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DIY Upholstery Cleaning Tips and Tricks

December 15, 2018

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Upholstery Cleaning by a professional can cost a bit more money than buying a can of furniture fabric cleaner at a home improvement store and tackling spots and stains on your own. However, the cost of professional shampooing is well worth it, as having your home's furniture pieces thoroughly and adequately cleaned can prolong their overall lifespan. A professional shampooing can also remove ground-in dirt, dust, pet hair and dander, and other allergens that can't be reached by a standard household vacuum cleaner.

In between professional upholstery cleaning services , however, you might note a few DIY tips and tricks for getting out spots and stains from upholstered furniture, and for giving upholstered and wood furniture a deep clean at home. These tips will ensure you don't damage furniture while trying to clean it, and that your pieces are also in their best condition between professional cleanings.

1. Know the material

When searching for tips on how to clean upholstery, you should first know what type of fabric you'll be cleaning! As with clothing fabric, the various materials that cover your home's furniture will all respond differently to particular detergents, water temperatures, stain removers, tools and brushes, and the like.

An upholstered furniture piece should have a tag on the underside or along some hidden seam, listing its materials both inside and out. If you can't find a sticker on your upholstered furniture, you might take a close-up picture of the material and then compare it with photos of various furniture fabrics you can find online. You might recognize the nap or weave of the upholstery and then see that it's corduroy, wool, a silk blend, and the like.

2. Know the stain

Be sure you know the cause of a spot or stain on your furniture's fabric before trying to clean it so that you can use the right cleansers and tools for each discoloration or type of damage in particular. Greasy stains can be the result of food oils, body oils, lotions, and the like. Spilled coffee, tea, wine, and other beverages cause discoloration from the tannins in their raw ingredients. Sweat stains, such as often seen on the backs of couches and chairs, are caused by the dirt on a person's skin being transferred to the furniture fabric as it absorbs that moisture.

Layers of dust that become dry and then get ground into the fabric can also cause stains and discoloration. Children and pets are also especially notorious for dragging dirt into the house and then getting this ground into upholstered furniture. Putting bare feet on your upholstered furniture can also transfer dirt, mud, dust, and other debris from your home's flooring to the furniture's fabric, causing stains and discoloration.

3. Remove surface dirt and grime first

Before you tackle any stain on your upholstered furniture, first remove as much surface dirt and grime as possible. Use a clean, dry cloth and gently but firmly dab the stain without pushing it into the fabric or rubbing it in any direction. This cloth and your dabbing action should absorb excess oil, liquid, dust, or dirt, so you're left with the least amount of residue to be cleaned as possible.

Once you've dabbed the stain with a dry cloth, repeat this process with a wet towel. Again, avoid pushing the stain into the fabric or rubbing it around. The dampness of your second cloth should attract more dirt and residue so that you'll have only a small area of debris to clean.

4. Use the right cleanser

Read the label on upholstery cleaners very carefully, and note the fabrics and stains they address. Don't assume that these products are interchangeable, and never use laundry soap, dish soap, shampoo, or other such cleansers on your furniture! Using the wrong type of detergent or shampoo on furniture fabric can mean damaging or discoloring that fabric, and even making a stain worse.

It's also essential that you read all the instructions for these cleansers and then follow them carefully. For example, a detergent might need to be diluted in water, whereas another is applied to damp rag and then the furniture. Some cleansers should sit on the spot for a few minutes, so they can penetrate and lift dirt or break down grease and oil. Your furniture fabric could suffer more discoloration, or you might waste time and money on a product that doesn't work as expected if you fail to follow these instructions.

5. Rinse and extract

One common mistake made by homeowners when they try to clean their furniture is failing to thoroughly rinse and extract all detergent, dirty water, and other residues. The label on the bottle of your cleanser will tell you how to remove that detergent, and it's good to ensure you use plenty of fresh water and a clean rag during this process.

It's also helpful to use a vacuum cleaner hose with an upholstery brush to help remove dirty water from your freshly cleaned furniture. Avoid rubbing the detergent or shampoo in a circle as you remove it as you might merely spread the spot and make it larger, but apply the hose and fabric attachment directly over the stain instead. The suction from the vacuum can remove that residue and the stain with it.

6. Upgrade your tools

If rags and upholstery cleaners don't work to remove a tough spot or stain on your furniture, you might need to use an upholstery cleaning machine. You can often rent these machines from home improvement stores, but note that a carpet shampooer is not the same as the equipment used for furniture fabric! Carpeting is very thick and durable and often holds far more dirt than furniture fabric, so rug shampooers are often stronger than the machines used for upholstery.

Machines for upholstery cleaning will also have particular types of tools and attachments, meant for various fabrics and stains. A brush attachment may be too rough on delicate silk or tightly woven fabric but is the best choice for cleaning corduroy and cotton. Be sure to choose the right machine with the best attachment for the furniture you need to clean when renting.

7. Keeping furniture clean

Cleaning spots and stains as they appear is not enough to ensure your home's furniture is always in good condition. Dirt, dust, hair, food crumbs, and other debris often make their way into the cracks and crevices of furniture and then get ground into the cushions of upholstered furniture, or the soft wood surface of timber furniture.

To keep furniture thoroughly clean, remove cushions from fabric-covered pieces and vacuum in all the crevices as often as you vacuum your home's flooring. On occasion, disassemble the furniture so you can easily reach all its pieces and give them a deep clean. Avoid polishing wood as store-bought coatings are often very sticky and will attract dirt; use an oil or wood soap when cleaning timber pieces, and then give them shine with a wood oil rather than wax or a sticky polish.

8. How to clean car upholstery

Unfortunately, the materials and tools you use to clean fabric furniture might not clean out your car's interior! Car upholstery is typically much more durable than the fabric covering household furniture, as you're probably more likely to spill food or coffee while driving than while sitting on the sofa. Car fabric also needs to withstand fading from direct sunlight and keep out excess moisture from surrounding humidity.

To clean the upholstery of your car, start with a very thorough vacuuming. Next, use a cleanser meant for car fabric in particular, and use a stiff-bristled brush to rub the shampoo into the stain. Use a furniture cleaning machine or a vehicle upholstery machine at your local car wash to extract the detergent, and then vacuum the area again. Repeat this process as often as needed to get your car's interior cleaned and to ensure you've extracted all detergent and water used to rinse the material.

9. Call for professional upholstery cleaning

The best way to keep your home's furniture in good repair and as clean as possible is to invest in upholstery cleaning services. A professional cleaner will know the exact type of material that is covering your home's furniture and will recognize various wood species used to make timber furniture. He or she can also inspect spots and stains and identify the cause of that discoloration. A professional cleaner will also have a variety of tools and machinery that can make quick work of removing stains as well as built-up dust and dirt.

An upholstery cleaning by a pro can also ensure that furniture cushions and backing are thoroughly cleaned all the way through the foam under the outside fabric. A deep steam cleaning by a professional will remove dust, dirt, pollen, cigarette smoke, air pollution, and other such residues that may tend to get ground into furniture cushions and which your household vacuum cleaner can't address. He or she can also apply an odor neutralizer, so your home's furniture smells fresh and clean, which can also make your entire home seem cleaner as well!

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