How to Clean Upholstery

Try this: Take a damp rag and gently wipe it across your living room sofa. There’s a good chance you will discover a transfer of dirt and other soils from sofa to rag. This is what we call “damp dusting”, and it, along with vacuuming and rotating cushions, should be done regularly to preserve moderate to heavily used furniture. 

Although the DIY methods listed above will  temporarily make your furnishings look cleaner, professional cleaning is a critical step in keeping your furnishings fresh and vibrant, as well as ensuring their longevity.


Cleanability Codes

Before any kind of upholstery cleaning, it is vital to consider the cleanability codes associated with the fabric. These codes may be found on a tag or on the deck of chairs and sofas.  If you can’t find the code, or have a custom piece, they can be found from other sources such as company websites. Let’s take a closer look at these cleanability codes and what they mean.

WSpot clean only with water-based shampoo or foam upholstery cleaner.

SSpot clean only with a dry-cleaning solvent. Do NOT use water.

WSSpot clean with upholstery shampoo, foam from a mild detergent, or a mild dry cleaning solvent.

XClean only by vacuuming or light brushing with a non-metallic, stiff bristle brush. Do NOT use any water or solvent-based cleaner.

It is important to note that many fabrics carry codes that are unnecessarily conservative. Many upholstery manufacturers and suppliers decide which of these codes to use based on caution, rather than adequate testing. Dry cleaning is the safest form of cleaning for most upholstery fabrics, as dry-cleaning methods are far less prone to shrinkage, pile distortion and color bleeding issues than water-based methods. Although dry cleaning is the safest route to take, it may not be as effective as other methods. If you are ever unsure of which method to best clean your furnishings, you must ALWAYS TEST the cleaning agent and the procedure before cleaning.  Remember your local Fiber-Seal Service Center is just a phone call away!

Don't Forget to Test!

Adequate testing is strongly recommended when cleaning any upholstery, as there is an abundance of variables in fibers, fabrics, cleaning methods, and cleaning agents. Apply a small amount of the cleaning agent to an inconspicuous area. Let stand for 5 minutes and gently blot with a dry white terry or paper towel.  If any color movement or unusual change such as nap distortion or crushing is detected, stop and call your Fiber-Seal Service Center for assistance.

Truths About Upholstery Cleaning


While yes, it is true that sofas, chairs, and other upholstered pieces sometimes don’t look as great after cleaning as you had hoped, this can be at least partly avoided by using proper cleaning equipment, techniques and cleaning agents. Whether you take a do-it-yourself approach or hire a cleaning service, the types of detergents, equipment and techniques used can make or break the outcome.  And maybe, the biggest factor is that you have waited too long to have your furnishing cleaned.


The all too common “I’ll get to it later” mentality only adds to the problem. The longer you wait to have your upholstery cleaned, the better the chance it becomes soil-saturated and stained; requiring more aggressive cleaning measures which may result in a less attractive outcome. We cannot recommend vacuuming and damp dusting your upholstery enough, as dry particles can cause premature wear of fine fabrics. When the inevitable professional cleanings are needed, be sure to do your research before picking a company.

Performed by trained fabric care experts at Fiber-Seal®

Concern: "I never know when things need to be cleaned."

There are four general types of soiling:

Vacuumable: Dry particles/soils are deposited first on the fabric surfaces where they are most readily vacuumable. Vacuuming should be done quarterly at least.

Wipeable: Because of their greasy or sticky nature, all dry surface soils not removable by vacuuming can be released by wiping with a towel and a cleaning agent.

Blottable: Accidental spills should be immediately and thoroughly blotted (Never Rubbed). Further dilution with water or solvent and blotting repeatedly can eliminate most residues.

Restorative: If vacuuming, wiping, and blotting are not routinely practiced, soil becomes embedded and professional cleaning becomes the necessary restorative step.

The truth: It is up to you.

If you are maintaining your furnishings with vacuuming, damp-dusting and spot cleaning on a quarterly basis then overall cleaning may not be necessary for a year or two.

Should You Hire a Professional Cleaning Service?

The short answer? yes. You can go to a store and rent equipment for hot water extraction or shampooing and give it your best shot, however, hiring skilled and experienced fabric care experts will usually be worth the additional expense. With over 50 years of experience, Fiber-Seal takes pride in the fabric care expertise our technicians have to keep your furnishings looking fresh year-round.

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