How to Wash Upholstery Fabric the Right Way: A Complete Guide

Upholstered furniture can easily accumulate dirt, stains, and unpleasant odors over time, and washing the fabric is often the best way to restore its appearance and freshness. Your sofa can be of velvet, polyester, leather, suede, or of any other fabric. However, washing upholstery fabric requires some knowledge and care to avoid damaging the material, causing shrinkage, or causing color fading. Using the wrong technique or cleaning product can damage the fabric or cause discoloration. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to wash upholstery fabric the right way.

This will include tips on determining the fabric type and washing instructions, preparing the fabric for washing, selecting the appropriate cleaning solution and method, and drying and maintaining the fabric after washing.

washing upholstery fabric

Whether you are dealing with a simple spill or a full-on deep cleaning, our guide will help you achieve clean and revitalized upholstery fabric while preserving its quality and longevity. By following these tips and tricks, you can keep your upholstery fabric clean, fresh, and looking its best for years to come.

Needed Supplies to Wash Upholstery Fabric:

Before washing upholstery fabric, it is important to gather the necessary supplies. The required supplies may vary depending on the type of fabric. Having the necessary supplies on hand will make the process of cleaning couch cushions and fabric easier and more efficient. With the right supplies and proper care, it is possible to keep upholstery fabric looking clean and fresh for years to come.

Dishwashing Liquid:

Dishwashing liquid is a versatile cleaning agent that can be used to clean upholstery fabric. It is effective in removing dirt, stains, and other debris from the surface of the fabric. When used correctly, it can help restore the look and feel of your upholstery, leaving it looking fresh and clean.

dishwashing liquid

Warm Water:

Warm water is a necessary supply to wash upholstery fabric and sofa cushions. It is important to use the appropriate temperature of water for the specific type of fabric being cleaned to avoid damage.

Baking Soda:

Baking soda is a versatile cleaning agent that can help deodorize and remove stains from upholstery fabric. When used correctly, it can be an effective and affordable option for keeping your upholstery clean and fresh.

baking soda

Vacuum Cleaner:

A vacuum cleaner can be used to clean upholstery fabric by removing loose dirt, dust, and debris from the surface and crevices of the fabric.

vacuum cleaner

Sponge or Microfiber Cloth:

They are great for gently cleaning the fabric without causing damage or leaving any residue. A microfiber cloth is particularly effective as it can trap dirt and dust particles, making it easier to remove them from the upholstery.


White Vinegar:

White vinegar is a popular natural cleaning solution that can be used to wash upholstery fabric. It is effective in removing odors, stains, and bacteria. However, it should be used with caution on certain types of fabrics.

white vinegar

Mild Detergent:

Using mild detergent is a popular and effective way to wash upholstery fabric. It is gentle enough to not damage the fabric and is also effective in removing dirt and stains.

mild detergent

Fan or Hairdryer:

Using a fan or hairdryer can help dry upholstery fabric after cleaning to prevent mold and mildew growth.


Be Mindful of the Care Tags:

When it comes to washing upholstery fabric, it’s important to be mindful of the care tags attached to the fabric. These tags provide essential information on how to clean the fabric without damaging it. Care tags can usually be found under cushions or on the underside of the furniture.

“S” Tag:

This tag indicates that the upholstery fabric should only be cleaned with a solvent-based cleaner. Avoid using water or water-based cleaners, as they can damage the upholstery. Always follow the instructions on the solvent-based cleaner carefully.

“W” Tag:

This tag indicates that the fabric can be cleaned with a water-based cleaner. However, it is important to use a gentle, mild detergent and avoid saturating the material with water. Always test the cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area first before cleaning the entire fabric.

“SW” Tag:

This tag indicates that the upholstery fabric can be cleaned with either a solvent-based cleaner or a water-based cleaner. Again, always test the cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area first before cleaning the entire fabric.

“X” Tag:

This tag indicates that the fabric should only be vacuumed and not cleaned with any type of cleaner. Avoid using water, solvent-based cleaners, or other cleaning products on the fabric.

How to Wash Upholstery Fabric Properly? ( Removable Covers)

If your upholstery has removable covers, washing them can be a straightforward process. Here are the steps to follow for washing removable upholstery covers:

Check the Care Label:

Before washing, check the care label for any specific instructions. If it’s safe to wash, remove the covers from the furniture.

Vacuum the Covers:

Use a vacuum cleaner to remove any loose dirt, dust, and debris from the covers. Be sure to use an upholstery attachment.

vacuuming upholstery fabric

Pre-treat Stains:

Apply a pre-treatment solution to any stains or heavily soiled areas. Let the solution sit for the recommended time on the product label.

Wash the Covers:

Place the covers in the washing machine and use a mild detergent on a gentle cycle. Avoid using bleach or fabric softeners, as they can damage the fabric.

Dry the Covers:

Hang the covers to air dry or place them in the dryer on a low heat setting. Be sure to check the care label for specific drying instructions.

Reattach the Covers:

Once the covers are dry, reattach them to the furniture.

Sprinkle Baking Soda on the Cushions:

Simply remove the cushions from the furniture, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on them, and let them sit for several hours or overnight. Then, vacuum up the baking soda using the upholstery attachment of your vacuum cleaner.

Let it Air Dry:

It is important to let the upholstery air dry completely after washing. Use a hairdryer or fan with a low speed during the drying process.
Remember to always check the care label before washing and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.

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How to Wash Upholstery Fabric Properly? (Non-removable Covers):

When it comes to washing upholstery fabric with non-removable covers, it’s essential to take a gentle approach to avoid damaging the fabric or the padding underneath. Here are the steps you can follow:

  1. Vacuum the upholstery thoroughly to remove any loose debris or dirt.
  2. Mix a small amount of mild detergent with warm water, making sure not to create too many suds.
  3. Dip a microfiber cloth or sponge into the solution and wring it out until it’s just damp.
  4. Starting at the top of the furniture, work in small sections, gently rubbing the cloth or sponge over the upholstery in circular motions.
  5. Once you’ve covered the entire surface, use a clean, damp cloth or sponge to remove any remaining soap residue.
  6. Use a fan or a hairdryer on low heat to help the upholstery dry faster.
  7. Once the upholstery is completely dry, give it a quick vacuum to restore the pile and remove any remaining dirt or debris.
  8. Remember to always check the care tag for specific cleaning instructions and avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasives that could damage the fabric.

Other Ways to Wash an Upholstery Fabric:

There are various methods to wash upholstery fabric, and not all of them involve using water and soap. In some cases, alternative methods can be more effective or better suited to certain types of fabric. It’s important to consider the type of fabric and the level of dirt or stains when deciding which method to use.

Use Sunlight:

While not a traditional method, sunlight can be used to help freshen and sanitize upholstery fabric. Simply take the upholstered item outside and place it in direct sunlight for a few hours. The UV rays from the sun will help kill bacteria and freshen the fabric. It is important to note that this method is not suitable for delicate or antique upholstery, and prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause fading or damage to the fabric.

Use Vinegar:

Using vinegar to wash upholstery fabric is a natural and effective way to clean and deodorize the fabric. Vinegar can help remove stains, eliminate odors, and sanitize the fabric. However, it’s important to use the right dilution and follow proper cleaning techniques to avoid damaging the fabric.

Use Baby Wipes:

Using baby wipes can be a quick and convenient way to clean small stains on upholstery fabric. They are gentle and often have mild cleaning agents that can effectively remove dirt and grime. However, they may not be suitable for larger stains or deeply embedded dirt.

baby wipes

Use Shaving Foam:

Shaving foam can also be used to wash an upholstery fabric. Simply apply a small amount of shaving foam to a clean cloth or sponge and gently rub it onto the surface of the fabric. Let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it off with a damp cloth. The foam helps to loosen dirt and grime from the fabric, leaving it clean and fresh.

shaving foam

Things to Be Remembered:

When washing upholstery fabric, there are a few important things to keep in mind to avoid damage and ensure effective cleaning. Here are some tips and reminders to keep in mind before starting the cleaning process.

Vacuum Regularly:

Vacuuming your upholstery regularly is an essential part of maintaining it. Dust, dirt, and debris can accumulate on the surface, leading to discoloration and damage over time. By vacuuming once a week or more, you can keep your upholstery looking clean and fresh.

Act Quickly to Treat the Stains:

Acting quickly to treat stains on upholstery fabric is crucial to prevent them from setting in and becoming more difficult to remove later. As soon as a spill or stain occurs, it’s important to blot up as much of the excess liquid as possible with a clean cloth or paper towel, and then treat the area with the appropriate cleaning solution.

Use Plastic Wraps on the Cushions to Avoid Pee Hazards:

Using plastic wraps on the cushions can be a useful precautionary measure to prevent urine from seeping into the upholstery fabric and causing damage. This is especially helpful for households with young children or pets who may have accidents on the furniture.

Don’t Forget the Nooks and Crannies:

When cleaning upholstery fabric, it’s essential not to overlook the nooks and crannies, such as crevices and corners. These areas can quickly accumulate dust, dirt, and grime, which can cause odors and affect the overall appearance of the upholstery.

Clean the Bottom of Your Sofa from Time to Time:

Cleaning the bottom of your sofa from time to time is an important step in maintaining the overall cleanliness of your upholstery. Dust, debris, and pet hair can accumulate on the underside of your sofa, so it’s important to use a vacuum attachment or brush to remove any buildup.

In a Fix? Call in the Pros:

If you are unsure about how to clean your upholstery fabric or if you have a particularly stubborn stain, it may be best to call in professional upholstery cleaners. They have the expertise and equipment to clean your upholstery effectively and safely. While it may cost more than a DIY approach, it can save you from potentially causing damage to your furniture.


Washing upholstery fabric is a simple task that can be done using a few common household items. Regular cleaning and maintenance can help extend the life of your furniture and keep it looking fresh and clean. By following these tips and being mindful of the care tags, you can successfully clean both removable and non-removable covers. And if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need extra help, don’t hesitate to call in the professionals. With a little effort and attention, your upholstery fabric can look and feel new for years to come.


What’s the best way to wash upholstery fabric?

Generally, it is recommended to vacuum regularly, treat stains promptly, and follow the care instructions on the fabric’s care label.

Can you machine wash upholstery fabric?

It depends on the care label instructions provided by the manufacturer. Some upholstery fabrics can be machine washed, while others require professional cleaning or hand washing.

What’s the difference between spot cleaning and deep cleaning upholstery fabric?

Spot cleaning involves cleaning only specific areas of the upholstery fabric where there are stains or spills, while deep cleaning involves cleaning the entire surface of the upholstery fabric to remove embedded dirt and grime.

How often should I clean my upholstery fabric?

It is recommended to clean your upholstery fabric every 12 to 18 months, but the frequency may depend on factors such as usage, location, and type of fabric.

What’s the best type of cleaning solution to use on upholstery fabric?

The best type of cleaning solution for upholstery fabric depends on the type of fabric and the type of stain. Generally, a mild detergent or vinegar solution is effective for most fabric types.

Can I use bleach to clean my upholstery fabric?

Using bleach on upholstery fabric is not recommended as it can cause discoloration or damage to the fabric fibers.

Can I use a steam cleaner on my upholstery fabric?

Some upholstery fabrics can be steam cleaned, but others may be damaged by heat and moisture. It is important to check the care instructions.
Should I hire a professional to clean my upholstery fabric?
Hiring a professional to clean your upholstery fabric can be a good idea, especially if you have delicate or difficult-to-clean fabrics.

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