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The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Upholstery and Furniture

March 3, 2024
The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Upholstery and Furniture


Keeping upholstered furniture and other fabric furnishings clean can seem like an intimidating task. However, with the right techniques and products, it’s much easier than you think! Proper upholstery care will extend the life of your furniture and keep it looking its best.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share everything you need to know to clean both durable and delicate fabrics. From vacuuming and spot treating to deep cleaning, you’ll learn safe DIY methods as well as when it’s best to call in a professional. With a little knowledge and effort, you can keep your upholstered pieces fresh, clean and vibrant for years to come.

Regular Maintenance

Consistent light cleaning is the best way to care for upholstery. Following a regular routine prevents dirt and oils from embedding deeply into fibers. It also keeps stains from setting and makes deep cleans easier when eventually needed.


I recommend vacuuming upholstered furniture weekly using the soft brush attachment. This lifts away loose dirt, dust and debris before it can work its way into fabric. Pay close attention to crevices, tufts and piping where crumbs and pet hair accumulate.

For velvet or other delicate fabrics, use the vacuum’s lowest setting. Or simply use a lint roller or soft brush to avoid snagging.

Spot Cleaning

It’s best to treat spots and spills as soon as they happen. This prevents staining and keeps dirt from bonding to fibers. Blot liquid spills immediately with a clean, dry white cloth. For sticky messes, lightly scrape off any solids first.

I keep a spray bottle filled with warm water and mild dish soap near my furniture. Spritzing spots and gently wiping with a soft cloth takes care of most messes. For tougher grime, apply a dab of upholstery cleaner and let it soak in for a minute before blotting.

Rotate and flip cushions frequently so the same spots aren’t subjected to repeated wear and spills. This helps upholstery wear evenly.

Deep Cleans

While regular light cleaning keeps upholstery fresh day-to-day, periodically deep cleaning is still important. Over time, dirt and oils work down into the fibers. Thorough cleaning removes these deposits and restores furniture to like-new condition.

Professional vs. DIY

For expensive, antique or delicate upholstery, professional cleaning is usually best. Companies have commercial-grade equipment and chemicals not available for home use. Their powerful extractors rinse away stubborn soil that DIY cleaning can’t reach.

However, DIY methods are effective for most casual upholstery. With a little elbow grease and the right products, you can thoroughly clean your furniture at a fraction of the cost.

DIY Cleaning Steps

Here is a safe process for deep cleaning upholstery at home:

  1. Vacuum thoroughly to remove loose debris.

  2. Pre-treat stains with an upholstery cleaner or diluted dish soap. Allow to soak for 5-10 minutes.

  3. Spot clean with a small brush and rinse with clean water. Blot until dry.

  4. Mix a gentle upholstery shampoo with warm water in a spray bottle. Avoid harsh detergents.

  5. Working in sections, spray upholstery lightly and scrub gently with a soft brush.

  6. Use clean towels to blot (don’t rub!) until no more liquid transfers.

  7. Rinse by spraying just water and blotting again. Repeat until soap residue is removed.

  8. Allow to fully air dry before using. Point a fan at stubborn spots.

  9. For delicate fabrics, spot clean only and allow a professional cleaning.

  10. Check care labels and test cleaners on inconspicuous areas first.

Upholstery Fabric Types

Not all fabrics clean the same, so it’s important to match methods to material. Here’s an overview of common upholstery fabrics and how best to care for them:


Durable, comfortable cotton is stain-resistant and washes well. It can usually be spot cleaned like clothing. Machine washing removable covers is also an option. Avoid bleach.


Linen is prone to wrinkling and staining, so handle with care. Vacuum gently using the brush rather than beater bar. Spot clean stains quickly with mild soap and water.


Vacuum wool upholstery weekly to remove abrasive grit. Pre-treat any spills immediately by blotting. Then spot clean with an upholstery shampoo using very light pressure. Wool is delicate and shrinks easily.


Microfiber resists stains but still needs regular vacuuming. Spot clean mild stains with just water. For heavier soil, use mild soap and water. Don’t over-wet microfiber.


Keep leather conditioned to prevent cracking and fading. Use leather cleaner only, not household products. Gently wipe spills when fresh. For deep cleaning, apply leather cleaner and scrub gently with a soft cloth.


Water-based cleaners are safe for polyester. This synthetic fabric is colorfast and resistant to most stains. Vacuum regularly and spot treat spills to keep it fresh. Machine washing removable covers is fine.

When to Call a Professional

While regular at-home cleaning will keep most upholstery looking its best, there are times to bring in a pro:

  • For heavily soiled or neglected furniture that needs extensive cleaning.

  • Upholstery with significant staining or odor issues.

  • Valuable antiques and delicate heirloom pieces.

  • Furniture with delicate fabrics like silk, velvet or tapestries.

  • If DIY methods are ineffective despite your best efforts.

Many upholstery cleaning companies will come to your home for service. Or larger pieces can be transported to their facility. Ask about their methods and equipment when scheduling – and show them any problem spots that need attention.

With professional steam cleaning, even dingy, matted upholstery can be restored to like-new condition. Just be prepared to pay $100 or more per sofa.


With this complete guide, you now have the knowledge to keep your upholstered furniture looking beautiful for years. Follow the simple routines for vacuuming, spot cleaning and periodic deep cleaning. Tailor methods to match different fabric types. Calling a professional for a deep clean every few years will refresh tired and soiled pieces.

Taking proper care of your upholstery isn’t difficult, but it does require dedication. With just a little time invested on a regular basis, you’ll maintain clean, attractive furniture to enjoy for years to come.

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