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How to Clean Upholstery

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The following instructions cover how to clean most upholstery using some basic procedures. At times though, you may not be able to get all the stains out on your own. You also can't deep clean very effectively with do-it-your-self methods, so we'll also take a look at when you might need a professional cleaner, and how much you can expect to pay.

Always vacuum a chair or couch before you start the rest of the cleaning process. Otherwise it is possible to cause more staining, since you will be adding moisture to whatever is already there. If there are any dried substances that can be broken up a bit, carefully do so using your fingers, and then vacuum again.

If any spots are from recent spills you might still get some of the material off with a rubber spatula or the edge of a spoon. Be careful with the more delicate upholstery fabrics, and be careful not to spread spot in any case. If you are cleaning cushions that can be removed, take them to an area where you can work on them without introducing more dirt; a clean garage or a kitchen floor, for example.

For the cleaning itself you can use a mild dish detergent and a small scrub brush (a toothbrush can work for small stains). Mix two tablespoons of detergent into a cup of water and put it in a blender. Blend until you have a frothy foam.

With a soft brush work a little bit of the cleaning solution into the stain. You should see some of the dirt or staining material lift up into the foam. You can carefully scrape away the dirty foam with a spoon or rubber spatula. Then repeat the process if necessary. Be careful not to use too much of the cleaning solution and don't let it spread too far.

Drip some fresh water on the spot to rinse out the soap, and soak this up with a clean white cloth. repeat this several times to remove as much detergent as possible. If you have a wet-dry shop-vac it will be more effective than a cloth for removing the solution. Just apply a bit of water, suck it out and repeat.

That's how to clean upholstery, but you aren't done yet. It is important to dry the material quickly. If you have that shop-vac, suck out as much moisture as possible. Push on the the area and dab out moisture to the extent possible with a clean white cotton cloth or undyed white paper towels. After this, place a fan where it will blow some air across the spot, and leave it there for an hour or more.

More Upholstery Tips

You may want to try this whole process on a inconspicuous part of the furniture first, to be sure that the material is color-fast.

If your homemade cleaning solvent doesn't get the job done, you can try some of the commercial upholstery cleaners. Be aware though, that often contain toxins such as acetone or nitrilotriacetic acid. Wear gloves and be sure you completely rinse the cleaned area.

Finally, if you cannot clean upholstery sufficiently by yourself, call a professional. Almost all carpet cleaners also clean couches and chairs. For a sofa they will charge anywhere from $50 to $200, and for love seats or chairs you can expect to pay anywhere from $35 to $135 each. Remembering those cleaning costs might motivate you to keep that upholstery from getting dirty too often.

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