From Soiled to Stunning: How to Clean Leather and Fabric Upholstered Sofas

From Soiled to Stunning: How to Clean Leather and Fabric Upholstered Sofas

No matter how durable or stain resistant the upholstery, your sofa is destined to receive an unfortunate spill every now and then. Even if your furniture enjoys only light use and the most pristine care, dust accumulates daily and leads to dingy fabric, dull leather, and diluted colors.Follow these easy tips for cleaning even the most stubborn sofa stains, and you'll protect your investment and maximize its beauty for years to come.

Cleaning fabric upholstery

Most common messes such as dirt, dust, and mud can be removed by shampooing or steam-cleaning the fabric.

1. First, vacuum the entire surface of the sofa to remove dry, loose dirt. Always complete this step before getting your upholstery wet--it will ensure a much more effective result.

2. Next, it's time pre-treat the stain. Using a clean, white, very damp cloth, dab the stain to saturate it with water and loosen stubborn dirt particles.

3. Use your cleaning agent to spot-test the upholstery for colorfastness. You can use a commercial upholstery cleaner, or you can save a few dollars by making your own: In a large bowl, combine ½ teaspoon dish or laundry detergent with a quart of warm water. Using a mixer, combine the ingredients until they turn frothy and sudsy. You'll use only the suds as the cleaning agent, so you might need to mix up additional batches for an adequate amount to saturate the entire stained area. To test, apply only the dry suds to a hidden part of your sofa's upholstery and lightly scrub into the fabric with a cloth or soft-bristled brush. Allow the spot to dry. If the area hasn't lightened or changed color (it should look cleaner, but not a different color), you can proceed to the next steps.

4. Steam clean the stain. If you don't have your own steam cleaner, you can rent one from your local supermarket. Apply dry suds from your cleaning mixture to the stain. Using the brush attachment on the steam cleaner, firmly and thoroughly shampoo the stained area in even, circular strokes. Using a spatula, scrape off the suds, then blot the area with a clean, damp cloth to remove the suds from in between the fabric's fibers. You may need to repeat this step once or twice more to completely remove the stain. Once it's removed, you'll likely want to steam clean the entire surface of your sofa to ensure that the fabric wears evenly.

5. Allow the upholstery to dry. It's important that your sofa dries quickly and completely to prevent mildew buildup inside cushions and under upholstery surfaces. Open windows, use an oscillating fan, and turn on a dehumidifier to speed the drying process.

6. Apply a fabric protector. This step will help keep your upholstery stain-resistant and durable.

Cleaning leather upholstery

Most leather sofas are made with finished leather, which is dyed for color uniformity and treated with a clear top coat for maximum durability. Because of this process, many common household stains--especially dirt and mud--can be cleaned with warm water and a clean sponge or cloth. But for tough stains, or to give your leather sofa a thorough cleaning, follow these steps:

1. Vacuum the entire surface of the sofa to remove dry, loose dirt.

2. Using a real soap product formulated for leather, such as saddle soap, lightly apply to soiled areas in broad, circular strokes using a soft brush. Remove excess soap with a clean, dry, white cloth and allow the leather to dry thoroughly.

3. If the stain is still intact, try applying a specially-formulated leather stain remover. For extremely tough stains, other methods may work more effectively. For example, for small ink stains, rubbing a white pencil eraser over the spot often works nicely. For grease, sprinkle cornstarch over the stain and cover with a damp white cloth for six hours. Remove the cornstarch with a dry white cloth, and repeat the process as necessary.

4. Next, it's important to condition the leather to keep it supple and resistant to cracks and fading. Make your own inexpensive leather conditioner by mixing two parts linseed oil and one part vinegar. Using a dry white cloth, work the mixture into the entire surface after cleaning and once a month to ensure the longevity of your leather furniture.

With a little consistent maintenance and only minimal cost, you can keep your sofa looking like new for as long as you plan to own it. Weekly dusting and vacuuming, monthly cleaning, and the immediate treatment of stains are the best ways to protect your investment.