

I love pets, but let’s be real: they can be a menace to your upholstery. Here are some quick tips for a pet-friendly home:

  • Invest in pet-resistant fabrics like leather or microfiber.
  • Keep claws trimmed to prevent scratches.
  • Use pet furniture covers; they’re a lifesaver!

Inspection and Repairs

Keeping your upholstered furniture in tip-top shape isn’t just about cleaning, folks. It’s also about catching those small issues before they become big problems. Let’s dive into the art of regular inspection and minor repairs.

Checking for Signs of Wear, Tear, and Loose Threads

  • You have to keep an eye out for those sneaky signs of wear and tear.
  • Fraying fabric? Loose buttons? These are the silent killers of your beloved couch or armchair. Trust me, nip these issues in the bud, and your furniture will thank you.

Sagging Cushions or Broken Zippers

  • You’re back in business with a little fluffing and stitching. Remember, a small repair today can save a big replacement tomorrow.

When to Seek Professional Repair Services

  • I’m all for a bit of DIY. But sometimes, you have to call in the pros. If your furniture’s structural integrity is at stake, don’t risk it.
  • Seek out professional repair services. They’ve got the tools, the skills, and the know-how to get your furniture back on its feet.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

A man cleaning a couch with stain in the living room

We all want our furniture to look brand new for as long as possible, but sometimes, despite our best intentions, mistakes happen. Here’s the lowdown on some common slip-ups and how to dodge them:

  • Over-Wetting the Fabric: Enthusiasm’s great, but drowning your furniture in a cleaner? Not so much. Too much moisture can lead to mold or mildew. Lightly dampen the fabric; don’t soak it.
  • Harsh Chemicals Alert: Test it before going full throttle with a new cleaning solution. A small, hidden spot on your furniture is perfect. This way, if there’s any discoloration, it won’t be front and center.
  • Rubbing Stains: Spills happen! But when they do, remember: dab, don’t rub. Rubbing pushes the spill deeper into the fabric, while blotting lifts it away.
  • Skipping the Vacuum: Always vacuum your upholstery before diving into any wet cleaning. This removes dust and loose particles, ensuring they don’t become muddy.
  • Ignoring Labels: Those tiny tags on your furniture aren’t just for show. They contain essential care instructions. Make them your first stop before any cleaning mission.
  • Using Colored Cloths: When cleaning, always opt for a white cloth. Colored ones can transfer dye onto your furniture, and that’s a whole new problem.
  • Forgetting Drying Time: Give your furniture ample time to dry after cleaning. This isn’t the time for impatience. Using it while damp can lead to more dirt accumulating or potential damage.

Safety Precautions

A masked man with upholstery tools on the table in front of him

Upholstery can be rewarding, bringing new life to beloved furniture pieces. But as with any project, it’s essential to approach it safely.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started, following these safety precautions ensures a smooth, accident-free upholstery experience.

  • Eye Protection: Always wear safety goggles when working with tools or chemicals to protect against splashes and debris.
  • Respiratory Safety: When applying sprays, adhesives, or strong cleaning agents, use a mask to protect against inhaling fumes.
  • Hand Protection: Wear gloves when handling old fabric, chemicals, or applying stain removers.
  • Beware of Sharp Objects: Ensure all staples, pins, or tacks are accounted for to prevent injuries.
  • Appropriate Clothing: Wear older clothes or aprons, as upholstery work can be messy.
  • Electrical Safety: When not using electric tools like staple guns or sewing machines, turn them off and unplug them.
  • Keep Tools in Good Condition: Ensure all cutting tools are sharp and in good condition to prevent accidents.
  • Ensure Good Ventilation: Work in a well-ventilated area with adhesives or cleaners.
  • Understand Material Care: Always check labels or instructions for any specific care guidelines for the fabric.
  • Regular Breaks: Ensure you rest, drink water, and eat at intervals to maintain focus and prevent fatigue.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Often Should I Get My Upholstery Professionally Cleaned?
    • Consider a professional clean every 12-18 months for pieces that see daily use. Every 2-3 years should do the trick for less frequently used items.
  • Is Steam Cleaning Safe for All Types of Upholstery?
    • Most fabrics handle steam cleaning well, but always check the manufacturer’s guidelines or do a spot test first to be sure.
  • I’ve Got an Antique Chair. Should I Attempt to Upholster It Myself?
    • While DIY is fun, antiques might need a professional touch to maintain their value and integrity. If in doubt, it’s best to consult an expert.
  • My Cushion Covers Aren’t Removable. How Do I Clean Them?
    • Spot cleaning is your best friend here. Use a mild solution and a soft cloth to clean the affected area gently.
  • Can I Use Regular Soap on Leather?
    • Nope! Leather requires special care. It’s best to use a cleaner specifically designed for leather to keep it looking its best.
  • Can I Use a Hairdryer to Speed Up the Drying Process?
    • While tempting, direct heat can damage and shrink upholstery fabrics. If you need to speed up drying, use fans or open windows for better air circulation.
  • Can Sunlight Damage My Upholstered Furniture?
    • You bet! Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can fade and weaken fabrics over time. It’s best to position your furniture away from direct sunlight or use curtains to protect them.
  • How Often Should I Rotate My Cushions?
    • For even wear and tear, consider rotating them every couple of weeks, especially if they’re in a frequently used area.



  • “The Complete Guide to Upholstery: Stuffed with Step-by-Step Techniques for Professional Results” by Cherry Dobson.
  • Upholstery Basics: A Complete Course for Beginners” by Amanda Brown.

Website Resources:

Video References:

Mary Elizabeth Ellenburg

World snap

Carpet One Floor & Home

Room and Board

DIY Lily Ardor

Triple G Steam & Clean

Advanced Cleaning Systems

Sure Fit Slipcovers

Republic Lab

We offer courses leather repair services

International Furniture Wholesalers

The Fabric Ninja

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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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