Tips for Cleaning and Deodorizing Upholstery and Furniture

Updated on September 14, 2023 by Joseph D. Nielson

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Your furniture and upholstery significantly contribute to your home’s overall aesthetics and comfort. This includes your comfy couches, elegant armchairs, and all the lovely upholstered pieces that make your home feel like a haven. But let’s be real – life happens, which means spills, stains, and the occasional mystery odor. Over time, your upholstery and furniture accumulate dust, stains, and odors that affect their appearance and your overall home environment. 

On the bright side, you can maintain your upholstery and furniture’s beauty and freshness by regularly cleaning and deodorizing them. Whether you’re dealing with that ominous red wine stain from movie night, the aftermath of a furry friend’s naptime, or simply want to refresh your well-loved furniture – we’ve got your back (and your cushions) covered. From DIY solutions that grandma would approve of to the latest tech gadgets designed to make your life easier, we’re exploring it all. Use this guide to get familiar with the best tips for cleaning and deodorizing your home’s upholstery and furniture. 

Understanding Upholstery Materials

Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s important to understand the type of upholstery material you’re dealing with. Different materials require specific cleaning approaches to avoid damage. Here are some common upholstery materials and their cleaning considerations. 

Fabric Upholstery 

Fabric upholstery is popular for its comfort and aesthetic appeal. However, it’s prone to stains and can absorb odors. To clean fabric upholstery: 

  • Vacuum: Vacuum the upholstery to remove dirt and dust. 
  • Spot Test: Perform a spot test in a small area before using a cleaning solution to avoid damaging the fabric.
  • Cleaning Solution: Create a solution by mixing a small amount of mild detergent with water. Gently scrub stains using a soft brush or cloth. Avoid oversaturating the fabric. 
  • Rinse: Use a clean, damp cloth to remove the detergent residue. 
  • Drying: Allow the upholstery to air dry, and avoid using heat sources as they can shrink or distort the fabric. 

Leather Upholstery

Leather upholstery exudes sophistication and durability, but it requires special care to maintain its sheen and suppleness:

  • Dust Removal: Wipe down leather upholstery regularly with a dry microfiber cloth to remove dust and prevent scratches.
  • Conditioning: Apply a leather conditioner every 6-12 months to moisturize the leather and prevent cracking.
  • Spot Cleaning: For stains, use a leather cleaner recommended by the manufacturer. Apply a small amount to a cloth, gently clean the stain, and then wipe with a damp cloth. 
  • Sunlight Protection: Keep leather furniture away from direct sunlight, which can cause fading and drying.

Tackling Common Upholstery Issues 

Stains, spills, and odors are inevitable challenges when it comes to upholstery. Here’s how to handle these issues effectively:

Removing Stains

Stains from food, drinks, or accidental spills can mar the beauty of your upholstery. Act quickly with these steps:

  • Blotting: Use a clean cloth to blot the stain gently. Avoid rubbing, as it can spread the stain.
  • Homemade Solution: Create a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. Test it on a specific area first, then dab the stain with a cloth dampened in the solution. 
  • Commercial Stain Removers: Consider using a commercial upholstery stain remover if the stain persists. Follow the instructions carefully.

Dealing with Pet Hair 

Pet owners often struggle with upholstery covered in fur. Try these methods: 

  • Lint Roller or Tape: Use a lint roller or packing tape wrapped around your hand to pick up pet hair from upholstery. 
  • Rubber Gloves: Dampen rubber gloves and run your hand over the upholstery – pet hair will stick to the gloves. 
  • Vacuum with Brush Attachment: Regularly vacuuming your upholstery using a brush attachment can prevent excessive pet hair buildup.

Banishing Odors 

Upholstery can absorb and retain unpleasant odors. Consider the following tips to minimize odor and keep your furniture smelling fresh.

  • Baking Soda: Sprinkle baking soda over the upholstery and let it sit for 15-20 minutes to absorb odors. Vacuum it up afterward. 
  • Fabric Fresheners: Use fabric fresheners or upholstery sprays designed to eliminate odors. Always check for compatibility with your upholstery material. 
  • Fresh Air: On a sunny day, take your removable upholstery covers outside to air them out. Sunlight helps kill odor-causing bacteria.

Regular Maintenance and Prevention

Preventive measures are the cornerstone of keeping your upholstery and furniture looking pristine. By incorporating these practices into your routine, you’ll maintain the aesthetic appeal of your pieces and extend their lifespan.

Regular Vacuuming 

Vacuuming your upholstery consistently is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent dirt, dust, and debris from accumulating. Different upholstery materials require varying vacuuming approaches:

  • Fabric Upholstery: When vacuuming fabric upholstery, use a brush attachment to loosen and remove surface dirt gently. Pay extra attention to seams, crevices, and tufted areas where debris accumulates. 
  • Leather Upholstery: Opt for a soft brush attachment or a vacuum cleaner with low suction for leather upholstery. This prevents any potential scratches while still effectively removing dust and debris.

Rotate and Flip Cushions 

Upholstery cushions endure consistent pressure from seating and can develop uneven wear over time. To prevent one side of the cushions from becoming more worn than the other, regularly rotate and flip them. This practice distributes the wear and maintains the overall appearance of your furniture.

Use Slipcovers 

Slipcovers are an excellent choice for safeguarding your furniture from spills, stains, and daily wear and tear. They provide a layer of protection and come in various fabrics, styles, and colors, giving you the flexibility to change the appearance of your furniture effortlessly. It’s important to select slipcovers that are easy to take off and can be machine washed, ensuring convenient maintenance without any hassle.

No Eating or Drinking 

Establishing a no-eating or drinking rule on upholstered furniture might seem strict, but it’s an effective way to prevent accidents that can lead to stains. Food and beverages are common culprits behind spills that can be challenging to remove, especially fabric upholstery. Instead, create designated eating areas to minimize the risk of mishaps and protect your furniture.

Brush and Shake Loose Debris 

Take your removable cushions outside occasionally and gently shake them to remove any loose dirt and debris. You can also use a soft-bristle brush to remove any remaining particles. This simple step prevents debris from settling more deeply into the upholstery fibers, causing potential damage over time.

Protect from Sunlight 

Direct sunlight can be harsh on upholstery, causing colors to fade and materials to weaken. Position your furniture away from direct sunlight to prevent premature aging and maintain the vibrancy of colors. If repositioning isn’t possible, consider using curtains or blinds to filter the sunlight and protect your upholstery.

Address Spills Promptly 

Even with the best prevention methods, spills can still happen. The key is to address them promptly to minimize potential damage. Keep a clean cloth or paper towel on hand to blot spills immediately. Avoid rubbing the spill, as this can push it deeper into the fabric. After blotting, follow the stain removal tips mentioned earlier for effective cleanup.

Store with Care

If you need to store upholstered furniture, such as during a move or renovation, take precautions to keep it in optimal condition: 

  • Clean and dry the furniture thoroughly before storage to prevent mold and mildew growth. 
  • Use breathable furniture covers to protect the upholstery from dust and debris. 
  • Store the furniture in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperature fluctuations.

Professional Cleaning 

While routine maintenance can significantly improve the appearance and longevity of your upholstery and furniture, there comes a time when professional cleaning becomes necessary to restore their original splendor. Professional upholstery cleaning goes beyond what regular cleaning can achieve, providing a deep and thorough refresh that lifts away embedded dirt, stains, and odors. Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of professional cleaning and how to make the most of it. 

When to Call Professionals 

Determining the right time to call in the professionals depends on several factors, including the material of your upholstery, the level of usage, and the presence of stains or odors. Generally, consider professional cleaning every 1-2 years for most upholstery types. However, specific scenarios might prompt more frequent cleaning:

  • High-Traffic Areas: If your furniture experiences heavy daily use, particularly in high-traffic areas, it might require more frequent professional cleaning. 
  • Visible Stains: Stubborn stains that resist DIY cleaning efforts indicate that it’s time to bring in the experts. 
  • Allergies: If anyone in your household suffers from allergies or respiratory issues, regular professional cleaning can help reduce allergens and improve indoor air quality.

Choosing Professional Cleaners 

The right professional upholstery cleaning service is crucial for obtaining the best results. Here’s what to consider when making your choice: 

  • Experience and Reputation: Look for established cleaning companies with a positive reputation in your community. Online reviews and recommendations from friends and family can provide valuable insights. 
  • Certifications: Check if the cleaning technicians have received certifications from reputable organizations, such as the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC).
  • Eco-Friendly Practices: If environmental concerns are important to you, inquire about the company’s cleaning products and methods. Many professional cleaners now offer eco-friendly options.
  • Insurance and Guarantees: Ensure the company is insured and offers guarantees for their work. This adds a layer of protection in case of accidental damage during the cleaning process.

Preparing for Professionals 

To ensure a smooth and effective cleaning process, take the following steps to prepare your furniture for the professionals: 

  • Clear the Area: Remove any personal items, decorative accessories, and clutter from the furniture. This allows the cleaners to access all areas without obstruction. 
  • Communicate Concerns: Before the professionals begin, communicate any specific concerns you have about stains, odors, or delicate areas of the upholstery. This ensures they can tailor their approach to your needs. 
  • Identify Problem Areas: Identify any visible stains, pet hair, or odorous spots requiring special attention. The professionals will appreciate the guidance in targeting these issues.

After Professional Cleaning 

After the professionals carry out the cleaning process, it is important to follow these steps to achieve the best results and keep them maintained:

  • Drying Time: Give your upholstery enough time to completely dry before using it again. Proper drying prevents mold and mildew growth. 
  • Ventilation: Open windows and doors to facilitate airflow and speed up drying. Using fans can also help. 
  • Avoid Excessive Use: While your furniture is drying, avoid sitting on it excessively to prevent new stains and imprints from forming. 
  • Regular Maintenance: Continue with your regular maintenance routine to prolong the effects of professional cleaning. This includes vacuuming, rotating cushions, and using preventive measures.

DIY Upholstery Fresheners 

DIY upholstery fresheners are a cost-effective and natural way to keep your furniture smelling delightful.

Lavender Sachets 

Create lavender sachets using dried lavender flowers. Place them between cushions or under slipcovers to infuse a soothing fragrance.

Citrus Peel Spray 

Make a citrus peel spray by steeping citrus peels in white vinegar for a few weeks. Dilute the mixture with water and use it as a fabric freshener.

Essential Oil Mist 

Mix water with a few drops of your favorite essential oil in a spray bottle. Lightly mist your upholstery for a refreshing scent.

The Bottom Line

Maintaining clean and fresh upholstery and furniture enhances your home’s overall look and comfort. By following these tips, you can enjoy your furniture for years to come. Consistent care goes a long way in preserving the beauty and longevity of your upholstery and furniture.

Joseph and Family
About Joseph D. Nielson

Former journalist and editor for various press groups, I now dedicate my time to reviewing products for the home and family life. When I get time to myself, I enjoy rock climbing, taking my dirt bike for a rip, and most importantly providing my family with the best home possible!