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How to Clean Your Upholstered Furniture

vacuuming an upholstered couch

From removing debris and pet hair to cleaning even the most awful stains, here’s how to take care of your upholstered furniture.

You don’t have to clean your upholstered furniture often, but quickly dealing with spills and stains will keep them from getting worse. If you have pets that are allowed on the furniture, you’ll want to clean a little more often than you would in a pet and child free home.


Start the cleaning process by vacuuming your piece of furniture. If you’re doing a light cleaning and have no stains to clean, this will be your only step. If you have dirt and stains to deal with, vacuuming beforehand will make the rest of your cleaning needs easier—it gets pet hair, food, and other debris out of the way.

To make vacuuming furniture an easy task, make sure your vacuum comes with an upholstery attachment or a brush attachment. You should vacuum your furniture regularly, as it helps keep upholstery fibers from wearing down.

Read the Care Tag

Furniture comes with care tags, just like your clothes do. Before you rip any tags off new furniture, take a look at the cleaning instructions. Some types of upholstery may require cleaning without water. If you bought your furniture used, you should test the fabric with water and other cleaning products in out-of-sight areas.

Buy Baby Wipes

If you have quick spots to clean up on your upholstery, and you’re getting at it before stains set in, baby wipes are perfect to have on hand. They offer a combination of soap and water without too much moisture, which makes them good for any upholstery fabric that may be cleaned with water.

Make Your Own Stain Remover

woman cleaning couch with spray bottle and cloth
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

You can buy stain remover, or you can make stain remover. Storebought products often contain many harsh chemicals that may not be safe for you, your pets, or your children. By making DIY stain remover, you know exactly what’s going into your product.

Stains are easier to remove when you get at them immediately, but if they happen when you’re not around and they’re already set in by the time you see them, try these homemade removers.

  • For Basic Stain Removal: There are some natural stain removers that you probably already have in your kitchen that will get out general stains. Put a few drops of water in some club soda to make a paste—dab it on and let it suck the stain out for a few minutes before cleaning it off. Vinegar is also great for cleaning stains from upholstery—dab a little on and then blot it off with a white cloth in fifteen minutes.
  • Removing Grease and Oil: Don’t fret when someone dumps greasy bacon on the couch; you can clean it up. If the stain is fresh, sprinkle some salt on it and then dab it up with soap and water after it sits for a bit. If the stain is set, try rubbing alcohol.
  • Getting Rid of Crayon Stains: Crayon stains are common for people with young children. A dab of plain white toothpaste is the answer. Wipe it clean with water.

Peroxide, salt, baking soda, and vinegar are some of the most common natural stain removers. Try each of them and find which one works for your grass, blood, wine, and other stains.

Upholstered furniture needs care, and if dirt and stains can damage the upholstery, it makes sense that scrubbing can harm the fibers too. Always blot stains instead of scrubbing. You may need to use a stain treatment more than once to remove a tough stain, but that’s better than scrubbing the stain deeper in or damaging your furniture.

Dry with a Fan

Whether or not you used water to clean your upholstered furniture, anything you used for cleaning that got your couch or chair wet needs to be dried. Set a fan aimed at the cleaned areas to help speed up drying. Water on furniture that is left to dry on its own for days can cause mold to start growing.

Get Your Furniture Treated

Before you even get stains and dirt on your furniture, give it a pre-treatment that will assist in repelling stains. This is much the same as treating carpets to help make spills easier to clean. You may want to DIY pre-treat your couch by buying a product that you spray on, or you can opt to get your upholstered furniture professionally treated.

Pre-treatments for stains aren’t made to last forever. Read the container, or ask the pro, how often you should re-treat your furniture to keep it stain free.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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