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How to Clean Upholstered Furniture

Do you clean your upholstered furniture on a regular basis? Don’t wait until you can see the dust and dirt.  If you add these tips to your cleaning routines,  your upholstered furnishings will look and smell great — and last longer too!

How to Clean Upholstered Furniture

Weekly Upholstered Furniture Care

    • remove pillows and cushions
    • use the crevice tool on your vacuum to really get into all the crevices that hold the dust and dirt. If cushions are not removable, use the crevice tool to get into all the available seams and corners.Vacuum Upholstered Furniture
    • Vacuum the cushions. (I’m in love with my Dyson DC40 upright and my newest, Dyson 35 cordless vacuum)
    • Replace and rotate the cushions. You can extend your upholstered furniture’s life by periodically turning over the loose cushions.

  • Look over the pieces carefully; if you see any spots or stains treat them immediately.
  • If you have any stains, remove the cover if you can, and treat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If you aren’t sure how to treat a stain and would like to treat it yourself – try using a little white shaving cream.  Use a very small amount of white shaving cream on a damp white cloth to treat all kinds of mystery stains. When the stain is gone, dab with a second cloth and clean water.  Be sure to first test on a hidden part of the upholstery for colorfastness. *It’s always best to contact the furniture or upholstery manufacturer to see if you can get specific cleaning instructions for your particular fabric.
  • Freshen throw pillows by tossing them in the dryer and set it on air or fluff with some tennis balls to freshen and dust in one step.

Furniture Cleaning Codes at Tidymom.net

When you furniture needs a deeper clean  you can rent a Rug Doctor machine, or better yet buy one and follow these instructions on How to Clean Upholstered Furniture

Before You Begin

Rug Doctor machines and cleaning products are safe for many fabrics, even delicate fibers. HOWEVER, you risk damage to fabrics not intended for water extraction method cleaning. Do not use or place the Rug Doctor machine or cleaning products on: Silk, Haitian cotton, velour, brushed corduroy, leather, non-colorfast fabrics or upholstery fabric with cleaning codes S or X. Do not use Rug Doctor machines or attachments on mattresses or mattress toppers made with memory foam, foam or goose down. Some stains require professional treatment. Use cool water when cleaning wool, wool blends or delicate fibers.

Prepare Upholstery for Cleaning

1. Prepare surface for cleaning by thoroughly vacuuming or brushing. Set up the machine, directing your attention to the hose connections at the rear.

Set Up

2. First, pull free the top portion of the large vacuum hose at the back of the machine. Then connect the top portion of the machine vacuum hose to the vacuum hose of the Hand Tool. Next, slide down the sleeve of the brass “quick coupler” on the machine and pull out the small solution hose. Slide down the coupler sleeve again to insert the metal end of Hand Tool solution hose. Release the brass sleeve to secure. Tug gently on the hose to make certain the connection is complete.

3. Remove the UPPER (white) tank. Mix Rug Doctor Upholstery Cleaner with water in a clean bucket according to the label directions and pour into the LOWER tank.

4. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Rug Doctor Anti-Foam to UPPER tank, then slip tank back in place and seal tank and clear dome securely by replacing restraining wire.

5. Plug in the power cord and position the machine. Refer to the label on top of machine and turn the machine ON for upholstery/hand tool cleaning. On some machines you may also need to turn on an additional switch for Vacuum ON.

6. Test for colorfastness by first cleaning a small, hidden area, then rub the test area with a white towel. If no color appears, continue cleaning. A little color on the towel means there’s some chance of color running, but you probably can still clean safely. Dry cushions on sheets or towels laid out on the floor.

Cleaning Upholstered Furniture at TidyMom.net

Start Cleaning

7. Working at a slow, steady pace, begin cleaning by squeezing the hand tool lever as you pull the tool over fabric. Overlap strokes slightly. IMPORTANT: Do NOT depress the button on machine handle while using the hand tool.

8. As you clean, with the vacuum on, squirt or vacuum small amounts of Rug Doctor Anti-Foam into the small (vacuum) opening of the hand tool every few minutes to minimize suds build-up inside the vacuum hose. If foam builds up around the hand tool, pull a little bit faster or vacuum excess solution by passing over area a second time without squeezing lever.

9. When cleaning is complete, empty any remaining solution by holding the hand tool over a sink and depressing lever until tank is empty.

10. With all switches OFF, disconnect the Hand Tool hoses and securely reconnect the machine vacuum and solution hoses before returning to rental location. NOTE: For velvet upholstery, fluff up damp pile with a soft brush or towel to keep from matting.

If you learn How to Clean Upholstered Furniture it is possible to keep your upholstery looking its best for a long time. Remember, it pays to be consistent. Rug Doctor machines can be rented from your local supermarket or home improvement store for less than the cost of a professional cleaning service.

Do you have any tips for cleaning upholstered furniture?

Tips on How to Keep Your Carpet Looking it’s Best

Spring Cleaning Carpets

More Rug Doctor Cleaning Tips


Disclosure: As you know, all opinions and thoughts shared on the site are my own.  I was not paid to write this post, but do have a working relationship with Rug Doctor.  As part of that relationship, Rug Doctor sponsored my trip to BlogHer ’12 in New York City.

more by Cheryl »

Cheryl Sousan

A self-proclaimed neat freak, Cheryl chronicles her journey through homemaking on her blog, TidyMom.net, where she shares recipes, tutorials, crafting and her ever-growing love for photography. This St. Louis mom juggles her passion for life, her daughters and her tiger-loving husband, all while her obsession with tidiness cleans up the trail blazed behind her. Google+


  1. This is so useful, Cheryl! I need to bookmark this one.

  2. Great tutorial Cheryl! I was just telling my husband that we need to do this to our well used family room couches. Saving this for spring when we can open the windows and let in the warm dry air.

  3. I like the tips about freshening up pillows in the dryer, I fluff up my comforter and bed pillows that way and never though to do it for the other furniture.

  4. I so need to do this! My couch is in serious need of a cleaning.

  5. I really need this right now. My couch is in bad shape!

  6. i bought an upholstered set at auction recently and upon delivery noticed a dirt stain that I hadn’t seen before. I had a Mr. Clean type “eraser” that I had bought at the dollar store and it worked great. Also used the dryer trick for the removable cushions.

  7. These are great tips and a good tutorial – thanks Cheryl for the info. I have to try this!

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  9. This is a great tutorial! I’m adamant about vacuuming upholstered furniture, especially in the crevices, since my son and I have terrible dust allergies. But I’d never heard of using white shaving cream to remove spots. Will have to try that soon. Thanks!

  10. One of the best walkthroughs about upholstery cleaning I’ve seen. Thanks, Cheryl!

  11. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website?
    My blog site is in the exact same niche
    as yours and my users would certainly benefit from some of the information you provide
    here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Regards!

  12. Great tips, Cheryl. No one wants to see expensive furniture and home pieces deteriorate with everyday dirt and spills. Hiring a professional service to protect and clean your furniture is a great option to reduce the stress of doing all the cleaning yourself.

  13. I am unable to locate the manufacturer’s code – I see the label under the cushions identifying the contents of the cushions, etc, but I don’t see the letter codes

  14. I am unable to locate the letter code on an upholstered couch and cushions – there is a tag under the cushions identifying the contents of the cushions, etc. but I don’t see any letter code

  15. Awesome! Its in fact remarkable paragraph, I hhave got much clear idea regarding from this piece
    of writing.

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  17. Hello! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate!
    He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him.
    Farly certain he will have a good read. Thannk you for sharing!

  18. I can not find any letter code on my furniture, only tag under cushion show material on upholstery. Would appreciate any help on this. thanks

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  25. Always looking for tips on throw pillows. Thanks!

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  28. Very realistic tips!! I actually tried those on my sofa and it really worked out. Thanks Cheryl!

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  30. This is great advice to keep your upholstery looking like new for years. Unfortunately, my couch has been damaged beyond repair and has an ugly orange burn mark in the suede 🙁 At least, I think it’s damaged beyond repair. Is there anything at all I can do to minimize the mark or fade it? It’s in a big, round spot on a couch that is not removable. The perfect storm. If anyone can help me out I’d appreciate it! If nothing can be done, I won’t be surprised. :/

  31. I have been cleaning my upholstery for years using Oxyclean.  I was cleaning the seat belts on my car with a very strong solution of Oxyclean when I knocked the bucket over.  I ran to get the wet vac, and it took me about 10 minutes to get it out and set it up. When I sucked up the suds, the carpet was beter than new!  I proceeded to do this to all the interior of my Explorer. I applied the Oxyclean heavily with a scrub brush and sucked it back up with the shop vac, then rinsed it well.  To rinse it, I used the sprayer on the water hose in behind the shop vac.  Carpet cleaners are basically a soap sprayer in back of a vacuum, so I was doing the same thing the Rug Doctor was doing, only I had better control of it.  I super sucked out the water after making sure it was completely rinsed, and the car smelled wonderful for  months.  I do this now on all my upholstered furniture.  I have a B&B and you would be surprised how nasty people can be.  I clean everything at least once a year, spot cleaning in between.  Just make sure you rinse extremely well.  Left over soap residue will attract more dirt and grime.  And a tip I learned from a professional, use laundry softener in your rinse water to keep downsuds.   A tablespooon in a quart of water works well and is so cheap!  Put it in a sprayer for the hose or in the rinse water tank.

  32. A lot of good practical advice, Thanks Cheryl!

  33. I liked your tip to work at a slow, steady pace when cleaning upholstery. That seems like an important tip to make sure that the fabric on my furniture will be thoroughly cleaned. You also made a good point about preventing suds build-up inside of the vacuum hose, so remembering to squirt only small amounts of cleaner out of vacuums would make the process of cleaning my upholstery much easier. Thanks for the tips!

  34. Great tips, Cheryl. No one wants to see expensive furniture and home pieces deteriorate with everyday dirt and spills. Hiring a professional service to protect and clean your furniture is a great option to reduce the stress of doing all the cleaning yourself.

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  36. If you are anything like me then you don’t do a very good job of vacuuming the couch every week. I tend to clean my couch only when I remember or know that I have spilled something on it. So, couch covers are my friends. I just throw them in the wash and I’m done. Unfortunately, after a while the couch starts to stink a little and I suffer from my negligence in cleaning the couch.

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