Dry cleaning products for upholstery

Updated February 21, 2017

Steam cleaning your upholstery isn't always the best choice; in fact, some upholstery will be ruined by anything wet. So check the sofa or chair label for its fabric cleaning code: "W" upholstery can be water-cleaned; "S" requires a solvent cleaner; "SW" means water- or solvent-based cleaners are safe; and "X" means dry-clean-only. Some furniture tags will read "Dry-Clean Only." Protect your investment by finding the most economical and safe way to clean upholstery.

Spray-on Spot Lifters

Always begin by wiping down and vacuuming the furniture. Get every bit of loose dirt up before you apply any chemicals. Test whatever product you plan to use on an unobtrusive spot on the furniture. If any colour lifts or blurs or any other undesirable result occurs, don't use the product on your upholstered furniture. Some home dry cleaning applications may work for your sofa. Use a spray-on, let-dry and brush-off product designed to lift grease and oil stains from upholstery fabric. Some can be used on natural fibres and synthetics. Fabric and upholstery foam cleaners are available, but they may not work on some dry-clean-only fabrics, so spot check before use.

Dry Cleaning Cloths

Dry cleaning cloths were invented to dry-clean clothes in a dryer. They work just as well on dry-clean-only upholstery. Simply rub the cloth gently over the upholstery, changing to a new cloth as soon as one becomes dirty. Keep going until the entire piece has been thoroughly wiped. You should see a brighter, fresher sofa or chair emerge as you work. Vacuum the furniture when you are finished to get up any dirt that was loosened by the cleaning cloth. Cloths are sold that are designed for dryers and that can be used on furniture for hand-cleaning. Don't forget to spot test for colour fastness before tackling the whole sofa. If your cushion covers are removable and nonshrinkable, you can put them in the dryer with a dry cleaning cloth. Only try this is if you are certain the heat or agitation won't damage the material. Or use baby wipes as cleaning cloths, but these should definitely be spot tested first. The unscented ones have fewer chemicals.

Professional Products

For valuable antiques, sentimental heritage furniture or a piece that does not respond well to other methods, protect your investment and call in a professional. Professional dry cleaners use products that can be tricky to manage or difficult for consumers to obtain. They have high-grade vacuuming equipment and carbonated cleansers that can lift the dirt out of that favourite wing chair. Compare the expense of the cleaning session to the replacement cost of the furniture to see if using a professional makes sense.

In-a-Pinch Options

Home remedies work well for some living room or car upholstery. Inspect your furniture carefully before trying any of them. Blot a liquid spill immediately with clean cloths and paper towels to pick it all right up. Use cleaning foam, and scrub gently with an old toothbrush, and lift the remaining soil with a clean, dry cloth. You can blot an ink stain, and then spray it with hairspray. Let it sit for a minute or so before wiping with clean dry towels. White, non-gel toothpaste can remove lipstick stains. A paste of baking soda and water can remove acid stains. Club soda helps to lift red wine. But these are not dry cleaning solutions and can harm delicate fabric. Use caution when determining how to tackle any upholstery cleaning, and wipe down and vacuum often to keep upholstery in good condition.

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About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .