How to clean upholstery is one of the most common questions and topics that I come across as a professional janitor and cleaner. Oftentimes it can be stressful wondering how to properly clean a valued piece of furniture or which cleaner to use on the piece so you won’t damage it.  

I have 5 tips on cleaning your upholstery that will help relieve your stress about cleaning your furniture as well as some guidance on which cleaners to use, the process on how to clean them, and some bonus tips on getting things dry. Happy cleaning!

Here are 5 Tips to Clean Your Upholstery Like A Pro!


1. Check the Clean code

I know what you’re probably thinking – what is a clean code?! If so, you’re not alone, most people don’t! Clean codes can be found on the tag of MOST pieces of furniture. They are a lettered indicator of what type of cleaning agent/solution to use on your piece of furniture. Clean codes feature one of five things:

  1. W – Can be cleaned with water
  2. S – Must be cleaned with dry cleaning solvent
  3. S/W – Can be cleaned with both solvents and water
  4. W/S – Can be cleaned with both solvents and water
  5. X – Vacuum only – contact a professional

Now please note: not all pieces of furniture have a clean code. If yours does not, you can look up the manufacture or brand of your piece online to find more information or you can call the furniture store you purchased the piece for more information, they often times keep this information on file. 

If you can’t find an answer after much thorough research, you can test an inconspicuous area of your piece (like the bottom or behind a cushion by the zipper) and spray the cleaner on (solvent or water based) and see how the piece reacts. If the cleaner dries and looks great, that’s awesome. If notice some browning or shrinkage, proceed with caution – it’s probably best to contact a professional. 

2. Vacuum Your Piece Thoroughly

There is a lot of dirt and dust that can build up on your furniture over time. Removing as much of that dirt and dust is important before we add our cleaner. This will make the process that much easier!

3. Choose the Right Cleaner

Now choosing the right cleaner is much easier now that we know the clean code, but you may still have some questions about what the best water based or solvent based cleaner is for your furniture. 

For water based cleaning, I suggest one cup of water, one cup of rubbing alcohol, and a few drops of dawn dish soap. This DIY mix will do a great job cleaning up the piece without causing any damage. 

If you need a solvent based cleaner, I would recommend using this Alba Dry Cleaning Fluid, it does a great job and is strong and yet not as aggressive as other solvent based cleaners. That being said, make sure your room is well ventilated, you wear a mask, and protect your skin and eyes when using this product. You do not want to ingest it or get it on your skin. Follow the label for any additional direction and stay safe while cleaning!

4. Clean and Extract

This is where the magic happens. You get to actually lift that ingrained grime and dirt from your upholstery and give it an extraction. To clean extract your piece, spray your cleaner on and rub it in with a towel or a brush. After doing this to the entire piece I like to come through with a spotter machine or an upholstery machine with an attachment with only water in the machine and thoroughly flush the entire piece working in sections. 

If you do not have an extractor, after spraying on your cleaner, spray on warm water and then wipe your piece with a microfiber towel – this will remove as much of the dirt and build up as possible. That being said, this will not be as effective as using an extractor, so borrow one from someone who does or rent one from a local store if possible. 

5. Get it Dry Quickly

You want your piece to get as dry as possible. If it’s not too cold out and it’s a beautiful summer day, open up a window and get the air flowing. If you have a snail fan, box fan, or ceiling fan, get those on and facing your piece. What I like to do as well is stack my sofa cushions if possible in an arrangement that maximizes airflow.  protip stack cushions

I hope you enjoyed these five tips! Happy cleaning to you and yours!!

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