The Complete Beginner's Guide to Cleaning Upholstery Fabric

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Cleaning Upholstery Fabric

Chenille - photo by More Fabrics

Knowing how to properly wash upholstery fabric on your couch at home can be economical in the long run for home owners.

Sofa cleaning is essential in maintaining the overall appearance of your home while ensuring that the piece of furniture itself lasts longer.

Below we take a look at all the details on washing upholstery fabric, the equipment needed, tips, tricks, and rules you can apply to achieve optimal results.

Can I Clean My Fabric Sofa at Home?

Yes. There are many ways you can use to clean up your couch. These include:

  • Spot cleaning

  • Steam cleaning

  • Vacuum cleaning

  • Freshening up

  • Machine washing

However, before you start cleaning, it is essential to know and understand the type of fabric on the sofa.

Different kinds of materials require different cleaning solutions and different cleaning instructions. It is important to go through them beforehand.

Here are the industry’s codes found on labels:

W-S - use foam and water-based cleaning agents. Use mild water-free cleaning solution. Use distilled water and avoid tap water.

W - Use foam and water-based cleaning agents. Avoid tap water since it contains minerals that might cause ringed or faded stains.

S - Use mild and water-free cleaning solvents. Do not use water and clean in whole, not in parts.

X - Only use a vacuum or brush lightly to remove dirt. Do not use any water, foam or any other liquid cleaning agents.

Note: use the S guide on pre-washed upholstery fabric.

How to Steam Clean Your Upholstered Couch

Check the tags on your upholstery to ensure that it is okay to use a steam cleaner on it. Check the temperature required to wash the upholstery fabric.

Once confirmed, follow the following steps

  1. Vacuum your sofa.

  2. Open the windows to let in air and proceed to steam your couch.

  3. After steam cleaning, fan your sofa to dry.

  4. Wait for the water in the steamer to cool before disposing of it.

  5. Vacuum your couch again after steaming.

photo from Unsplash

Can I Wash Couch Covers in the Machine?

Couch covers are machine-washable. However, before washing them, check the tags from the manufacturer, and always follow their cleaning instructions.

Machine-washable couch covers should be pre-shrunk and colourfast. Pre-shrunk covers ensure that the fabric doesn’t after washing. If they do shrink, it’s hard to fit them back onto the couch.

Colourfast fabric ensures that the fabric does not fade out quickly. If your upholstery is not pre-shrunk and colourfast, machine washing will damage the covers.

Before washing in the machine, pre-clean the covers by vacuuming, spot cleaning or using a steam cleaner. Ensure the covers are well-dried before putting them back on. Consider washing upholstery fabric before sewing.

Spot Cleaning Upholstery with Water and Soap

Using water and soap is an easy way to clean upholstery fabric. Mastering the skill of spot cleaning in this way will save you a lot of hassle in the long run, and keep your couches or curtain fabrics pristine.

How to spot clean

Spot cleaning involves cleaning the part of the fabric that has a stain. Before you start spot cleaning, be sure to use the recommended cleaning agents (check the tag on the fabric). Below are steps to follow:

  1. Remove the excess stain debris. If it’s a solid stain, use a blunt object like a spoon to scoop it off. Avoid rubbing it away as this will cause the stain to spread further into the fabric.

  2. For liquid stains, use a paper towel to absorb as much moisture as possible.

  3. When working on the stain, start from the outside as you work your way to the centre part. Doing so prevents the stain from spreading.

  4. Use cleaning solution sparingly to avoid soaking your sofa.

  5. When drying, use gentle air drying and avoid direct heat.

Taking Care of Different Types of Stains

Some stains that might completely ruin your fabrics are actually easily removable with a few tricks. Here are some stains that you can quickly deal at home without professional expertise.

Photo from Unsplash

1.   Drinks

For difficult coffee stains, mix detergent with warm water and blot it out by using a paper towel. If the stain persists, use a solution of one part vinegar and two parts water to clear it. After that, allow it to air dry.

Beer stains are much easier to remove. Rub ice cubes on the stain, then apply the same procedure used on coffee stains.

Red wine - If it is a fresh stain, blot it out using a paper towel. It can then be blotted away with a dab of water. However, for older stains, mix two parts soap detergent and two parts hydrogen peroxide, and spray or blot the stain.

Note: hydrogen peroxide can cause fading, use sparingly.

2.    Food and grease stains

Dip a piece of cloth in a solution of laundry detergent and cold water then blot out the food stain using the cloth.

For grease spots, soak them in baking soda and dust the spots off after 20 minutes using a toothbrush.

3.    Blood

Blood is best removed by cold water.

For lighter fabrics, let them run under cold water then machine wash. For couches, place an ice cube on the stain then cover it with a clean cloth. The cloth will absorb the blood once the ice cube has melted. Blot to dry using dry material.

4.    Ink

Ballpoint pen ink can be removed by applying rubbing alcohol and leaving it for half an hour. Dab the blemish gently from the corners to the center to avoid spreading the stain.

5.    Pet Urine

Remove the urine by soaking it in with paper towels.

Pour a solution of half water and half vinegar on the stain. Sprinkle baking soda and leave to dry then vacuum dry. Consider seeking professional help if the stain does not come off.

6.    Vomit

Wipe away as much as you can using paper towels. Scrape away the excess using a blunt knife. Sprinkle baking soda and vacuum once it is dry. Dab on the stain using a cloth dipped in a laundry detergent until it is clean.

7.    Dust and dirt

Regular vacuuming is effective in keeping dust away. If dirt is left to sit on the fabric for long, it will end up seeping into the fiber, thus discoloring the fabric.

Making Your Own Fabric Cleaning Products

This natural spot cleaning recipe that you can make at home works wonders.

How to make natural spot cleaner at home

Things you will need

•    ¼ cup white vinegar

•    ¾ cup warm water

•    ½ tablespoon of liquid dish soap


Add vinegar, water, and liquid dish soap in a spray bottle and shake to make a cleaning solution.

On the stained area, spray your cleaning solution and scrub in circular motions.

Repeat the process until the sofa is clean. Dip a cloth in warm water and use it to remove excess soap from the fabric.

Use a dry cloth to blot out any excess moisture. Then leave it to dry.

Chenille - photo by More Fabrics

Cleaning Upholstery Yourself Doesn’t Need to Be Daunting

Cleaning upholstery fabric at home is a cost-effective way of maintaining the durability and the appearance of upholstery fabric for your sofa.

However, caution is necessary to avoid any damages. It is important to always read care instructions from the manufacturer before cleaning upholstery fabric at home.

Still no luck getting the harsh stains out, even after all these tips & tricks? Consider re-upholstering your favourite couch or chair. Pick out your new upholstery fabric and start your upholstery project.

How to Choose the Best Kind of Upholstery

How to Choose the Best Kind of Upholstery

7 Things You Need to Know About Velvet Upholstery

7 Things You Need to Know About Velvet Upholstery