Angie's LIST Guide to
Upholstery cleaning

Cleaning upholstery requires planning and can prolong furniture's life. Save money and get your furniture clean by knowing the right steps to take.


Professional cleaners can tackle stains on hard-to-clean upholstered furniture. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Carlos S.)
Professional cleaners can tackle stains on hard-to-clean upholstered furniture. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Carlos S.)

DIY upholstery cleaning

Everything you need to know about furniture and upholstery cleaning

You don’t think much about upholstery until someone spills coffee, a pet mistakes your chair for a tree or the baby barfs. Professional upholstery cleaning can be expensive. Rates depend on the type and square footage of the material. An 8-foot-long sofa cleaning service can cost about $150. It adds up – especially if you clean your furniture annually - which is recommended.

DIY furniture cleaning

For small furniture messes, cleaning upholstery yourself is a safe and easy option that may save you money and preserve your furniture. Learn what the upholstery tags on your furniture mean before you DIY (look under cushions or check manufacturer’s website):

W or WS = clean with a water-based cleaner
S = dry cleaning solution, do not use water (we recommend professional cleaning for S upholstery because dry-cleaning solutions typically contain toxic chemicals).
X = professional cleaning only

Follow these furniture cleaning tips:

Test cleaning products for colorfastness and shrinkage in an area you can’t see before spot-cleaning upholstery and furniture. Here’s how to make your own non-toxic, environmentally-safe water-based cleaner: mix one cup of warm water with ¼ dishwashing soap in a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, beat until liquid becomes a thick foam.

Remove furniture cushions
Vacuum surfaces thoroughly with vacuum attachment
With a soft-bristled brush, rub foam cleaner onto fabric
Remove foam with a spatula
With a clean, damp cloth, and wipe away remaining suds
Use care: Too much water can leave stains and cause fabric shrinkage
Keep cleaning solution away from wood accents
Let dry completely

For leather upholstery:

Make your own cleaner by adding a few drops of moisturizing soap to a damp washcloth.
Wipe the off the soap solution gently and rinse with another damp washcloth
Buff with a dry washcloth

Other furniture cleaning tips:

To extend the life of your upholstery, clean it every 18 months or more frequently. In between cleanings, vacuum thoroughly every two weeks and treat stains right away. Use a paper towel or washcloth, blot wet stains, avoid rubbing; it can be abrasive and damage the fabric. Work your way from the outside in to avoid spreading the stain more.
For solid food spills, scoop up with a spatula, the spot-treat with a stain remover.

When to call professional cleaners

When DIY advice isn’t removing the red-wine from Aunt Kathy’s antique sofa or stubborn pet stains, like oil and hair, call the professionals. They use special chemical cleaners to clean all kinds of furniture and use special tools to reach intricate corners and other areas of complexity. Upholstery damage in the family room and dining room upholstery are the most commonly professionally cleaned areas often because of the wood-and-fabric combination.
Typically, the cleaner comes to your home, but in challenging cases or if the fabric highly specialized, they’ll take your heirloom piece to the shop for treatment.

Is your furniture under warranty?

Cleaning warrantied furniture on your own may invalidate the warranty. Re-read the warranty and if professional cleaning is required, discuss the warranty with the professional upholstery cleaner before work begins. Still uncertain? Call the company that holds the warranty.

For more information, see 5 DIY tips for cleaning household upholstery.


Before cleaning upholstery

Being careful to clean uphostery properly is a critical element to execute a job well-done. Follow these steps to ensure success before tidying up your furniture:

1. Remove furniture cushions
2. Vacuum all surfaces thoroughly with an upholstery attachment
3. Be sure to vacuum all the nooks and crannies

One of the best water based upholstery cleaners is very easy to make at home. Put one cup of warm (not hot) water into a mixing bowl and then add 1/4 cup of biodegradable dish washing soap. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until the liquid becomes a thick foam. This foam will remove built up dirt and most food or drink stains. Not only is this cleaner simple to make and cheap to use, it's also nontoxic and environmentally-friendly. Most commercial upholstery cleaners contain hazardous ingredients like acetone or carcinogenic agents like nitrilotriacetic acid.

The cleaning process

Though cleaning upholstery can by a DIY project, a professional will have the right products and tools to make sure nothing is damaged in the process. (Photo courtesy of Gina Infante)

Once your ready to take on cleaning, implement this process to keep your task on track:

1. Test the cleaner in an inconspicuous area for shrinkage and colorfastness
2. Use a soft-bristled brush to rub foam gently onto the fabric
3. Dirt will lift out of the upholstery fabric and into the foam
4. Remove used foam with a spatula
5. Dampen a clean white cloth with fresh water and wipe away the remaining suds
6. Rinse the cloth and wipe again

Take care to use a minimal amount of water. Too much moisture can leave water stains and cause fabric shrinkage. Keep the foam away from wood surfaces such as armrests and steer clear of recliner levers to prevent rust. This process can be used on individual stains or on an entire upholstered surface. If you clean the entire surface, be sure to let it dry completely before replacing the cushions and pillows or sitting on it.

Leather upholstery is even easier to clean because you don't have to wait for it to dry. Make your own leather cleaner by adding a few drops of moisturizing soap to a slightly damp washcloth. Gently wipe off a section of the leather upholstery, use another slightly damp washcloth to remove the soap, then buff with a dry washcloth. Repeat this process over the entire upholstered area.

In between cleanings, vacuum upholstery thoroughly every two weeks and treat stains immediately. If spills are wet, blot the moisture first with paper towels and then spot-treat with a cleaner. If the spill involves solids such as food, scoop it off with a spatula and then treat with a stain-remover. Avoid rubbing staining agents into the upholstery. The water-based cleaner suggested above will lift stains out instead.

Why hire?

The chief reason you would hire a professional upholstery cleaner is that there are many stains you can't remove yourself. Most furniture is upholstered with specific fabrics that do not respond well to normal cleaning methods. Special chemicals are needed to clean this upholstery, chemicals that most homeowners do not possess. Professional upholstery cleaners have expertise in using these chemicals to clean all kinds of furniture.

Furthermore, the unique shapes of upholstered furniture call for special tools to clean all the nooks and crannies found on most furniture. It's not cost effective for most homeowners to buy these tools. It is far more efficient to hire a professional upholstery cleaner instead.

Cleaning companies will come to your home and clean the furniture wherever it is located. In rare circumstances, a professional upholstery cleaner may have to take your furniture to another location for a special cleaning. This will only happen in the case that the furniture is particularly soiled or when it is made from an extremely unusual fabric.

Most of the chemicals that professional upholstery cleaners use are similar to the chemicals used in the dry cleaning of clothes. As a rule, these chemicals are generally safe for people and animals once they have dried. At the same time, however, they can cause respiratory issues, so it is important for upholstery cleaning to always take place in a well-ventilated area.

The most dangerous upholstery cleaning chemicals are those chemicals that contain volatile organic compounds. These chemicals are still safe once they have dried, but they can lead to respiratory problems if they are inhaled. To prevent these difficulties, make sure to ventilate well the room in which the furniture is cleaned. Those who are particularly concerned about these chemicals can hire a professional upholstery cleaner that uses chemicals with low levels of volatile organic compounds. There are also many professional upholstery cleaners that use green chemicals, which are chemicals that are not harmful to people, animals or the natural environment.


When I spot clean my micro fibre furniture it leave water rings any suggestions,please

you have to use distilled water

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