How to Clean Sofas, Upholstery & Chairs at Home

How to Clean Sofas, Upholstery and Chairs

Whether your sofa is looking a bit worse for wear, your upholstery has been gathering dust and stains, or your chairs are simply due a spring clean, give your furniture a new lease of life with our step-by-step guide on how to clean sofas, upholstery and chairs at home.

Find out exactly how to clean leather, fabric and velvet, plus our essential furniture cleaning tips to keep your sofas and chairs in great condition.

How to clean leather sofas and chairs

Leather is a great sofa fabric if you have pets and children as it’s durable, easy to clean and looks effortlessly stylish. Being a natural material, leather does behave differently from man-made items and requires different care to fabric upholstery. The best way to clean leather is to regularly vacuum and dust it with a soft, damp cloth. Here’s how:

1. Vacuum any surface dirt and grime

Start by vacuuming away any surface dirt, grime, crumbs or animal hair. Use the hoover nozzle or a soft brush attachment to get into the creases and avoid scratching the leather. If you don’t have a vacuum, brush off dirt with a soft microfibre cloth.

2. Prepare your cleaning materials

We’d recommend using a leather sofa cleaning solution, but a gentle soap and water mix or a dilution of 50:50 white vinegar and water will also do the trick. Whatever you choose, first test it on a small part of your sofa to check that it doesn’t discolour the leather (ideally somewhere that isn’t very visible) before using it all over.

3. Clean with a damp cloth

Find a clean soft cloth and dip it into the solution. Wring it out before you start rubbing down the sofa – you want it to be damp not soaking. Use gentle, circular motions to clean the area and get into all of the nooks and crannies, rinsing the cloth out as you go. Hard, repeated rubbing of leather will remove its protective layer and could alter the colour, so make sure you rub firmly, but gently. Then, immediately follow by wiping the area with a soft, dry cloth or leave to dry naturally.

4. Finish with leather conditioner

Occasional application of neutral leather cream or conditioner will help to restore its sheen and suppleness. Apply a small amount to a soft cloth and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to apply.

When cleaning a leather couch or chair, do not use:

  • Detergents or detergent solutions
  • Wet wipes or such products
  • Saddle soap, wax or any form of spray polish
  • Direct heat (from a hairdryer, radiator, etc.) to quicken the drying process as this can cause cracking to the hide

How to clean fabric sofas and chairs

Fabric sofas are a popular choice as they are comfortable and cosy, however, they do require more maintenance and can be trickier to clean. Light dirt and dust will increase wear on the fabric and can dull the colours, giving it a faded appearance. Here’s how to clean fabric sofas and upholstered chairs to keep them in great condition:

1. Check the manufacturer’s instructions

As fabric isn’t as durable as leather, check the manufacturer’s label before you start cleaning to make sure that you don’t damage your sofa or chair. You can also check the cleaning tags to see how it can be cleaned. ‘W’ means use water, ‘WS’ means use cleaning detergent and steam vacuum, ‘X’ means use no water and just vacuum, and ‘S’ means use detergent.

2. Vacuum surface dirt and debris

Vacuum your sofa using the upholstery attachment on a low setting without rubbing it into the fabric to get rid of any surface dirt and debris. If you don’t have a vacuum, go over it with a soft brush – but never use a stiff fibre or metal brush as this will damage the fabric.

3. Wet clean

Be cautious with wet cleaning as it can cause fabric colours to ‘bleed’ or leave a permanent mark, cause material puckering, or damage the foam filling. Add your chosen cleaning solution (either water or a cleaning detergent) to a clean microfibre cloth. Make sure that it is damp (not soaking) and blot the area to lift any stains or grime.

You can also use a mixture of equal parts baking soda and water to remove odours and loosen stains. Leave it to work for 15 minutes before vacuuming away the excess. Make sure to always test this on the fabric first in an inconspicuous area.

4. Dry clean

Then, take a dry microfibre cloth and blot the area again, never rubbing, to remove any excess solution and prevent it from drying with any watermarks.

How to clean velvet sofas and chairs

These luxuriously textured fabrics are delicate and tend to crush, crease and flatten during use. This is not a fault or sign of wear but is simply an inherent characteristic of this type of fabrics, so they should be cleaned with care.

1. Brush off or vacuum excess dirt and dust

Get rid of surface debris, dust or crumbs with a soft brush or a vacuum hoover used on a low suction setting.

2. Blot to remove stains

Remove stains by gently blotting them with a clean damp cloth. You can just use warm water or opt for a small amount of soap and warm water. Where the seat cushion is removable, it should be reversed on a regular basis to avoid uneven wear.

3. Brush the fabric

Once dry, use a soft brush in the direction of the pile to return it to optimal condition. If there are creases, unnatural lines or even old stains, you can finish by using an upholstery steam cleaner to get rid of them for a flawless finish.

How to clean suede sofas and chairs

Suede is a luxurious material, but it’s notoriously challenging to maintain. However, with the right knowledge, you can remove stains from suede and keep your furniture looking as good as new.

1. Vacuum away dust and dirt

Much like fabric and velvet sofas and chairs, begin by vacuuming any dust and dirt. Then, gently wipe the suede down with a damp cloth to get rid of any final debris and restore its lustre. Be careful not to use too much water as suede is sensitive to moisture.

2. Blot stains carefully

Tackle any spills and stains as soon as you can, as the longer you leave them the harder they are to remove. We recommend buying a specialised suede cleaner and (after testing the product on an invisible area) apply it as directed on the bottle then blot the area afterwards with a damp cloth. Use a hair dryer on a cool setting to dry the area quickly.

3. Brush it

Use a soft brush in small circular motions to remove dust and restore its shine. Do this regularly to keep your suede looking immaculate.

How to clean sofa and chair cushions

Make sure you know what fabric your cushions are before you start as this will affect how you clean them.

1. Give them a beat outside

Begin by taking them outside and giving them a good beat to remove any surface debris. You may even want to vacuum them to remove stubborn pet hair.

2. Remove stains

When it comes to removing stains from sofa cushions, leather cushions should be taken to the dry cleaners, suede cushions can be gently rubbed down with a rubbing cloth, and vinyl cushion covers can be wiped down with a damp cloth and water.

3. Check if they are machine washable

Read the tags to see if they are machine washable and if they are, remove the covers and pop them into the washing machine. Remember to follow the instructions on the tags for advice on machine washing and tumble drying.

4. Fluff them up

Once dry, fluff up your cushions for fullness and put them back on the sofa. Remember to flip your cushions around every couple of weeks to keep them looking fresh.

Cushion and fabric care

  • Sitting on the edge of the seat cushion will cause premature wearing and distortion of the fillings
  • Some fabrics may fade in time if exposed to strong sunlight over long periods – please consider this when positioning your furniture in the room

General furniture care and cleaning tips:

  • Should any spillages occur, clean the area immediately, as the longer any liquid remains on the surface, the greater the chance of lasting damage is. Use a dry cloth to absorb as much of the liquid as possible by dabbing the area
  • Avoid positioning your furniture in direct sunlight or too close to a radiator (leave at least a 12” gap from a radiator) to avoid sun and heat damage
  • Avoid prolonged contact with hair gels, deodorant, sprays, body creams and moisturisers, etc. These can remove or damage the protective topcoat and discolour the leather. Regularly remove any build-up of product to help minimise the effects of this
  • Avoid contact with any sharp objects like belts, buckles, brooches, metal studs and zips as these can damage leather hide or pull on fabric
  • Do not leave newspapers on furniture as the ink can cause discolouration
  • Do not allow pets or animals to climb on furniture. Their sharp claws can damage leather and fabric sofas and wear them out more quickly

We hope our guide on how to clean sofas, chairs and upholstery has shown you how to keep your furniture in top condition. However, if you are still unsure, then speak to a professional before doing anything rash. Unsure which fabric is right for you? Read our leather or fabric guide to find out.

At HSL, every chair and sofa is designed with CleverComfort™ and is evaluated by our independent Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC, to ensure that they are comfortable and supportive. Browse our full collection of chairs and sofas today.

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