How to clean upholstery furniture

Upholstered furniture in your home is often neglected when it comes time to clean the home.  Dirt, dust, oil and liquid spills often build up over time and wreak irreversible havoc on your upholstery.  In this article we will make some suggestions on how to properly protect and clean your upholstery to extend the life of your products.

Preventing stains is the best first step to protecting your more expensive purchases of furniture in your home.  A “Scotchgard” (often misspelled as Scotch Guard) treatment is recommended by most upholstery manufactures to protect  furniture.  Scotchgard is a brand of fabric protectant mostly used on furniture upholstery, pillows, carpet, rugs and even shoes!  It acts as a coating or repellant to discourage permanent stains from “setting into” the desired material.

To apply Scotchgard (or a similar protecting agent) you must vacuum all loose dirt, dust, lint and other debris from your sofa to ensure the product will properly adhere to the fibers of the upholstery.  Next its recommended to follow the instruction on the label of the product. Typically we are going to spray the product directly onto the desired material we want protected.  Usually holding the spray can 6-8 inches from the material and performing a sweeping pattern across the product.  We are essentially creating a coating that will repel liquids from soaking into the material.  You must then allow the treatment to dry without using the furniture for a certain amount of time.  (this drying period usually takes about 4 hours)  Then afterwards perform at least one more coating and allow to dry overnight.  You can coat your upholstery as many times as you like.  Its recommended to perform these steps at least once every 12 months. 

If you are trying to eliminate stains that have already occurred there are numerous ways to clean your upholstered items effectively.  Always check the tag that should be attached to the sofa for the recommended cleaning procedure suggested by the manufacturer.  In the following steps we will cover how to clean a typical sofa using a typical cleaning process.  We would like to briefly mention a couple different cleaning codes to help identify which cleaning process is best for your particular item.

Vacuum: Using a hand vacuum or a brush attachment thoroughly remove all dirt, dust, debris, pet/human hair, food crumbs, etc from all surfaces of the sofa. Especially on the seat and back of the sofa. (where you sit)  The more debris you remove the better the results you will receive.   Be careful not to scratch or pull any stitching loose from your sofa cover.  If you are having issues removing per hair we suggest using a lint roller or even duct tape to rid the sofa of any undesired hair or fibers.  Don’t forget to vacuum under the cushions and any crevices you come across on your upholstered item(s).

Below we will briefly discuss the different cleaning codes you may find on the manufacturer tags.

                Wet (W)  signifies the use of ONLY water-based shampoos or foam upholstery cleaners.  Do not             soak the material.  Do not remove any cushion covers and place them in the laundry. "Pile" or   thicker materials may require special brushing to recover the original look of the fabric/material.

                Solvent (S) is an indication to use ONLY a DRY cleaning agent.  Do not use water. Steps are         similar to above except you NEVER want to soak the material with any liquids.

                Spot cleaning (SW) indicates you may use an upholstery shampoo, foam spray, mild detergent,              or a dry mild cleaning sovlent. Do not saturate the fabric with any of the items listed above. Its               always better to vacuum, apply cleaner, brush/remove the cleaner with a lifting motion.  Then   you may restart the cleaning process.

                Spot cleaning, wet cleaning, solvent cleaning (WS) If you are trying to remove particular stains               from an upholstered item attempt to concentrate on only that area of the item using a mild      detergent or dry cleaning solvent.

                No cleaning (X) means do not use any water-based or dry solvent on the material.  Typically you            can only vacuum or lightly brush off the debris of the products.

Regardless of anything mentioned above always check your product tag for the recommended cleaning procedure.  If there is no tag you should contact the original manufacturer.  If you are unsure of the manufacturer you may want to contact a professional upholstery cleaning company to assess the stains and types of materials used.

We are sure you are aware there are many cleaning agents on the market including brands like Resolve, Woolite, Watson’s, Bissell, Blue Magic, and Blue Coral.  Some are better than others depending on the type of material you have.  Upholstery contents may contain a range of synthetic materials such as Polyestor, Acrylic, Nylon, Vinyl (polyurethane) and Olefin.  It may also contain natural fibers like linen, wool, silk, and cotton.  All of these materials may or may not be cleaned in the same manner.

Again we always want to start the cleaning process with a thorough vacuum of the entire sofa.  Any loose dirt and debris on the upholstery that become wet could make your stain worse!

Once the sofa has been vacuumed you can apply the cleaner (again read the directions for specific use).  Usually you will allow the cleaner to set into the material so you can lift the stain out along with the cleaning agent.  We use an upholstery cleaning machine by Bissell to wet the material and “suck” out the soiled liquids.  Avoid scrubbing too aggressively or your fabric will begin to shed and look worse than when you started.  If you don’t have a steamer/vacuum you can use a new, white clean cloth to perform lifting motion to remove the stains.  Repeat the process until stains are removed.

Attempt to soak up any excess cleaning agents and remove them from the upholstery. And allow the sofa to air dry.  Excess water or liquids remaining on the sofa could cause the cushions to mildew.

In conclusion the goal here it to remove the stain by using water, liquid cleaning or dry cleaning agents to attach to the dirt and debris and then lift everything out of the sofa’s fibers and allowing the sofa to dry.  We hope this helps you with any stains that may occur to your sofa.