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Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Upholstered Furnishings

Avoid these common cleaning mistakes to keep your fabric furniture looking its best.

For many of us, upholstered furniture is one of our most significant investments. We might as well accept the responsibility of preserving the material to ensure that it lasts a long time. Don’t rely on your standard “all-purpose” cleaners or the same cleaning methods for all materials. Instead, read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before cleaning, and avoid these common cleaning blunders.

How to Interpret the Cleaning Codes

mistake 1

Don’t ignore the owner’s manual! Always look for information about your upholstered items. This information may be in a care pamphlet delivered with the product, or a tag is sewn into a seam, and it should tell you what it’s made out of, and how to safely clean the material. Here are some common codes found on labels:

WS: Use a mild detergent with a steam vacuum or a dry-cleaning detergent

S: Use a dry cleaner detergent only.

X: Use a vacuum only. No water.

W: You can use water to clean it.

mistake 2
Jessica McClendon

Don’t Scrub – Start by Blotting Liquid Spills

Use an absorbent cloth to first blot at spills and moisture to quickly absorb them. This will help reduce the chance that the stain will get “rubbed in,” and it’ll help to collect the liquid that’s soaking into foam layers beneath the upholstery. The more liquid you can absorb by blotting, the less internal damage that happens to your furnishings.

Try to Steam Clean Tough Stains

You might expect that you’ll just have to live with the dirty armrests or dried spills for the duration of a seat’s existence, but steam cleaning is relatively effective at lifting embedded dirt from the fabric. You’ll probably find that your steam mop for the floors is an acceptable tool for this task – especially if it comes with a detailed cleaning attachment. Always use a low-heat setting, and test in an inconspicuous spot to make sure that the fabric doesn’t have an unexpectedly negative reaction to the heat. Do not use steam heat on the upholstery that is made of – or contains – silk.

Don’t Use Plain Water to Clean Microfiber Surfaces

Water can lead to dried watermarks and spots on microfiber upholstery. Rubbing alcohol is better for cleaning microfiber. Apply it with a spray bottle, and use a dry, clean cloth to lift the stain as it loosens.

Choose the Right Vacuum Attachment

mistake 3

There’s the actual rationale for using all the different vacuum attachments that came with your high-end product.

Cleaning pet fur in the home with a vacuum

The airflow attachment, for example, is the one that looks like a smaller version of your vacuum and creates airflow during use that operates the spinning brushes. It’s more gentle than the actual vacuum, smaller, which makes it easier to get into small crevices, and it does a great job at getting pet fur off upholstery because it brushes the surface while extracting the dust and debris.

The more formal upholstery brush attachment is the one that looks more like a lint brush, with softer bristles that lift dust and help to reduce pilling.

Use Caution When Applying Fabric Protectors

mistake 4

UV- and stain-repellent sprays can help keep upholstery looking its best and make messes easier to clean, but over-penetration of the sprays can have an adverse effect, too. Too much chemical saturation can cause stains and excessive scrubbing wear and tears on the materials. It can also cause irritation on sensitive skin or to pets who nap and play on the upholstered surface.

Avoid Fabric Softeners

Don’t confuse “softeners” with leather conditioners – you should totally be conditioning your leather upholstery. What we’re saying here is that for any washable upholstery, avoid using fabric softeners. Use “free-and-clear” detergents that don’t contain scents or dyes, and opt to line dry or dry flat, rather than putting upholstery through the dryer.

Remember to Rotate the Cushions

Avoid the dreaded butt dent and added wear to the fabric on the most sat-upon surfaces by rotating the cushions.

How to Clean Upholstery

mistake 5

If your upholstery can be cleaned with a water-based cleanser, you can do this with a few simple ingredients. A spray-on stain remover can be used for any tough spots, just like in washing laundry. Spray your stain remover and wait for about five minutes. While you wait, mix four parts of warm water with one part of laundry detergent. Use a rough sponge or a soft bristle brush to apply the cleaning mixture to your upholstery. Scrub along the grain of the fabric until you have lifted the dirt and stains. Use a damp, clean cloth to wipe away any remaining suds or dirt. You can leave your upholstery to dry or use a wet/dry vacuum to remove the remaining moisture.

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