How to clean your upholstery

Cassie Pryce

Give your furnishings a spring clean with our top tips on how to keep fabrics fresh and tackle nasty stains and odours

1. To clean sofas and armchairs

Start by removing any cushions and throws and checking for dropped coins or wrappers from down the sides.

Using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner, go over the surface of the fabric in long, slow sweeps to pick up the accumulated surface dirt.


2. To clean leather furniture

Make sure you switch to the softer, brush nozzle on your vacuum as the other attachments can leave scratches on the surface.

Keep the end clean and grit-free by dusting it down after every use and replacing it when the bristles become hard or matted.


3. To get deep into the gaps of chairs and sofas

Use the vacuum’s crevice tool to reach down. Its skinny, angled nozzle can also be run along the seams to pick up any dirt lurking in the small channels.

Use this attachment to get down to the edges of carpets running alongside skirting boards, too.


4. Before washing or spraying any upholstery…

Be sure to check the labels on the fabric. Some materials should only be washed with water-based products, whereas others will need to be dry-cleaned.

Using the incorrect products can cause permanent damage to the fabric so take the time to read the instructions carefully.


5. For stubborn stains

If you haven’t managed to tackle a stain immediately, use a small amount of cool water, mixed with a dab of washing up liquid and gently blot the area with a sponge.

This is only suitable for fabrics that can be cleaned with water and take care not to rub the fabric, as this can weaken and pull at the fibres. To dry, dab the damp patch with a dry cloth and leave for several hours.


6. For water-tolerant upholstery fabrics

Use your iron to release steam onto a spot stain rather than getting out a steam cleaner just for a small area.

The steam will loosen up the particles and make them easier to break down for you to then dab with a cleaning solution later on.


7. If the soap and water technique doesn’t produce the desired result…

Try blotting the stain with a small amount of white vinegar or vodka on a cloth.

Always do a patch test on a hidden piece of fabric first to check how the material responds to these harsher solutions before attempting the main stain (this also applies to any shop-bought chemical cleaners), and remember to avoid using coloured cloths as the dye can transfer onto your upholstery.


8. Get rid of nasty smells

For sofas and armchairs, use bicarbonate of soda to deodorise the upholstery.

Liberally sprinkle the baking soda over the surface of the furniture, allow to sit for around 30 minutes and then vacuum it up using a soft brush attachment.

This technique works well for pet and smoke odours and should be carried out regularly for the best results.


9. Remove pet hairs from fabrics

Use a dampened part of rubber gloves and run your hand over the surface of the furniture to attract the hair.

When vacuuming carpets and rugs, go over the surface in both directions to loosen any stubborn strands stuck deep down in the pile.


10. To clean curtains

Check the label on your curtains to see whether or not they can be machine washed. If so, choose a cool setting with a delicate or slow spin and use your regular washing detergent.

If you’re worried about the material shrinking, hand-wash the curtains instead using luke warm water and try not to submerge the fabric for overly long periods of time, to avoid them becoming waterlogged.

If made from a suitable fabric, you may be able to steam clean your curtains or blinds. This is an eco-friendly method that doesn’t involve the use of chemicals.

Follow the instructions on the machine to heat the water and slowly move the spray nozzle over the surface of the material before allowing to air dry.


11. To clean carpets

Treat carpets regularly using a powerful vacuum to avoid the build up of dirt and grit, particularly in high traffic areas within the home.

On synthetic carpets or rugs, use carpet shampoo and steam cleaning machines every six months. For wool, professional cleaning is recommended as the fibres absorb a lot of water and can become very heavy and hard to dry out.