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How to Clean Upholstered Furniture and Remove Stains

March 3, 2024
How to Clean Upholstered Furniture and Remove Stains

As a homeowner, keeping my upholstered furniture looking its best is important to me. With regular use, upholstered furniture easily collects dust, dirt, and stains that can make it look dingy and worn. Fortunately, with some simple cleaning techniques and products, I can keep my upholstered furniture looking fresh, clean and stain-free.

Understanding Upholstery Fabric Types

Before cleaning upholstered furniture, it’s important to understand what type of fabric it’s made from, as different fabrics require different cleaning methods. Here are the main types of upholstery fabrics and how to identify them:


  • Made from animal hides, leather is durable and easy to clean. Its distinctive texture has a natural grain.


  • Vinyl, also called faux leather, is made from synthetic materials. It’s easy to clean and maintain.


  • Natural fiber fabric that can be woven in many textures. Prone to stains but can withstand abrasive cleaners.


  • Made from natural fibers like flax. Has a casual, rumpled look. Stain-resistant but prone to wrinkles.


  • Synthetic fabric that is durable, stain-resistant and inexpensive. Has a smooth, soft finish.


  • Natural fabric made from animal hair. Expensive but durable. Use gentle cleaners to avoid damage.

Regular Upkeep And Maintenance

To keep my upholstered furniture looking its best on a regular basis, I follow these maintenance steps:

  • Vacuum weekly – Use the soft brush attachment to remove surface dirt and debris. Get into crevices and seams.

  • Spot clean spills – Immediately blot any spills with a clean cloth. Don’t rub or scrub.

  • Shampoo clean every 2-3 months – Use an upholstery shampoo cleaner and brush to deeply clean. Allow to fully dry.

  • Consider professional cleaning annually – For a deep clean, pros have commercial steamers to clean down to the cushions.

  • Protect with slipcovers or throws – Use covers and throws to prevent wear, stains, and fading from sunlight.

Upholstery Cleaning Supplies And Tools

Having the right cleaning supplies makes cleaning upholstered furniture much easier. Here are the essentials I keep on hand:

  • Gentle upholstery shampoo – Look for a pH-neutral formula safe for all fabrics.

  • Spot remover spray or gel – For treating stains before shampooing.

  • Soft bristle brush – Use to work the shampoo into the fabric.

  • Clean cloths and towels – Use microfiber for blotting and terrycloth for drying.

  • Pet hair removal tool – Helps lift stubborn pet fur from furniture.

  • Small scrub brush – For scrubbing stains in crevices or seams.

  • Furniture cleaning gloves – Protects hands from chemicals and dyes.

Cleaning Methods For Common Upholstery Stains

Unfortunately, accidents happen, and upholstery gets stained. Here are the best cleaning methods I’ve found for common household stains:

Food and Beverage Stains

Things like coffee, wine, chocolate and ketchup are inevitable drips and spills. To remove:

  • Blot immediately
  • Spray with spot remover and let sit 5 minutes
  • Blot stain again with clean cloth
  • Rinse the area with water and blot dry

Grease and Oil Stains

Greasy food stains are tricky. My process is:

  • Sprinkle baking soda over the stain and let sit for 15 minutes
  • Use a soft brush to work powder into stain
  • Vacuum up the baking soda
  • Apply spot remover spray and let soak
  • Blot until clean

Ink and Makeup Stains

Ink and cosmetics can really stain fabric:

  • Apply hairspray or rubbing alcohol directly on the stain
  • Let it soak for 2-3 minutes
  • Use clean cloth to gently blot the stain
  • Repeat process until stain lifts
  • Rinse with water and blot dry

Pet Stains

Both urine and vomit stains from pets require special treatment:

  • Use paper towels to absorb as much liquid as possible
  • Mix equal parts vinegar and water and spray the stain
  • Allow to soak 10-15 minutes
  • Blot and rinse with clean water and cloth
  • Repeat as needed for set-in stains


For musty upholstery smells try this:

  • Sprinkle baking soda liberally over entire area
  • Allow to sit overnight
  • Vacuum thoroughly the next day

Deep Cleaning Methods

For a complete deep clean of upholstery, I recommend regularly shampooing the fabric. Here is my process:

1. Vacuum First

Use the soft brush attachment of your vacuum to remove all surface-level dirt and debris. Get into crevices, seams and tufts.

2. Spot Clean Stains

Use a spot remover spray or gel and clean cloth to pretreat any set-in stains. Blot stains until lifting.

3. Mix Shampoo Solution

Dilute a small amount of mild upholstery shampoo in warm water per label instructions. Use very little detergent.

4. Apply Shampoo

Dip your soft brush into the solution and work into fabric. Focus on high-traffic areas first.

5. Rinse

Use a clean cloth dipped in clean water to rinse away shampoo. Blot with dry towel.

6. Allow to Dry

Let furniture fully dry before replacing cushions or using. May take 24-48 hours.

Professional Deep Cleaning

For an even deeper clean, I recommend professional upholstery cleaning every 12-18 months. Reputable companies use powerful equipment not available for home use.

The cleaning process they use includes:

  • Super-suction vacuuming
  • Steam cleaning to sanitize and deodorize
  • Stain pretreatment with commercial chemicals
  • Safe solvents to dissolve grime and oils
  • Truck-mounted wands for cleaning down to cushion cores

Professional cleaning is safe for all fabric types and will make your upholstery look brand new again. It’s a worthwhile investment to keep furniture in the best shape.

Maintain A Cleaning Routine

With some diligence and the right techniques, I’ve been able to keep my upholstered furniture looking stain-free and like new. The key is sticking to a regular cleaning routine. I make sure to vacuum weekly, spot clean spills promptly, and shampoo clean the fabric every few months. This prevents dirt from becoming deeply embedded in the fibers. Plus I get my upholstery professionally cleaned at least once a year for optimal results.

With a little fabric care knowledge and consistent effort, you can keep your upholstered furniture clean too. Just be gentle, tackle problems quickly, and clean often for furniture that looks fresh and feels clean to sit on.

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