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Five Upholstery Cleaning Codes Interpreted

Last Updated: April 11, 2024

Written by Karen Norman
Making sense of Upholstery Cleaning Codes

Introduction to Upholstery Cleaning Codes. 

Are you Embarking on an Upholstery Clean? Figure out what those Fabric Codes mean. 

Checking the Upholstery Cleaning Codes before doing any kind of upholstery cleaning is vital. You need to check the manufacturer’s instructions on how it should be cleaned or whether it can even be cleaned. Certain types of Fibres will respond differently to certain Upholstery Cleaning methods. Typically, manufacturers use standard upholstery cleaning codes to advise on the appropriate cleaning method for the fabric on your furniture.

It should be noted that Upholstery Cleaning Codes must not be confused with upholstery wearability codes or grades which usually refer to something known as a Double Rub Count. Double Rub equates to the durability of the fabric of your upholstery and is different from upholstery cleaning codes. Wearability codes are something to consider when purchasing new furniture.

However this blog is focused on whether you should clean the fabric of your existing furniture and if so, how to clean it, based on the labelled upholstery cleaning codes provided. Cleaning Leather Upholstery is not addressed in this blog post.

A word of caution

Do-it-yourself upholstery cleaning should only be done on lightly soiled furniture in accordance with the codes. Codes address spot cleaning and results cannot be guaranteed.  Always test a small out-of-site area first to ensure you don’t make the look of that couch or armchair worse than it might already be.

What are the Upholstery Cleaning Codes?

Standard upholstery cleaning codes are: W, S, WS, X and D.

  • W – for Wet.
  • S – for Solvent.
  • WS  – for Wet and Solvent.
  • X – for Vacuum only
  • D – for Dry Clean only.

Where to find the Upholstery Cleaning Codes?

The codes will be on a tag or label attached to the furniture. You’ll usually find the tag on the base of the sofa or armchair under the seat cushions. Alternatively, it may be completely underneath the frame. Or on the side near the armrest

What do the Upholstery Cleaning Codes mean?

Upholstery Cleaning Codes are easily explained – see below. 

  • W (Wet) –   W refers to Water-based Cleaning. Spot clean with water only. Distilled water is ideal. To dab spots use a clean white or cream towel. Avoid coloured cloths that might bleed their colour onto the fabric.
  • Your Upholstery Fabric might be amenable to Professional Water-Based Cleaning, such as Hot Water extraction or Steam Cleaning, but consult with a trustworthy cleaning service company, who will give you an honest answer as to whether your décor is agreeable to steam cleaning.
  • S (Solvent) – Water is a bad idea and should be avoided. It may leave water marks and damage the fabric through shrinking or bleeding. Instead, the fabric must be dry-cleaned with a solvent-based cleaning product. Appropriate Solvents help break down grease spots, leaving the area dry. After application, the fabric should be vacuumed. Ensure there is plenty of room ventilation when using solvents, and make sure you use one explicitly designated for upholstery. Read the instructions and follow them carefully.
  • WS (Wet and Solvent) – WS means the fabric allows for both wet and solvent cleaning, but it depends on the stain that needs attention. Is the stain oil-based or water-based? Professional Upholstery Cleaning may be more appropriate for this code, but it depends on the fibres.
  • X (No Cleaning/Vacuum only) – Unfortunately, this means your beloved piece of furniture should not be cleaned. This is definitely something you should look out for when buying a new item for your home.
  • D (Dry Clean Only) – Some Fabrics are simply not conducive to anything but Dry Cleaning. 

From the get go regular maintenance will be required. Sadly not even Professional Upholstery Cleaning is recommended. Instead, Vacuum regularly to remove dust, dirt, hair, food particles, dander and even dead skin. Likewise, vacuuming all your upholstery on a frequent basis is highly recommended. Some stains may come out by light brushing with a Soft Haired Brush.

What to do if there are no Upholstery Cleaning Codes?

You’ve looked everywhere and cannot find any markings indicating how to clean your furniture. If it’s a recent purchase or you’ve kept the receipt you can try calling the manufacturer for advice. They may also have information online. If those options don’t work you could try experimenting with the above cleaning options on a small area not generally visible.

How to Clean Cushion Covers

Cleaning Cushion Covers

Whilst sofa cushions may be zippered they might nevertheless not be cleanable. Don’t assume. Also, your cushions may have separate cleaning instructions from the main frame of your upholstery.

Avoid too frequent washing of machine-washable sofa cushions. They could end up being a shade lighter than the frame of your sofa.

General Advice on Cleaning and Caring for your Upholstery

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, vacuum regularly.

  • Puff up and rotate any cushions to even out their wear.
  • Mop up spills as they happen.
  • When dealing with stained or soiled areas, avoid rubbing or scraping, dab and blot instead.
  • Make sure you use Wet or Solvent Cleaners designed for the purpose of Upholstery Cleaning in accordance with the Cleaning Codes and do your research. Not all Upholstery Cleaning Sprays are made equal.
  • Avoid over saturating an area you are cleaning.
  • Try to avoid placing your furniture near direct sunlight. The sun can fade the fabric.
  • Keep pets off your furniture if you can or perhaps cover the area they tend to sit in with a blanket.

An alternative to Upholstery Cleaning

You could try a Baking Soda and Vacuum Cleaning Hack. See the Family Handy Man’s Blog on “How to clean Furniture and fight Odors without Chemical Cleaners."

May be you love the frame but your furniture is beyond cleaning redemption – at least from an aesthetic perspective but perhaps some slipcovers will do the trick. Walmart, Amazon or Wayfair have good selections at reasonable prices. Now before you cover that couch maybe you want to professionally steam clean it. Assuming it is steam cleanable of course. That way you know that whilst the grubby look cannot be removed from your favorite sofa it’s for sure clean ahead of you bringing it back to life with a stylish slipcover.


If you choose to ignore the Cleaning label then you may do so at your own risk, especially if the cleaning code is X. That said, use the Upholstery Cleaning Codes as your guide. Testing a small insignificant area is always recommended first. Cleaning of any kind may damage, distort or shrink your upholstery, leaving it unsightly. Yet some may argue that the damage is limited and far better than showing an ugly stain. Evaluate the risks. Perhaps it’s an old piece you were thinking of throwing away anyhow. So perhaps one last ditch effort is worth it. That is for you to decide.

When your a Upholstery allows for it, Professional Upholstery Steam Cleaning is your best option. It will help extend the life of your furniture. It will also help keep your home healthy, removing dust, dirt, grime and allergens that tend to collect and linger in the fabric. Dang Good Carpet and Furnace Cleaning provides an Upholstery Cleaning Service. However we will only clean furniture that we are confident responds well to Steam Cleaning. We will often ask you to send  us your pictures so we can be sure before making an appointment with you.

We have treatments for both stains and odours too. Contact us if you want your upholstery to get a fresh overhaul.

Or simply give us a call to learn more.

Call: 403-984-3680

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