It’s hard to imagine a home without any kind of furniture, upholstered or not. From comfortable settees to sturdy chairs, we get used to them all so quickly. But sometimes, they need a bit of love and care, because accidents happen. Let’s read all about it below…
What is the best way to clean furniture?
Truthfully, there is no straight answer to this particular question, due to the vast variety in sofa materials and finishes. However, if you don’t like snooping through dozens of articles online to find tips on how to clean your furniture, I feel you. That’s actually part of the reason I decided to compile this list of advice for you. But before you can find out how to clean your sofas and chairs, you need to know:
Why should you not overlook upholstery cleaning?
I know what you’re thinking – it’s not really necessary to maintain furniture all that much, is it? Just wipe up the occasional drink spillage and give it a dusting every now and then? Well, it’s not as simple as it may seem at first glance.
You see, sofas and armchairs, as well as other upholstery like footstools, dining chairs and the latest trend, gaming chairs, all need their respective care. Depending on the type of upholstery or non-upholstered material, some require more than others. For example, you’ll definitely need to do more to keep a velvet sofa clean, compared to a wooden chair.
And besides that, all types of furniture have two unavoidable issues – dust and sunlight wear. There is no way to stop dust build-up, the best you can do is try to keep a lid on it. No matter how many sofa covers you invest in, you will have to hoover the sofa sooner or later. And for sunlight wear, you can keep the furniture out of the light, but not all day round. Unless you like moving it around every day, which I’m sure nobody really has the mental fortitude to do.
But wait, there’s more – you can bubble wrap your sofas if you want, but sooner or later, the children, pets and/or other mishaps will stain it. When that happens, you need to be prepared to deal with the marks before they become a painful scar on your sofa. Now then, without further ado, let’s go through tips on how to clean every sofa material in no particular order:
How do you clean wooden furniture?
Wood is always a safe choice for any home, especially one with children and/or pets. The great thing about it is that by far, it is the least demanding in terms of maintenance. What is more, it’s sturdy, and you can equip chairs with an extra pillow to sit down even more comfortably on. Said pillows can simply be thrown in the washing machine periodically or whenever a spillage occurs.
In terms of generally caring for your wooden chairs or tables, they only really need the occasional dusting, and to be kept under certain weather conditions. For dusting, you need a dry cloth which is completely lint-free. That’s important since the lint can get caught on the edges and potentially tear the cloth. By dusting it often, you’re slowing down the build-up of dirt on the furniture.
In terms of weather conditions, what I mean is you should keep them out of direct sunlight as much as possible. When they sit too long in the sun, their colours fade and they dry up. “But shouldn’t my wooden chairs be dry?” you’d ask – and the answer is no. When they’re far too dry, they may crack, and then you have to contact a restoration company.
That doesn’t mean they should be wet either, as wood easily suffers from fungus growth when too damp. Like many things in life, this is all in the balance, too. Instead of having fluctuating temperature in your home throughout the year, try to keep it more or less the same all year round. This will ensure you avoid both mould growth and cracks from dryness – isn’t that nice?
In terms of how to remove stains from wooden furniture, it’s very straightforward. Grab your nearest cloth and spirit (ideally mineral), and perform a patch test in a small area before you go ahead and clean with it. If you don’t like the results from the test, swap the spirit with alcohol which is denatured, and it should work better. Either way, blot out the stain with one cloth, apply the cleaning product with another, and then dry it with a third cloth, all colour fast and lint-free.
Don’t forget to always wax your wood after every cleaning session. And as an added tip, don’t use anything containing ammonia to clean wood – the results are usually a disaster.
How do you clean rattan furniture?
I know what you’re thinking: “What is rattan furniture?” Well, have you ever seen outdoor furniture that looks like wood, but woven together? That’s exactly what rattan is, and trust me, even I wasn’t aware of its name until recently. My point is, you’re never too old to learn, so how about we learn more about rattan?
The name of the furniture type comes from the plant it’s made of, which is an umbrella term for a few hundred species of palm or liana growing in tropical regions of the world. When people say rattan, they are commonly referring to natural woven furniture, but there is a synthetic subset as well. They have a core difference – natural rattan is weak to sun bleaching and mould growth when exposed to excessive UV light and rain, respectively. On the contrary, synthetic rattan (which looks and feels the same) is resistant to both, and makes for perfect outdoor furniture.
Regardless of whether it’s natural or synthetic, rattan is light and easy to move around, but that doesn’t mean it’s weaker than regular wood. Because it’s easy to move around, you can easily come up with the perfect line-up for your back garden by relocating it a few times. And in the rainy UK weather, synthetic rattan can even be left outside – assuming it’s not a total flood.
Now, about the cleaning and care for your rattan, things are possibly less complicated than wood. However, bear in mind that natural rattan requires much more care than synthetic, due to being weak to mould, a trait it shares with wood. To protect your natural rattan, buy covers for it, and if it’s outdoor (which we don’t recommend), get a nice big parasol to shield it from the sun and rain.
For cleaning rattan, all you need is some mild dish soap and water. Remember to properly blot out the water right after, so it doesn’t leave marks. Natural rattan should be left in the sun after being spot cleaned until it’s fully dry, so as to prevent potential mould growth. As with any type of furniture, a cover never harmed anyone, so buy yourself some of those too.
How to clean sofa upholstery at home?
This is a broad subject, since there’s lots of different sofa fabrics and finishes, and there are specific techniques to clean each kind. Some are suitable for water cleaning, whilst others are not, and a few particular ones are best left to professionals. Let’s dig into it, shall we?
A very neat way to find out what to do (and not to do) is by checking for a cleaning label attached to your sofa. This is usually stitched to one of the sitting or back cushions, or the bottom of the sofa base. If there isn’t one, don’t worry – if you remember the website of the manufacturer you bought it from, you can check there. 95% of the time, your particular sofa model and finish is right there, and there are (at least vague) cleaning instructions. If it says “professional cleaning only”, you know where to find us, so don’t hesitate to call right away.
Other than that, if you see a label, but it’s all in weird symbols that almost look like Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, don’t panic. Here’s a brief guideline to reading the moon runes on cleaning labels:
W stands for water-based cleaning solutions, and non-tap water. If you clean a fabric sofa with this symbol using tap water, ring marks are almost guaranteed unless you extract the water. And unless you rent a rug doctor or similar portable machine, you won’t be able to extract it all.
S or P is for solvents, meaning only solvent-based products are suitable to clean this particular sofa. Normally, these solvents are water-free, meaning that likely, you’re looking at dry cleaning, with minimal or no moisture at all. You should never use water to clean a sofa that’s marked with this symbol.
WS or SW are basically a mix of both, and by far the easiest sofas to look after on a general basis. Still, remember to only use distilled water when cleaning these sofas yourself. You don’t want to muck them up with some dirty looking ring marks, do you now?
X means DON’T! I’m half-joking, but what it really means is “professional cleaning only”. You can hoover this sofa all you want, but when there’s marks to remove, call an expert in all cases. If you self-clean an X marked sofa, the chances of unwanted side effects on the material are very high.
How to clean a fabric sofa without professional cleaning?
Now, in terms of how to clean fabric sofas yourself, it all depends on what the actual material is. To clean purely synthetic sofas (100% nylon or polyester), patch test a water-based product first. It’s advisory to do this in a hard to see area, such as the sofa back, since if there’s shrinkage or colour loss, you can just put it back up against the wall.
Natural sofas (silk, linen) are best cleaned with a lower amount of water, and this respectively means lower proportions of a water-based cleaning solution. In turn, this means that tough stains are even worse on these sofa types, and need to be reacted to even faster. Some of these sofas are not safe for water-based cleaning, so read the label before you proceed.
For mixed fabric (e.g. 80% polyester and 20% cotton), these sofas are more often primarily synthetic with a natural finish, though there are examples of the opposite. Most disappointingly, these sofas are the worst offender in terms of vague cleaning labels. If you have a mixed sofa, 8 out of 10 times, the label says “professional cleaning only” with no other specific information. Then again, at least you don’t have to clean it yourself, right?
A safe bet for stain removal on most types of sofas is to blot first, getting as much as you can before you use a product on the stain. Remember to use a colour fast cloth or paper towels, and use a wet hoover with a brush attachment to reach what can’t be blotted out. Then, mix a tablespoon of dish soap into a pint of lukewarm water, and apply it via spray bottle. After it has been there for a few minutes, blot it out and let the sofa dry.
Depending on whether you’re contacting dry cleaners or steam cleaners, it depends. Dry cleaners will clean the sofas with solvent-based cleaning solutions, and use special products to take care of their residues. Unlike dry carpet cleaning, most sofas are not cleaned with powder-based products, as those are much harder to remove from upholstery compared to carpets.
Hot water extraction cleaning is how to deeply clean upholstered furniture, and it’s done with high-end equipment which sprays water under high pressure inside the material. The machine extracts almost all water used during the process, which shortens drying time to a bare minimum. The cleaning solutions used may vary, but by default are mostly water-based or water-soluble powders.
In terms of a comparison between the methods, dry cleaning is mostly suitable for regular maintenance, whereas steam cleaning (water extraction) is the best for stain removal and deep disinfection cleaning purposes. When choosing a cleaning company, make sure your sofa is suitable for their cleaning method, so you avoid costly replacement or reupholstering (which often costs as much as a new sofa).
How to clean velvet sofas?
Velvet is a beautiful and luxury material, and it makes a statement about its owner right away. However, it’s also a real headache to clean, and some types can only be cleaned a certain way. The worst part is, they all resemble each other, and they all cost a fortune. This means you need to be very careful with your furniture investment.
For regular maintenance of a velvet sofa, use a hoover with a brush attachment. Never use a hoover without a brush, as the little plushy hairs that make the velvet soft and comfortable can be damaged otherwise. This will make the velvet feel different to the touch, and look less impressive to you and other people.
Professionals will opt to delicately clean your velvet upholstery, leaving it fully refreshed and disinfected in all cases. However, due to the material’s specific requirements, it is cleaned more gently than normal fabric, thus particular issues are harder to remove. Still, as mentioned before, most velvet sofas are not suitable for non-professional cleaning. Therefore, your less expensive option is to allow the experts to do their best, because reupholstering velvet costs an arm and a leg.
What are leather sofas?
Leather sofas are the classic that’s always in style, and the retro that never gets old. There’s also a great deal of choice between them, as they can be dyed in almost any colour. The material is sturdy, easy to look after, and can serve you decades when properly cared for.
Yet as any other type of furniture material, leather is not perfect, as it has its downsides. For example, leather is not all that breathable compared to fabric, so you may perspire more with prolonged use. This is especially true of faux leather, informally known as fake leather and formally known as Rexine. Faux leather is fabric made to resemble leather, but somehow, it’s even less breathable than genuine leather – funny how that works.
The bigger downside of real and faux leather is that stains are harder to remove on them. On almost all types of real leather, if spills have not been left to dry, you can just wipe them off with a clean cloth. However, once stains happen, they rarely come off, and there’s not much even professionals can do about it. There’s even a particular type of leather that absorbs liquid easier, and thus stains much faster – it’s known as aniline. We’re not telling you to not buy one, as they’re really comfortable, but please do invest in a sofa cover or three.
Suede is also a type of leather, which has been split and sanded to be smoother and tenderer to the touch. Other examples of leather types include nubuck and aniline, which are also absorbent; full-grain, top grain and split grain are also a thing. Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong with it, but you will need to be a bit more careful with it compared to, say, a polyester upholstered sofa.
How do I clean leather sofas at home?
As any other furniture, make sure you take regular care of your leather settees. Give it a hoover at least twice a week, and use the brush attachment, so you don’t mark or scratch it. Afterwards, wipe it down with a damp clean cloth to collect anything missed by the hoover. Then immediately wipe again with a dry clean cloth to not leave any moisture on the surface.
For removing food stains, especially greasy ones, use a handful of baking soda to absorb the excess oil, and wipe it away with a dry cloth. Then, follow up with a damp cloth to catch the excess soda, and then a third, dry cloth, to remove the moisture. Generally, when cleaning leather, you’re in a loop of dry – wet – dry – repeat, at least in terms of cloth towels.
After cleaning any leather sofa, remember to condition it. This is an important part of keeping your sofa fresh and slick. Most manufacturers endorse a particular product line with their sofas, and some conditioners are able to clean the sofa and condition it all in one go. And as a final tip, please don’t use any harsh products on your leather, such as anything containing bleach.
Why should I hire a professional leather cleaner?
Simply put, store-brand products are sometimes hit-or-miss on fabric, but always miss-or-miss on leather, if that makes sense. They are dubious in chemical compound, and the vast majority are certainly not eco-friendly. On a costly investment such as leather, you can’t afford to experiment.
Professional leather sofa cleaners know how to treat all types of leather in the most suitable way. The self-respecting ones will hoover your sofas before using products, then apply conditioners once the job is finished. The real dealmaker is that you get all of this, and a clean sofa, while you’re free to do better things with your time.
That just about wraps up our one-stop guide for furniture care and maintenance. Should you have any questions about your furniture, or ideas on what you’d like to see us write about next, don’t hesitate to pop us a quick email or call! You can even receive a free sofa cleaning quote while you’re at it!