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How to Clean Upholstered Chairs


No one wants their sofa to look old, tired and dirty but many people believe that upholstered furniture is hard to clean. However, you don’t have to put up with dirty furniture any longer because these tips on how to clean an upholstered chair cover everything you need to get your furniture back into premium condition.

Although a general clean of any upholstered furniture is essential, there will be times when it calls for some serious stain removal. As much as we can be as careful as possible with furniture – drinks will be split, pets will make the sofa their bed and life just happens. Thankfully, when it comes to stain removal, there are some tips you can follow to help make life a little easier.

You will need:

Once you’re ready to start, you’ll want to make sure you arm yourself with the right tools and cleaning equipment. The good news is that if you’re wondering how to clean upholstery without a machine, then there are lots of products you probably already have in your cupboards at home that can help. However, before you start cleaning any furniture, it is important to understand what the material is that you are going to be cleaning and the treatment that it can withstand. A read of the label will tell you what material the chair is made from and an idea of what you can use to clean it. Some of the products you’ll want to have on hand before you get started on your cleaning project are:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • A stiff, dry brush
  • Clean water
  • A hoover
  • Steamer
  • Towel

If you haven’t cleaned with baking soda before then you may well be wondering why we’re using a baking ingredient to help. However, trust us when we say that baking soda is a diverse product. A sprinkle of this over the entire couch can help to loosen stains and remove any odours, a great place to start when you’re considering how to clean a fabric chair.

How To Clean Upholstered Chairs

Cleaning an upholstered chair is fairly easy, and can be completed in a few simple steps.

  1. First, prep the furniture. Use a dry brush to remove any dust and debris from the surface. Also, it is a good idea to use the hoover too to ensure that there are no loose particles or dirt on the furniture.
  2. Then, sprinkle baking soda over the entire surface of the furniture. If you have a stubborn stain, then mixing together a paste of equal parts water and baking soda creates a paste that you can place on the stain. We’d recommend leaving it there for around 15 minutes before vacuuming it up.
  3. There may be a recommended product for cleaning your upholstered chair, so mow is the time if you wish to use that. Make sure you check that the product is okay to use as referenced on the cleaning code label and test a small part of the sofa before you dive in and clean the whole thing
  4. Finally, use your towel to pat dry any of the sofa that is particularly wet. You won’t be able to get it completely dry, but instead, you want to let it air dry overnight; with a lovely clean, fresh chair to look forward to in the morning[ii].

Using a Machine to Clean Your Chair

Although there are plenty of ways to remove stains from upholstery by hand, you might well be wondering how to clean an upholstered chair with a steamer. It is worth researching the different options available when it comes to steam cleaners, so you can feel confident that the one you decide to buy is the right one for you and your needs. Before you decide to do anything, make sure that you read both the cleaning codes/care instructions for your chair and the instructions for the steam cleaner.

You’ll want to make sure that the chair is in the best possible position to be steam cleaned – make sure you have brushed and vacuumed thoroughly so all dirt and dust has been removed.

It is a good idea to make sure that windows are open before you use your steam cleaner, to ensure that the air is able to circulate and there isn’t going to be a build-up of moisture in the room. Much like when you use other cleaning products on your chair, patch testing a small part of the chair before you go ahead and steam clean the whole thing is best.

Then you can get started with cleaning your upholstered chair following the instructions in the manual. Once you are done, it is important that you leave the sofa untouched in order to dry fully. This often means leaving it overnight with some windows open. It is worth giving it a hoover as the final stage, but make sure that the chair is completely dry before you do this!

Consider Reupholstery

There are going to be times when your chair is simply too dirty or too damaged to bring back up to the standard that you would like. However, this isn’t a reason to panic because there are options. Many people find that furniture upholstery is a viable option, allowing them to keep the chair they love without the stains or even if they fancy a change – turn that tub chair grey. If you’re wondering how to clean a wingback chair or an armchair, but it just doesn’t seem as though you’ll ever be able to get it clean, then considering reupholstery as an option is something you should be doing.

Handy Hints and Tips

a grey and pink clean upholstered chair

When it comes to cleaning upholstered chairs, less is more is often the way to go. Remember, you can always put more product on if you need it, but if you cover the upholstered chair with too much product, it can be harder to remove.

It can be tempting to dive in and scrub the chair you want to clean, but this can ruin the material. So instead, use your stiff brush to give the material a rub with the cleaning products of choice, but avoid going too hard and damaging the furniture.

Once you have cleaned the chair as best you can, you’ll want to have the towel and dry the chair as much as possible. Much like the cleaning stage, the drying stage should be gentle – you want to blot the furniture dry rather than rubbing it too hard with the towel.

Always do a spot test on a small part of the sofa that isn’t immediately visible before you use any products on the whole thing. This gives you a chance to check that the cleaning treatment you’re undertaking isn’t going to ruin the upholstered chair.

What Do Different Cleaning Codes Mean?

Cleaning Code What Type of Cleaner To Use
S Only use a solvent product to clean the material
S/W You can use either solvent or water-based products to clean the material
W Only use a water-based product to clean the material
X The item is not cleanable and should only be vacuumed


Cleaning Stains

Time is most certainly of the essence when it comes to cleaning up stains. As soon as you spill something, you should take steps to clean it. This gives you the best possible chance of being able to remove the stain completely. With some dark coloured liquids, even a few minutes delay can result in it being much harder to remove the stain in its entirety. It is a good idea to check manufacturer instructions before you use any sort of product on the material. It can be a good idea to get familiar with the instructions now so that if a spillage does happen in the future, you already have a good idea of what you can use to fix the problem.

Looking After Your Upholstered Furniture

Although it is perfectly possible to clean upholstered furniture, taking good care of your items on a daily basis is the best way to make sure that they stay in tip-top condition. A regular brush or hoover is an excellent way to ensure that dust and dirt particles don’t get trapped in the material. Of course, you can use things like throws and sofa covers to protect your sofa but, if anything does get spilt on it, making sure you clean it as soon as possible is essential if you want the best possible chance of successful stain removal.

Check out these cleaning tips for more information!




Edward Sloane

Edward is the managing director of Sloane & Sons Stylish Chairs. He is an expert in quality, comfortable upholstered chairs.


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