How to Clean Upholstery | DIY Guide to Furniture Cleaning In 9 Simple Steps and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Our furniture is built to withstand all kinds of abuse. But one thing that can spell certain disaster for our upholstered furniture is of the dreaded spill. Depending on the value of your furniture, you could be looking at a very expensive cleaning bill.

If you are currently faced with potentially damaged furniture as a result of a spill, you’re in the right place. Today, I’m going to show you how to clean upholstery so that you can avoid paying a professional to do it for you. Not only will you save money, but you will also know how to handle future accidents should they occur.

How to Clean Upholstery | DIY Process Explained In 9 Simple Steps

Accidents on your upholstery can lead to expensive problems. If you don’t know how to read cleaning codes on furniture tags, you could potentially make matters much worse. In some cases, you could ruin your upholstery for good!

Fortunately, there is hope. Thanks to my cleaning tips and tricks, you will learn how to properly care for your furniture after a spill. If you’ve ever wondered, “How do I clean upholstery myself”, I’m going to make it easy for you.

patchwork design sofa

In this handy how-to, you will find out how to clean fabric chairs quickly and effectively. You will learn which couch cleaners are safe to use on your couch by reading the codes provided by the manufacturer.

But above all, you will know what to do the moment an accident occurs. By getting to the stain promptly, you can restore your upholstery to its natural beauty. And with that, let’s move on to the first tip.

1. Get to the stains quickly.

This is vitally important if you want to stand a chance at preventing a stain. Getting to the stain quickly won’t allow it enough time to set in, thereby giving you a better chance of removing it from your furniture.

When cleaning upholstery, time is always of the essence in the event of an accidental spill. Whether it is food or a drink, you need to attack it as quickly as humanly possible.

If you’re just learning how to clean upholstery, this step is one that you need to ingrain in your brain if you want to get the best results in your cleaning venture.


Never, ever allow a stain to settle into your furniture. This will spell a certain disaster for your upholstery.

a glass and spilled wine

2. Check the upholstery manufacturer’s recommendations.

Many people often overlook this when learning how to clean a couch, for example. The manufacturer can often provide a wealth of information as to how to clean sofa upholstery at home. Their label with instructions is usually attached at the back of your upholstered furniture.

In addition, go online and look for ways that can help you keep your upholstery clean. You’d be amazed at what other people have contributed to the manufacturer’s website or forums. This goes a long way in making your sofa cleaning experience much easier.

But remember, act as quickly as you can. You don’t want to give that stain time to set into your upholstery!

3. Check the cleaning codes for your fabric furniture.

If you want to know how to clean upholstery properly, always check for cleaning codes. Most upholstery has these codes that tell you what you should do to keep it clean.

woman holding cleaning solutions

Let’s say you are faced with a spill on your couch. You may find out how to clean couch cushions by looking at the codes.

These codes can tell you the difference in chemicals needed so you know the correct way how to wash a couch. If you were to just use any kind of cleaning solvent, it could potentially ruin the fabric on your couch, making your headache even worse (don’t forget to wear your hand protection while cleaning).

To help you identify these codes, I’ve provided a breakdown of them so that you can attack your spills quickly and efficiently.

a bucket, red towel and wooden brush

This means you may clean the material using water. Fabrics that have “W” on their cleaning solutions are some of the easiest materials to clean. As a bonus tip, the “W” means you may use shampoos that are water-based.

If you want to know how to wash couch cushions the safest way, look for water-based cleaning solutions. This will ensure that you are using the appropriate upholstery cleaner on your furniture.

Now you know how to clean a fabric couch cushion that features a “W” on its tag. With that, let’s move on to the next cleaning code.


You’ll have to use solvent-based cleaning solutions on furniture with this code. Using water will likely ruin the upholstery for good. If you’re using a DIY couch cleaner, make sure that water is not one of its ingredients.

Thankfully, there are many homemade upholstery cleaning solutions that don’t contain water. You might want to be proactive and make up some waterless solutions to have on hand.


If you see “WS” on the tag, this means you may use either water or any solvent-based solution. However, it is important to note that you should not use steam cleaning or hot water extraction cleaning methods on “WS” coded upholstery.


If your furniture is coded with an “X”, you should only use an upholstery vacuum or stiff brush to clean the fabric. Cleaning solutions of any kind could ruin your furniture.

4. Use a dry brush to remove loose particles.

This is especially handy on upholstery coded with an “X”. Using the brush will help work out anything that could settle in and cause a stain. Lightly brush the material and follow up with good vacuuming.

5. Vacuum

Vacuuming is a great way to get upholstery clean that isn’t suitable for cleaning solutions. Cleaning couch cushion fabrics with a lightweight vacuum is often the safest method when dealing with fine, expensive material.

vacuuming the furniture


6. Clean with baking soda.

Baking soda is a great way to get rid of odors caused by accidental spills. Moreover, it is also an excellent way to fight stains. Simply mix together a teaspoon of dish soap, baking soda, and white vinegar with some warm water.

This will give you a powerful stain-busting formula that is great for all kinds of upholstery. Just be sure to check the cleaning code first to ensure this solution is safe to use.

How do you clean upholstered chairs that have stains set in? Bingo! Baking soda. You’ll be amazed at how well this works to fight stains on your chairs.

7. Spot treat with the recommended agent.

You may not need to go through all the trouble of cleaning all of the upholstery. You may be able to use a DIY car upholstery cleaner by simply spot-cleaning the affected area of your fabric.

sofa and colorful carpets in the room

8. Dry your fabric with a soft towel.

Depending on the severity of the spill, you may need to whip out some towels to soak up the surplus liquid. This is an effective way to clean silk, for example. Simply place the towel over the spill and apply pressure to absorb as much liquid as you can.

9. Let your fabric air dry.

After you have sufficiently cleaned your upholstery, always be sure to let it air dry. Placing a cushion in the dryer could cause further damage to the upholstery. Also, you want to be sure not to sit on any upholstery that is still damp, as this could cause wrinkling.

yellow and white patterned armchair

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