Cleaning Guides

Revitalise Your Furniture: 5 Easy Steps to Clean Upholstery

The sofa is the centrepiece of any living room. For that reason, it’s also why it gets soiled the most frequently and easily. Fear not, as in this article you will learn how to properly maintain and spot-treat your precious upholstery.

So if you:

  • Have a light coloured sofa which is starting to look a little dirty;
  • You want to spot-clean your sofa or recliners, but don’t know what kind of solution to use;

Then read along!

Check the label

Before starting any kind of cleaning, you need to know what material your piece of furniture is made out of. Based on this knowledge you can determine the appropriate cleaning method. The label is usually located either under a cushion or at the edge of a sofa or chair. In some cases underneath the item. Once you find it, look for the correct symbol:

  • W – Water. It’s okay to use water for cleaning your couch or recliner.
  • S – Solvent. Use only a solvent-based cleaner and no water. A consumer dry cleaning solution or rubbing alcohol are the best in this case.
  • X – Neither. You shouldn’t use any solvents or water whatsoever. Only vacuum the surface to remove dirt. Serious soiling should be left to a professional cleaning technician.
  • SW – Solvent and water. You can use either of both as both are safe.
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Prepare the furniture for cleaning

  • Remove cushions – If the cushions have removable covers, wash them separately according to the material. If not, then they can be cleaned along with the rest of the sofa.
  • Get rid of large debris – These include solid spills, rocks of any kind, popcorn kernels and any other kind of debris which can be picked up or scrapped with a spatula. Always remove them first.
  • Vacuum clean – This will remove smaller, harder-to-spot particles, such as bread crumbs. It’s important not to overlook this step, as otherwise, you will be rubbing in the dirt while cleaning. Don’t forget to vacuum the crevices and corners as well. For stubborn pet hairs, use a clothing brush.
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Treat stains on the upholstery

Always try to eliminate individual stains before you start the in-depth upholstery cleaning. Here is how to approach the stain removal process:

1. Blot do not rub

Never rub any fresh stains into the fabric. That will make them that much harder to remove later on. Instead, blot and then blot some more.

For fresh liquid spills, such as wine, milk or juice, blot as much as you can with paper towels.

Solids such as cream, chocolate or mayonnaise should be carefully lifted away with the edge of a dull knife. If you have dried spills, loosen them up with a soft-bristled brush.

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2. Prepare cleaning solution

For this method, you would need baking soda and warm water. Mix one part baking soda and one part water, so it forms a paste.

3. Clean the stain

Apply the solution to the stain and leave it for about 15 minutes. During this time, the solution will absorb the stain. Always use a clean side of the cloth, so the dirt would get transferred on it and not the other way around.

4. Vacuum and rinse the spot if necessary

Now you have to vacuum any remaining baking soda that might be left in the area you just cleaned. You could also rinse by dipping a clean sponge in water and gently blotting. Then give it some time to dry on its own before proceeding to the next steps.

For tougher stains, you may try a stain remover with white vinegar. Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with ¾ cup warm water and add ½ tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray it onto the stain. Right after that, scrub with a clean cloth in a circular motion until the stain fades away. Blot the cleaned area to get rid of any excess moisture.

Some stains can be extra stubborn and may require special care, like blood stains, for example. To find out how to remove blood stains from upholstery items, check our dedicated post. 

Prepare and apply the upholstery cleaning solution

Once you are done pre-treating the stains, it’s time for the deep cleaning process. For this purpose, you will need an effective cleaning solution. Finding the right one may not be as simple, since you will have to take into consideration the type of material you’re about to clean and the label specifics mentioned before.

Not to worry, as we will provide you with several types of upholstery cleaners, each safe to use on a specific kind of upholstery. Let’s get to it.

Water-based upholstery cleaner

If your upholstery allows cleaning with water, then a simple mix of dishwashing liquid and warm water could be enough for freshening up the fabric.

Needed supplies:

  • Warm water
  • Mild liquid detergent
  • 2 buckets
  • Gloves
  • Microfibre cloths
  1. Combine 5 large cups of warm water with 1 teaspoon of liquid detergent in a bucket, and mix well until it foams. The proportions could vary depending on the size and number of furniture you are cleaning, but in any case, make sure you don’t go overboard with the liquid detergent or it will be harder to remove it later.
  2. Submerge the microfibre cloth in the solution, then squeeze it.
  3. Go over the entire sofa, working your way from the top to the bottom, and then to the sides.
  4. Fill the second bucket with clean water, dip a clean microfibre cloth in it and go over the piece of furniture again, as you rinse the cloth frequently.
  5. Let the material dry completely before you use the furniture again.

The market is also full of numerous commercial cleaners for both W and SW-marked sofas and chairs. Whichever cleaning solution you choose, make sure to test it out on a small hidden spot first, to make sure it won’t bleach the sofa colour. And always follow the instructions.

Your sofa looks in need of a deep cleaning?

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Your sofa looks in need of a deep cleaning?

We offer steam cleaning and more.

Learn more

Solvents-based cleaners

Delicate sofa materials like suede, velvet and the likes usually have the S symbol on their labels, in which case you will have to go with a water-free solvent. As clarified already, the S symbol on your furniture’s label stands for Solvent and this means you are required to use solvent-based cleaner, such as a consumer dry cleaning solution or rubbing alcohol, for example.

  1. Make sure the room is in is well-ventilated.
  2. Apply a commercial solvent or isopropyl alcohol onto a clean towel.
  3. Go over the furniture’s surface with the towel. Do not rub but use slow circular motions.
  4. Turn the cloth as you go, so you’re always using a clean part.
  5. Let the material dry.
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How to remove smell from sofa

Fabric sofas are more permeable than leather and vinyl ones, so they absorb smells more easily. Unless the furniture is heavily soiled, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to deodorise. Here’s how:

  1. Vacuum the sofa of any surface particles and debris.
  2. Sprinkle baking soda on the entire sofa surface.
  3. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes. For heavy smells, leave overnight.
  4. Vacuum with the brush attachment.

Leather cleaning tips

Leather chairs and sofas come in a wide variety of finishes and each one requires a cleaning approach of its own. The methods discussed here are mainly for protected leather as it is the most common.

Commercial leather cleaning products

A commercial leather cleaning product may come in handy for tough stains and really soiled areas. All you need to do is apply a small amount of leather cleaning solution to a towel and gently rub the dirty area. Afterwards, wipe away the dirty foam and leave the spot to dry. That’s it.

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Homemade leather cleaner

Needed supplies:

  • Microfibre cloths
  • Water
  • Mild soap or liquid detergent
  • Small bucket
  1. Vacuum your sofa to get rid of any surface dirt which can scratch the leather.
  2. Wipe the sofa surface with a dry, clean microfibre cloth.
  3. Mix the water with a teaspoon of the mild soap into a small bucket.
  4. Wipe the sofa with a rag dipped into the solution. It should be damp, not soaking wet.
  5. Wipe the sofa and rinse the rag regularly. Try to use as little liquid as possible.
  6. With a clean microfiber cloth, dry the sofa.

If you have a sofa with unprotected leather, see the manufacturer’s suggestions for cleaning. Also, be sure to apply leather conditioner cream every 6 to 12 months, to keep your sofa soft to the touch.

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How to maintain upholstered furniture

  • Treat spills and stains as soon as they happen – the longer you wait, the harder it will become to remove them later on. Maybe even impossible depending on what you spill and how long you wait.
  • Vacuum regularly – dust isn’t easily visible and that’s why there can be a lot of it on your sofa. Vacuum at least once a week. Bread crumbs and other food particles can scratch the surface of your sofa, especially if it’s leather. Remember to check for any coins between the cushions before vacuuming.
  • Avoid direct sunlight – once in a while is fine, but UV rays on a daily basis is a no-no for fine fabric and leather sofas. It’s always best to keep the sofa away from sunlight (either place it away from windows or install thick drapes).
  • Pet throws – pets are lovely, but they definitely leave their mark on your furniture. Purchase a throw which is machine washable and can withstand frequent washes to protect your sofa from dogs or cats. Avoid throws made from silk as they are both expensive and not made for frequent washing.
  • Don’t sit in the same spot all the time – the more you sit in your favourite spot, the more it gets worn out. It also collects more dirt compared to the rest of the sofa. Also, flip cushions every once in a while so they get worn evenly on both sides.
  • Cover sofa when not in use – if you travel a lot and nobody else is at home, it’s best to cover the sofa in slipcases so dust and dirt won’t settle into the fibres.

Need help cleaning the upholstery?

If you feel like spot-cleaning your sofa is not your thing and you’d rather spend your time on something else, then book a cleaner with Fantastic Services. The technicians we work with are experienced and always bring their own steam cleaning machines and detergents. All you need to do is point us to the dirty sofa or chair and let us do the rest.

Need a professional to clean your upholstery furniture?

Fantastic Services is here for you!

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  • Always check the label to see what kind of upholstery you have, before cleaning.
  • Make sure you treat a stain as soon as it happens.
  • Always use the appropriate means for cleaning each upholstery type.
  • Maintain the sofa on a daily or weekly basis to keep it fresh for a longer time.


Do you have your own tips and tricks for upholstery cleaning? We’d certainly like to know in the comment section

Image source: Shutterstock / Africa Studio

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