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Upholstery Cleaning Tips

Last Updated: April 8, 2024

Written by Karen Norman

Upholstery Cleaning Tips to get your Furniture Shipshape.

Revealing Freshness beneath the Grime, a Touch of Vinegar might save a Dime!

Upholstery is the material coverings affixed to furniture such as sofas, armchairs, dining chairs and ottomans. Furniture gets a lot of use. Inevitably, it gets dirty and increases grubbiness over time. We may even forget what it looked like new. Simply using your furniture every day creates wear and tear. Embedded soil can cause fabric damage resulting in reduced life of your furniture. Certain materials also absorb odours. 

In Alberta, we spend extra months using our upholstery due to those famously cold winters and late springtime. Snow may start as early as September and can still be hanging around in May – sad to say! While most furniture in our homes requires some maintenance and upkeep, Alberta homes, in particular, will need more TLC to keep both the furniture and the home clean and smelling fresh.

Cleaning Upholstery regularly is a must. But how? This blog will provide some tricks to avoid costly mistakes and upholstery cleaning tips that will help ensure your furniture gets a “Dang Good Clean."

Before using our Upholstery Cleaning Tips.  

It is really important that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and warranty conditions before you decide to try any upholstery cleaning tips to prevent voiding your warranty. Secondly, check any labels or tags on the furniture. Some furniture cannot be cleaned with water or certain chemicals. – See our blog on understanding the Five Upholstery Cleaning Codes.

If you still wish to proceed with our upholstery cleaning tips, always try them on a small hidden area in case the suggestions make the situation worse instead of better. These hacks may work on some pieces but not others. Please proceed cautiously and be aware of the risks you may be taking. These hacks are suggestions, not absolute guarantees. 

Also, please see separately our Mattress Cleaning Hacks blog.

Upholstery Cleaning Tips for Different Materials. 

Furniture comes in all shapes, sizes and uses – from mattresses for sleeping on to chairs at the dining table. You might wish to be selective of the fabric for your furniture depending on the purpose of its primary use.

  • Cotton is affordable, breathable, comfortable and always in style. It is durable and sustainable but attracts stains and odours. It can also be a bit of a nightmare if you spill drinks on it. Always clean any stains promptly. Scrape away anything loose first. For spot treatment use a mix of 75 millilitres of white vinegar in 1000 millilitres of water. Then mix in 10 millilitres of dish soap. Using a sponge to blot the stain sparingly. 
  • For smellier stains or grease, pour baking soda on the stain, leave it for a while and then vacuum it off. Follow up with water mixed with dish or clothing detergent. Dab the stain to lift it. Don’t rub, or you’ll set the stain instead. In addition to loose baking soda, you can combine baking soda with water to make a paste and then let it dry before vacuuming.
  • Rayon is very durable and strong but challenging to clean. The cellulose fibres of rayon quickly absorb spills, causing both discolouration and damage to the fabric. Rayon is essentially a dry-clean-only material. So if you spill liquid on it, mop it up immediately. Dab only – rayon is not overly colourfast and rubbing will set the stain in quickly. The “puffed up” wet fibres can also tear if you rub too hard. Some suggest that a dry foam may work on Rayon. Rayon is unfortunately not the best for high-traffic items.
  • Leather and Faux Leather are extremely durable and easy to clean. This is a great choice for people with pets since you can simply wipe the pet hair (and drool) off the fabric. It is water-resistant and can also be vacuumed without pulling or piling. However, in the summer heat or coldest days of winter, this fabric can be uncomfortable on bare skin. It can also be damaged by sharp objects, such as untrimmed pet nails. Do not saturate the material when cleaning though. Dip a cloth in a mix of equal parts water and vinegar but then wring out the cloth before wiping the leather. The cloth needs to be damp rather than wet. After cleaning, wipe with a dry cloth.
  • Polyester is a great choice for busy households as it is typically mixed with other fibres for durability and longevity. It is very colourfast too, so simply wipe up spills with warm water mixed with detergent. It can stand a little bit of scrubbing or brushing thanks to its durable nature. While it is not the most comfortable fabric for every occasion, it’s a great choice for high-touch items, or messy areas (like craft rooms). Polyester can be a great alternative to leather.
  • Velvet is plush, cushy, decadent and sets an elegant mood in any room! Velvet is for those elevated spaces where you want to add class and sass. It is easy to ruin velvet so avoid putting it in rooms with pets, high traffic, smells or moisture. Velvet is not always colourfast so avoid direct sunlight and harsh cleaners. Velvet can be vacuumed or wiped with a lint-free cloth dipped in sudsy water. Avoid hot water and do not use any heat when drying. Velvet needs to be left to dry naturally.
  • Brocade is very decorative, distinctive, and intricately patterned. It often contains silk and gold and/or silver threads. Extra care is needed when cleaning brocade. Do not use a brush as this can snag the delicate fabrics. Cool water mixed with detergent will address some stains, but professional cleaning is best to preserve the colour and weaving of this fabric.

Tackling Microfiber.   

Unfortunately, not all upholstery made of microfiber can be professionally cleaned because microfiber doesn’t always respond well to steam cleaning. Your only option may be a DIY method. Even so, cleaning microfiber at home can be challenging. We suggest you check out these links for cleaning microfiber.

Mistakes to avoid when Cleaning Furniture. 

  • Ignoring the warranty or manufacturer’s instructions is not wise.
  • Ignore the labels at your peril.
  • Not testing a hidden spot can be a very visible mistake.
  • Don’t Use harsh chemicals if you don’t want to destroy upholstery fabric. 
  • Take care not to use chemicals that will bleach or discolour.
  • Using chemicals unsuitable for your fabric can be disastrous. 
  • Dampen sparingly and sometimes not at all. Don’t soak.
  • Dont overheat. You may need to avoid hot water or hot air (such as a hair dryer) for drying. 
  • Doing it yourself is not always the best.
  • Don’t delay when there is a spillage – tackle it immediately.
  • Don’t scrub, blot instead. 

Maintaining your Upholstery.

  • Help bring back the colour by soft brushing. Some suggest a scrubbing brush but we don’t recommend that. Something much gentler should do the trick. The idea is to loosen fibres and agitate deep-seated dust before vacuuming.
  • Regular Vacuuming with the right attachments is essential.
  • Puff up those cushions.
  • Do your cushion covers come off? Can they be machine washed? But take care. Read the instructions to make sure the colours don’t run or the fabric doesn’t shrink. Also, watch the cushions don’t fade and then look different from the rest of the upholstered fabric.
  • Consider Sofa and Chair Covers for daily use which can then be removed when guests come over. 
  • Consider using Fabric Protector but again take care – not all upholstery is amenable to it. Check with the manufacturer. 
  • Avoid direct Sunlight. It can fade the colour. 
  • Hire a Professional Upholstery Cleaning Service

How is Upholstery  Professionally Cleaned?     

Most Professional Upholstery Cleaners use powerful truckmounted equipment (or portable units for apartments) to steam clean your upholstery using hot water extraction. The temperature and PSI will be adjusted to suit the material. The hot water extraction method is effective for the removal of dirt, stains and odours. Check out our Upholstery Cleaning page for more information or watch our Video: An Upholstery Cleaning Demo.

A Dang Good Upholstery Clean. 

Dang Good Carpet and Furnace Cleaning has an upholstery cleaning deal designed to keep your furniture looking new and smelling fresh. We have experience with all kinds of upholstery that has been affected by a multitude of stains. Contact us to book this deal and the many other services we offer.

Finally, if you live in Calgary and have furniture you need to dispose of, may we suggest you consider donating it to the Calgary Inter-Faith Furniture Society?

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