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How to Clean Textiles and Upholstered Furniture

March 3, 2024
How to Clean Textiles and Upholstered Furniture


Keeping textiles and upholstered furniture clean can seem like a daunting task. However, with the right techniques and products, it can be manageable. As someone who cares about having a clean home, I’ve learned a lot over the years about effective cleaning methods for fabrics. In this article, I’ll share everything I know to help you keep your textiles spotless and your upholstered furniture looking its best.

Regular Maintenance

To make cleaning textiles easier, it’s important to perform regular maintenance. Here are some tips:

Vacuum weekly

  • I vacuum my upholstered furniture and textile-covered surfaces like rugs and drapes at least once a week. This prevents dirt and dust buildup which can be harder to remove if allowed to accumulate.
  • Use the appropriate attachments on your vacuum to reach crevices and clean delicate fabrics. The brush attachment works well for most upholstered furniture.

Treat spills and stains quickly

  • I always try to treat spills and stains on fabric as soon as they happen. The quicker you can remove the excess liquid and absorb staining material, the better chance you have of preventing a stubborn stain.
  • For liquid spills, blot gently with a clean cloth or paper towel. Don’t rub, which can spread the stain.

Wash removable covers

  • Most upholstered furniture has removable cushions and slipcovers that can be periodically washed. I like to wash mine every 2-3 months.
  • Check fabric care labels and wash in cold water on a gentle cycle. Air dry if possible.

Deep Cleaning Textiles

For a deeper periodic cleaning of textiles, several methods can be used:

Professionally clean rugs

  • For valuable or heirloom rugs, I recommend professional steam cleaning every 1-2 years. This deep clean removes embedded dirt, dust, oils, and allergens.
  • Be sure to select a reputable, experienced rug cleaning company. Poor cleaning techniques can damage or discolor rugs.

Wash drapes and curtains

  • Fabric drapes and curtains should be washed at least once a year. I wash mine by hand in my bathtub using mild detergent and cold water.
  • You can also have delicate drapes professionally dry cleaned. This is a better option for intricately pleated or formal drapes.

Clean delicates by hand

  • I hand wash delicate furnishings like silk pillow covers, tapestries, or quilts in cold water using a gentle soap like Woolite.
  • Do not soak the item – gently wash, rinse, and lay flat to dry.

Deep Cleaning Upholstery

Deep cleaning upholstered furniture requires a bit more effort but makes a dramatic difference in appearance and hygiene. Here are effective techniques:

Vacuum first

  • Before any wet cleaning, I vacuum the entire piece of furniture thoroughly to remove loose dirt and debris. Get into crevices and pull out detachable cushions to vacuum all areas.

Steam clean

  • My preferred method of deep cleaning upholstery is with a steam cleaner. The pressurized hot steam helps sanitize and freshen in a way that regular cleaning can’t.
  • Check the furniture’s tag before steaming to ensure it can withstand the heat and moisture.

DIY cleaner

  • If steaming isn’t an option, mix a DIY upholstery cleaner: 1/4 cup gentle laundry detergent with 3/4 cup warm water. Apply with a sponge, let sit 5 minutes, then blot dry.
  • Test on an inconspicuous spot first before applying to entire surface.

Professional service

  • For valuable antiques or delicates like silk, hire a professional upholstery cleaning service. They have industrial strength cleaners and powerful suction for the deepest clean.

Stain Removal Guide

When stains inevitably occur on fabric, follow these stain removal guidelines:

Stain | Removal Method
— | —
Food, grease | Apply baking soda, let sit 1 hour, then vacuum. Or use upholstery foam.
Ink, permanent marker | Apply hairspray or rubbing alcohol and blot gently.
Wine, coffee, tea | Mix equal parts white vinegar and water. Dab on stain.
Candle wax | Place paper towel over wax and iron on low heat to absorb wax.
Mud | Allow to dry fully. Then brush gently with a stiff brush once dry.
Blood | Rinse backside immediately with cold water. Then dab with hydrogen peroxide.

  • Always spot test stain removers on a hidden area first.
  • Work from the backside of the fabric whenever possible.
  • Avoid harsh scrubbing motions which can further grind in stains.

Maintaining a Schedule

The key to success in keeping textiles spotless is sticking to a regular maintenance schedule. I recommend designing a schedule based on the various techniques outlined above. Having set reminder days for vacuuming, washing, and deep cleaning will help form good habits. With consistent care, your fabrics will stay in tip-top shape for years to come.


While cleaning textiles and upholstery can seem intimidating, it doesn’t have to be with the proper techniques. Focus on frequent, gentle maintenance along with periodic deep cleaning. Understand fiber content and construction to select appropriate cleaning methods. Treat stains promptly and correctly. And above all, stick to a schedule to maintain the beauty of your textiles. With some diligent care, you can keep your fabrics looking their best.

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