How to Clean Upholstery The Right Way


In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, our furniture often takes center stage, providing comfort and relaxation after a long day. However, amidst the cozy cushions and plush fabrics lies a hidden menace – dirt, dust, allergens, and bacteria that accumulate over time. Upholstery cleaning isn’t just a mundane task. It’s a crucial component of maintaining a clean and healthy home environment. 

Welcome to our guide on “How to Clean Upholstery The Right Way,” where we’ll navigate through the intricacies of upholstery cleaning tips and unveil the secrets to proper maintenance. We will equip you with the knowledge and tools to ensure your furniture remains fresh, inviting, and free from harmful contaminants. Let’s dive in and discover the transformative power of proper upholstery fabric care.

Understanding Upholstery Fabrics

Before you start cleaning your upholstery, it’s essential to understand the different types of fabrics and their characteristics. Common upholstery fabrics include cotton, linen, polyester, velvet, and leather, each requiring specific care and cleaning methods.

Understanding Fabric Care Codes

Fabric care codes provide valuable guidance on how to clean and maintain upholstery fabrics. These codes include symbols like W (water-based cleaning), S (solvent-based cleaning), WS (water or solvent-based cleaning), and X (professional cleaning only). Understanding these codes ensures that you use the appropriate cleaning method for your upholstery.

Preparing for Cleaning

Before you begin cleaning your upholstery, gather the necessary supplies and equipment:

Gathering Necessary Supplies

  • Upholstery cleaner suitable for your fabric type
  • Stain remover
  • Mild detergent
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Clean cloths or microfiber towels
  • Soft-bristled brush or upholstery brush
  • Vacuum cleaner with upholstery attachment
  • Bucket
  • Spray bottle

Cleaning Solutions

Depending on the fabric type and stain severity, you may need different cleaning solutions. Water-based solutions are suitable for most fabrics, while solvent-based cleaners are best for delicate fabrics like silk.

Tools and Equipment

Having the right tools and equipment makes the cleaning process more efficient. A vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment is essential for removing surface dirt, while a soft-bristled brush helps agitate stubborn stains without damaging the fabric.

Protective Gear

Wear rubber gloves and a face mask, especially when using strong cleaning solutions, to protect your skin and respiratory system.

How to Clean Upholstery

Now let’s explore the essential steps for cleaning upholstery effectively:


Start by vacuuming the upholstery to remove surface dirt and debris. Use a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment to reach crevices, seams, and tufted areas where dirt accumulates.

  • Importance of Vacuuming

Regular vacuuming prevents dirt from settling deeper into the fabric, prolonging the lifespan of your upholstery and maintaining its appearance.

  • Using the Right Attachment

Choose the appropriate attachment for your vacuum cleaner to avoid damaging the fabric. A soft brush attachment is ideal for delicate fabrics, while a crevice tool helps reach tight spaces.

Stain Removal

Identify the type of stain before attempting to remove it. Different stains require different cleaning techniques and solutions.

Identifying Different Types of Stains

Common types of stains include water-based stains (e.g., coffee, wine), oil-based stains (e.g., grease, ink), and protein-based stains (e.g., blood, urine). Use appropriate cleaning solutions and techniques for each type of stain.

Stain-Specific Cleaning Techniques

  • For water-based stains, blot with a clean cloth dampened with water or a mild detergent solution.
  • For oil-based stains, sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the stain to absorb the oil before blotting.
  • For protein-based stains, use a mixture of cold water and enzyme-based cleaner to break down the proteins before blotting.

Deep Cleaning

For thorough cleaning, consider steam cleaning upholstery or upholstery shampooing. These methods penetrate deep into the fabric to remove embedded dirt and allergens.

Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning, also known as hot water extraction, is highly effective for deep cleaning upholstery. It involves using hot water and a cleaning solution to break down dirt and grime, followed by extraction with a vacuum.

Upholstery Shampooing

Upholstery shampooing involves applying a specialised cleaning solution to the fabric, agitating it with a brush, and then extracting the solution with a vacuum or steam cleaner.

Professional Cleaning Services

While DIY cleaning methods are effective for regular maintenance, professional upholstery cleaning services offer specialised equipment and expertise for deep cleaning and stain removal. Consider hiring professionals like Jim’s Cleaning for thorough upholstery cleaning.

Homemade Upholstery Cleaner Recipes

For DIY cleaning solutions, try these recipes using common household ingredients to clean your upholstery. While some of the best upholstery cleaning products can be found at home, professional upholstery cleaning services offer specialised care and expertise in stain removal and fabric care.

  • Vinegar and Water Solution: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle for a gentle upholstery cleaner.
  • Baking Soda Paste: Combine baking soda with a small amount of water to form a paste for removing tough stains.
  • Club Soda: Pour club soda directly onto stains and blot with a clean cloth to lift dirt and refresh the fabric.

Experiment with these homemade cleaner recipes to find the best solution for your upholstery cleaning needs.

Maintaining Upholstery After Cleaning

To keep your upholstery looking fresh after cleaning, follow these maintenance tips:

Preventive Measures

  • Use furniture covers or throws to protect upholstery from spills and pet hair.
  • Avoid placing upholstered furniture in direct sunlight to prevent fading and discoloration.
  • Rotate cushions and pillows regularly to distribute wear evenly.

Regular Maintenance Tips

  • Vacuum upholstery at least once a week to remove surface dirt and prevent it from settling into the fabric.
  • Spot clean spills and stains promptly to prevent them from setting and becoming more challenging to remove.
  • Consider professional upholstery cleaning every 12 to 18 months to maintain fabric integrity and extend furniture lifespan.


Upholstery cleaning is an essential aspect of home maintenance that shouldn’t be overlooked. By understanding different fabric types, following proper cleaning techniques, and implementing regular maintenance, you can keep your upholstery looking and feeling fresh for years to come. Whether you choose to DIY or enlist the help of professional upholstery cleaning services like Jim’s Cleaning, maintaining clean upholstery contributes to a healthier and more comfortable living environment for you and your family.


What is the best way to clean fabric upholstery?

The best way to clean fabric upholstery is to start with vacuuming to remove surface dirt, followed by spot cleaning with appropriate cleaning solutions and techniques.

How can I clean my sofa fabric?

To clean sofa fabric, vacuum the surface to remove loose dirt, then spot clean stains with a suitable cleaning solution. For deeper cleaning, consider steam cleaning or upholstery shampooing.

How do you clean upholstery fabric in NZ?

Upholstery fabric in New Zealand can be cleaned using the same techniques as elsewhere, such as vacuuming, spot cleaning, and professional cleaning services.

What is the best homemade upholstery cleaner?

Vinegar and water solution, baking soda paste, and club soda are popular homemade upholstery cleaner recipes that are effective for removing stains, eliminating odors, and refreshing fabric surfaces.