How to Choose and Maintain Your Upholstery Tools (Ultimate Guide)

Alright, folks, let’s cut to the chase. Choosing your upholstery tools and making sure they stay in tip-top shape? It doesn’t have to be like solving a puzzle, I swear. I’m here, ready to guide you step by step, making this process as smooth as butter. And believe me, with the right tools by your side; you’re about to transform every bit of furniture into something straight out of a magazine!

Quick Summary: Below, we’ve got a handy table breaking down the key things to remember, ensuring you’re locked-loaded for your project.

Factors/StepsShort Description
Selecting Upholstery Tools:
☑️ Quality and DurabilityOpt for high-quality, durable materials like hardened steel and solid wood handles.
☑️ Comfort and ErgonomicsChoose tools with ergonomic handles for prolonged use without fatigue.
☑️ CompatibilitySelect tools based on specific project requirements.
Maintaining Upholstery Tools:
🧽 Cleaning and LubricatingRegularly clean and lubricate to enhance tool lifespan.
✏️ SharpeningKeep cutting tools sharp; consider professional sharpening.
📇 Handle CareTreat wooden handles with oil; check plastic handles for cracks.
🗄️ StoringStore tools in a quality toolbox or bag away from dust.
🔎 Regular InspectionPeriodically check tools for wear and tear.

I will go into more detail below.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Upholstery Tools

In the world of upholstery, having the right tools is essential. It’s not just about the type of tool. It’s about the quality, the feel, the durability, and compatibility with your projects. So, let’s dive into these factors, shall we?

Quality and Durability

  • Never Compromise on Quality: Quality should never be compromised regarding upholstery tools. Cheap tools might seem attractive initially, but they often wear out quickly, costing you more in the long run.
  • Materials to Look For: The best tools are sturdy and durable, able to withstand the rigors of upholstery work. Look for high-quality materials like hardened steel for cutting tools or solid wood handles for hammers and mallets.
  • Think Long-Term: Investing in quality means investing in longevity.

Comfort and Ergonomics

  • Consider Duration: Remember, you’ll be using these tools for hours. An uncomfortable tool can lead to fatigue, reduced productivity, and injuries.
  • Ergonomic Importance: Make sure you choose tools that have ergonomically designed handles. They should fit comfortably in your hand.
  • The Right Grip: A grip that’s neither too loose nor tight can make a significant difference in your work.

Compatibility with Your Projects

  • Match Tools with Projects: Remember the projects you’ll be working on. Different upholstery projects require different tools.
  • Specific Tool Needs: A staple gun might be perfect for reupholstering a chair but not for a delicate antique piece. Conversely, a sewing needle and thread might be ideal for a vintage restoration project.
  • Ensure Versatility: Always consider the requirements of your specific projects when selecting your upholstery tools. This ensures you always have the right tool for the job.

As you can see, each tool has its own purpose in the upholstery world. And while it might seem like a lot, with these essentials in your toolkit, you’ll be ready to tackle any upholstery project that comes your way.

Maintaining Your Upholstery Tools

If you’re a fan of DIY projects like me, you know the importance of keeping your tools in tip-top shape. That’s why maintaining your upholstery tools isn’t just an option—it’s a necessity. Let’s dive in and look at how to do it effectively.

Cleaning and Lubricating

Proper care of your upholstery tools is essential for their longevity. Treat them well, and they’ll serve you effectively for years.


  • Clean After Use: It’s easy for dirt, dust, and grime to build up on your tools. And that can seriously affect their performance. So, ensure you’re giving them a good wipe-down after each use.
  • Lubricate: Tools like staple guns and shears must keep their moving parts running smoothly. A little oil goes a long way in preventing rust and keeping your tools working like new.

Sharpening Your Tools

One aspect that often gets overlooked is the sharpness of your tools. Dull tools not only make your job harder but can also damage the materials you’re working with.


  • Check Sharpness: Regularly assess the sharpness of scissors, shears, and other cutting tools.
  • Sharpening Methods: Invest in a sharpening stone or seek professional services.

Handle Care

Your tools’ handles, whether wood or plastic, also need some love.


  • Wood Maintenance: Wooden handles can benefit from an occasional rub-down with linseed oil or beeswax, which prevents them from drying out and splintering.
  • Plastic Maintenance: Keep plastic handles clean from adhesive residues and check for cracks that might compromise strength.

Storing Properly

A box of tool organizer for upholstery and carpentry

You might think it’s okay to chuck your tools in a drawer or leave them on the workbench. But trust me when I say that’s a big no-no. Not only does it leave your tools exposed to dust and damage, but it also makes it harder to find what you need when you need it.


  • Avoid Clutter: Store tools in designated places rather than leaving them on workbenches.
  • Tool Storage: Invest in a good-quality toolbox or bag. That way, you can keep your tools organized, protected, and ready for action. Remember, there is a place for everything and everything in its place.

Regular Inspection and Maintenance

A different tools for cutting and drilling with a magnifying glass at the middle

Last but certainly not least is regular inspection and maintenance. This isn’t just about fixing things when they break. It’s about catching potential problems before they turn into major headaches.


  • Routine Checks: Take some time every now and then to inspect your tools for any signs of wear and tear.
  • Address Issues: Look out for loose parts, dull blades, or anything needing a little TLC. Regular maintenance can make all the difference in extending the life of your tools and keeping your upholstery projects on track.

Essential Upholstery Tools You Should Have

Let’s dive into the essential tools you need in your upholstery toolkit. Remember, the right tool can turn your drab furniture into a masterpiece. So, whether you’re a seasoned professional or an enthusiastic DIY-er, these are the tools you should invest in.

Upholstery Hammer

  • Next up is the upholstery hammer. This isn’t your everyday DIY hammer. It’s specifically designed for upholstery work, with one flat end for hammering and a claw on the other for removing old nails and tacks. An upholstery hammer is lightweight, making it perfect for those delicate fabric jobs.

Staple Gun

  • Don’t forget the staple gun. It’s your go-to tool for attaching fabric to frames. When choosing a staple gun, consider the type of upholstery work you’ll do.
  • For larger, thicker materials, you might need a heavy-duty staple gun. For delicate fabrics, a lighter-duty staple gun will do. Remember, a quality staple gun will last you a lifetime.

Upholstery Needles

  • Upholstery needles come in all shapes and sizes, and for good reason. They’re used for everything from sewing cushions to attaching buttons. Some needles are curved for tricky corners, while others are straight for simple seams.
  • It’s best to have a variety of upholstery needles in your toolkit to handle any job that comes your way.

Scissors and Shears

A person holding a scissors and shear on a box and seating besides it is another scissor
Video | Sailrite

  • Scissors and shears are another must-have. They’re used for cutting fabric, foam, and other materials. Look for a pair with a sharp blade and a comfortable grip. Remember, dull scissors can damage your fabric, so keep them sharp!

Webbing Stretcher

  • The webbing stretcher is a unique tool used to stretch webbing — the strong, woven fabric that supports the seats of chairs and sofas. It’s a bit specialized, but it’s worth the investment if you plan on reupholstering any chairs or sofas.

Tack Lifter

  • Finally, the tack lifter. This tool is used to remove tacks and nails from furniture. It has a thin, flat blade that can slide under tacks, making removal a breeze. Like the staple remover, a good tack lifter should be sturdy and comfortable.

Tool Alternatives

Not every tool in your arsenal needs to be top-of-the-line or specialty-grade, especially when you’re just starting or in a pinch. Let’s dive into smart alternatives to save the day without breaking the bank.

  • Staple Remover Alternative: Don’t have a staple remover on hand? No worries! A flathead screwdriver paired with some needle-nose pliers can do the trick. Gently slide the screwdriver under the staple to lift one end, then grasp it with the pliers to pull it out.
  • Upholstery Hammer Substitute: While an upholstery hammer is tailor-made for the job, a lightweight regular hammer can suffice in its absence. Just be gentle and ensure you use the flat side to minimize any potential fabric damage.
  • Staple Gun Stand-in: Small upholstery tacks or nails can be a workaround if you’re missing a staple gun. It might be more time-consuming, but they’ll patiently hold your fabric.
  • Alternative for Upholstery Needles: Regular sewing needles can rescue when upholstery needles are out of reach. Opt for the sturdiest and longest ones you have. They might not be ideal for all tasks, but they’ll work for simpler seams.
  • Scissors and Shears Replacement: While nothing beats a good pair of fabric shears, in a pinch, sharp kitchen, or craft, scissors can be used for cutting lighter fabrics. Just ensure they’re sharp to avoid fraying the edges.
  • Webbing Stretcher Option: Fear not if you don’t have a webbing stretcher! A pair of regular pliers with a firm grip can help stretch and hold the webbing in place while you tack or staple it down.
  • Tack Lifter Substitute: The back end of a spoon or a flat butter knife can serve as a makeshift tack lifter. Slide it gently under the tack and apply some pressure to lift.

Safety Tips for Upholstery Tool Use

As you dive into reimagining and reviving pieces, you must arm yourself with the right tools and the know-how to use them safely. Here are some safety guidelines. Let’s get to it!

  • Gloves On!: Always wear safety gloves, especially when handling sharp tools like scissors or tack lifters. They’ll give you a better grip and protect those hands.
  • Clear the Deck: Ensure your workspace is clutter-free before completing a project. A tidy space reduces the chances of tripping or misplacing tools.
  • Secure Your Furniture: When working on a piece, ensure it’s stable. If it wobbles, you risk damaging the furniture and injuring yourself.
  • Ventilate: If you use adhesives or sprays, ensure you’re in a well-ventilated area. Those fumes can be sneaky!
  • Tool Check: Regularly inspect your tools for wear and tear. A dull blade can sometimes be more dangerous than a sharp one.
  • Staple Gun Safety: Always point staple guns away from you and others. And remember, it’s not a toy – so keep it out of reach of kids.
  • Safety First, Always: Don’t rush, take your time. It’s better to be safe and methodical than to hurry and make mistakes.
  • Eyes on the Prize: When cutting or hammering, consider safety glasses to protect those peepers from any unexpected flying debris.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Often Should I Clean My Upholstery Tools?
    • After each project, a good rule of thumb is that keeping them clean extends their life and ensures you’re always working with the best equipment. Plus, it helps avoid unexpected snags or issues in your next masterpiece.
  • Can I Rent Upholstery Tools Instead of Buying?
    • You bet! Many local hardware stores offer rental options for upholstery tools, especially the more expensive ones. It’s a great way to test out a tool before making a full investment.
  • Is There a Tool for Every Upholstery Material?
    • While many tools can handle a range of materials, some fabrics or projects might require specialized tools. For instance, leather requires sharper scissors, while delicate fabrics require gentler tools.
  • Do I Need a Separate Workspace for Upholstery?
    • While not mandatory, having a dedicated workspace can be a game-changer. It allows you to keep all your tools and materials organized and ensures you have enough space to work comfortably.
  • Are There Any Upholstery Tool Kits You Recommend for Starters?
    • While I won’t point to a specific brand, look for kits that offer a range of basic tools. As you become more experienced, you can add specialized tools to your collection.




Website Resources:

Video References:

Kim’s Upholstery

Mark’s Upholstery

Scott’s Tool Thoughts

Appalachian Axeworks

ALO Upholstery


Fabric Farms Interiors

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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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