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Clean upholstery makes any home looking beautiful and well cared for. A spill can happen, and when it does time is of the essence. Even if you are fortunate enough to not actually spill something, general dirt and dust will accumulate as part of normal use.
PART 1 - Fabric upholstery
Before Cleaning Make Sure To Vacuum Your Upholstery
If your upholstery has developed lots of stains and spots, before you do anything else it is important to vacuum it. This will remove the dust which, when wet, can further dirty your sofa if it is not removed first.
In addition, remove as much pet hair as possible. If a vacuum itself does not seem to get it all, try a pet hair remover.
Blot The Spill Quickly
You don't want that fresh spill to soak into the furniture stuffing, into the wood, or to set into the upholstery fabric.
Therefore, the first thing to do when any spill occurs is to blot (not scrub or rub) the spill up with a white cloth as quickly as possible to lessen the spread of the stain, and to keep it from setting in a larger area.
What Upholstery Cleaners Should Be Used To Clean Your Upholstery
Next, you need to know what types of upholstery cleaner should be used on your upholstery. This is dependent on two things: (1) the type of fabric the upholstery is made of; and (2) the type of spill or stain on the upholstery.
Upholstery fabrics can be mystery sometimes, because the fabrics used for upholstery can be varied, such as cotton, wool, silk, acetate, linen, rayon, olefin, and acrylic just to name a few, including blends of these fabrics.
In addition, different upholstery fabrics have been dyed with different colors, in different ways, and the age of the upholstery should also be taken into account.
Note, if this is very old upholstery, or antique or very valuable, you should call in a professional.
If you don't know what upholstery cleaner can be used on your upholstery the first step is to look at the tag. You haven't removed the tag, have you?
Upholstery Cleaning Codes
The furniture industry has created a code for its care tags so you can quickly know how to clean upholstery when a spill occurs. These tags are typically found hanging in an inconspicuous place on the side of the furniture, or under seat cushions. Here is what the codes mean:
W: Clean the upholstery fabric with a water based detergent.
S: Clean the upholstery fabric with a water free product, such as dry cleaning solvent.
WS: You may clean the upholstery fabric with either a water based cleaner or a water free cleaner, depending on the type of stain. (This is the best type of upholstered furniture to purchase if you plan to remove your own stains.)
X: This upholstery fabric must be professionally cleaned. You should only vacuum and brush it -- never use any type of upholstery cleaner on it yourself. (Unless you are extraordinarily rich, you really want to steer clear of buying furniture with this on the tag in the future.)
What If You Don't Have The Upholstery Tags Anymore
With all cleaning methods I would suggest that you test your upholstery stain remover first in an inconspicuous area, to check to make sure the stain removal method will not harm it and for color fastness.
This would be an even more important step when you don't have an upholstery tag to rely upon anymore.
The Type Of Stain Or Spill Also Impacts What Cleaner You Use
There is no one size fits all upholstery cleaner that will work on all types of stains, such as food and drinks, protein, oil and grease, and other stains.
A good resource for how to clean upholstery stains is the A-Z Stain Removal Guide which lists many common types of stains, and gives instructions for cleaning specific types of stains from upholstery.
These instructions assume your upholstery has a code of WS.
Once you know what type of upholstery cleaners you can use on your upholstered furniture, the next step in how to clean upholstery is that you need to choose if you will use commercial cleaners or a homemade cleaner.
If you want to make your own cleaner, for either environmental or money saving reasons, you can also check out these homemade upholstery cleaner recipes if you need a water-based cleaner.