Can Upholstery Fabric Be Washed? Is It Safe? – (Full Guide)

Last Updated on July 10, 2023

Get the answer to “Can Upholstery Fabric Be Washed?”. Upholstery fabric comes in various materials, from cotton to leather, and each requires a different cleaning method. It can be confusing to know which method is best for your specific type of fabric.

Can Upholstery Fabric Be Washed
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Here, we will answer the question, “Can upholstery fabric be washed?” and provide tips on how to wash upholstery fabric safely and effectively. With the right tools and techniques, you can keep your furniture looking clean and fresh for years to come.

Can upholstery fabric be washed? Is it safe to wash upholstery fabric?

Yes, it is safe to wash upholstery fabric. You can use water, a water-based shampoo, or an upholstery foam cleaner to clean the material. However, care must be taken not to over-wet the furniture. For larger, non-spot cleanable stains, it’s advisable to use a professional cleaning service.

Also, regular professional cleaning can prevent overall soiling. Always follow the manufacturer’s care instructions for the best results.

Is upholstery easy to clean?

Fabric upholstery is relatively easy to clean. Most stains or spots can be dealt with by spot cleaning using soap and water or a specialized cleaning solution available from stores.

But, the exact ease of cleaning can depend on the fabric type, the stain’s severity, and the specific cleaning methods used. A professional cleaning may sometimes be required for particularly stubborn stains or delicate fabric types.

What is the best easy-to-clean upholstery fabric?

It’s difficult to definitively say which is the “best” easy-to-clean upholstery fabric. However, here is a brief rundown of each of these materials:

  • Polyester: This synthetic fabric is durable, resists stains and fading, and is quite easy to clean. It can be vacuumed, spot-cleaned with a mild detergent, or even steam-cleaned for tougher stains.
  • Leather: Leather is a high-end, durable material that’s easy to clean with a simple wipe-down using a damp cloth. It’s also resistant to staining and can be vacuumed to remove dust and crumbs. However, it requires periodic maintenance with special leather cleaning products to prevent drying and cracking.
  • Nylon: Nylon is a synthetic fabric known for its strength and durability. It’s easy to clean, resistant to dirt and mildew and can endure heavy use. However, it’s less soft than some other materials, and over time it can start to look a bit shiny from wear.
  • Acrylic: Acrylic is another synthetic fabric that’s resistant to moisture and mildew, making it a good choice for outdoor furniture. It’s also easy to clean and can stand up to heavy use. However, some people find that it could be more comfortable and luxurious-feeling than other fabrics.

Polyester is the best choice if you want a balance of durability and comfort. Leather could be a good option if you want something high-end and luxurious.

If you need something for outdoor furniture or a particularly damp environment, acrylic might be your best bet. And if you’re looking for something, particularly durable and hard-wearing, consider nylon.

How do you clean upholstery fabric?

How do you clean upholstery fabric
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Here’s how you can clean upholstery:

  • Preparation: Identify the pieces of furniture you need to clean. This could be a sitting chair, an ottoman, or any other upholstered piece. Pay special attention to spots that are dirtier due to more usage.
  • Pre-Treatment: Fill a spray bottle with hot tap water and dampen the entire fabric surface, making sure to get any visibly soiled areas extra wet.
  • Stain Removal: In another spray bottle, fill about a third with a stain remover containing hydrogen peroxide. Remember, it’s not a detergent, and it’s important not to let it dry on the fabric as it may lighten it. Spray this solution mainly onto the areas that are the dirtiest.
  • Scrubbing: Use 100% cotton painters’ rags to scrub the areas you just sprayed with the stain remover. The rags are highly absorbent and good for this kind of job. As you work the product into the fabric, keep switching to clean parts of the rag and spend extra time on any areas that have spots. Once a rag is sufficiently dirty, switch to a new one.
  • Deep Cleaning: Empty the bottle with hot water and add about a cup of sparkling water and a half cup of white vinegar. Spray this solution on the fabric. The carbonation from the sparkling water helps bring up any deeper dirt, and the vinegar helps break down the suds from the stain remover. Scrub the fabric one more time with clean rags to ensure the surface of the fabric is residue-free and won’t attract more dirt.
  • Repetition: Repeat the process of spraying and scrubbing until the rags come away clean.
  • De-Pilling: If your fabric has started to pill, you can use a lint trimmer and work in circular motions to trim off the pilling.
  • Protection: Once the upholstery is clean and dry, protect it by spraying it with a fabric protector like Scotchgard. Hold the can about six inches away from the surface and lightly spray. It’s better to do two light coats than one heavy coat.

How to Wash Upholstery fabrics marked with an S or X

To clean upholstery fabrics marked with an S or X using baking soda, follow these steps:

  • Preparation: Ensure the fabric is dry and remove any loose dirt or debris from the surface. If the fabric is marked with an S, it means it should be cleaned with dry-cleaning solvents. If it’s marked with an X, it means it should only be vacuumed or brushed and not cleaned with either water or solvent cleaners.
  • Apply Baking Soda: Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the entire fabric. Be sure to cover all the areas, especially those which are heavily soiled or have a strong odor.
  • Wait: Let the baking soda sit on the fabric for at least an hour. The baking soda will absorb any oils, dirt, and odors from the fabric during this time. For heavily soiled or smelly areas, leave the baking soda longer, such as overnight.
  • Vacuum: Use a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment to remove baking soda from the fabric thoroughly. Make sure you vacuum all areas where baking soda is applied to ensure no residue is left behind.
  • Repeat if necessary: If there are still odors or spots of dirt, repeat the process. Baking soda is safe to use multiple times, and it might take a few applications to clean the upholstery fully.

This method should only be used for upholstery fabrics marked with an S or X. Other types of fabrics might require different cleaning methods.

How do you deep-clean upholstery?

Deep cleaning upholstery requires a few steps to ensure you remove surface dirt and sanitize the material. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Steam the Couch: This is an effective way to kill dust mites and bacteria that can live on the surface of your upholstery. For this, you can use a handheld garment steamer or even bursts from your steam iron. Make sure to cover all the areas of your couch, including the back and sides.
  • Vacuum the Upholstery: After you’ve steamed the couch, vacuum it. This will pick up any dust, dirt, or mites that the steaming process has loosened. Use an upholstery attachment if you have one to make sure you’re getting into all the nooks and crannies.
  • Test a Hidden Spot: Before you start spot cleaning or using any cleaning products on your upholstery, it’s always a good idea to test a hidden spot. This will ensure the product doesn’t damage or discolor the fabric.
  • Spot Clean Stains: If you have any particular stains or spots on your upholstery, now is the time to clean them. Use an appropriate upholstery cleaner (according to the manufacturer’s instructions), and always blot rather than rub to avoid spreading the stain or damaging the fabric.
  • Clean Dingy Arms and Headrests: These areas often become discolored due to oils and dirt from skin and hair. You should give them a little extra attention with your upholstery cleaner.
  • Sanitize the Couch: After you’ve cleaned the upholstery, it’s important to sanitize it. You can do this using a fabric sanitizing spray. Make sure it’s safe for your specific type of upholstery, and let it dry completely.

How do you clean 100% cotton upholstery?

Cleaning 100% cotton upholstery using a homemade mixture of alcohol, tea tree oil, and water can be done in the following steps:

  1. Prepare your cleaning mixture: Combine two cups of rubbing alcohol with a few drops of tea tree oil in a container. Then, add one cup of water to this mixture and stir until well combined.
  2. Transfer to a spray bottle: Pour your cleaning mixture into a spray bottle for easy application. Make sure the spray bottle is clean and free from any residues that may interfere with your cleaning solution.
  3. Spritz the solution: Spray the mixture lightly over the cotton upholstery of your furniture. Ensure you cover all areas, but avoid over-saturating the fabric, as this can cause it to take a long time to dry and may even cause damage.
  4. Let it sit: Allow the solution to sit on the upholstery for a few minutes. This gives the mixture enough time to penetrate the fabric and break down any dirt, grime, or stains.
  5. Vacuum: After the solution has sat, use a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment to vacuum the treated areas. This will help remove any loose dirt or debris, leaving your cotton upholstery clean and fresh. Be sure to vacuum thoroughly to remove all of the cleaning solution.
  6. Air dry: Allow the upholstery to air dry completely. Open windows or use fans to speed up the drying process.

Can upholstery fabric be washed in a washing machine?

upholstery fabric in a washing machine
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Yes, upholstery fabric can be washed, but it depends on the specific type of fabric. If the fabric is marked with a “W” or “WS,” washing it in a washing machine is safe.

To ensure the fabric’s longevity and colorfastness, you should follow the recommended settings, which include using a cold water cycle due to the fabric’s sensitivity to temperature.

It’s also crucial to use a suitable laundry detergent. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or fabric care labels to confirm the best cleaning method for your specific upholstery fabric.

How do you wash upholstery without shrinking it?

When it comes to washing upholstery without causing shrinkage, particular care must be taken. Firstly, using cold-washing cycles or low heat is crucial during the process. This precaution is essential because it safeguards the fabric from potential damage that could otherwise occur under harsher conditions.

Also, washing in a cold-water cycle plays a significant role in preventing shrinkage. This is particularly true for those fibers that have a tendency to contract upon coming into contact with water.

Therefore, adhering to these guidelines ensures that your upholstery remains in optimal condition even after washing, retaining its original size and shape without experiencing any undesirable shrinkage.

Why should you avoid using water to clean upholstery fabric?

You should avoid using water to clean upholstery fabric for several reasons:

Water can cause discoloration

Using water on natural, white, and off-white upholstery fabrics can lead to yellowing or the appearance of brown water rings. These stains are often difficult to remove and can significantly detract from the appearance of your furniture.

Risk of color run

When water is used on certain fabrics, it can lead to a color run, where the dye in the fabric bleeds and spreads to other areas. This can ruin the overall look and design of the upholstery.

Potential for water spotting

Certain types of fabrics, such as cotton velvets, satin, and some leathers, can develop water spots when cleaned with water. These spots can be highly visible and mar the upholstery’s appearance.

Specific cleaning requirements

Many upholstery fabrics have specific cleaning instructions to maintain their look and longevity. For instance, natural, white, and off-white upholstery fabrics generally require dry cleaning. Ignoring these instructions and using water instead can damage the fabric.

Can you wash cotton upholstery fabric?

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Washing cotton upholstery fabric in the same way you would cotton clothing is generally not recommended. This is because the fabric may discolor, with lighter colors potentially turning brown or yellow due to the breakdown of the cellulose material in the cotton.

Also, there’s a risk that dyes may bleed or run. Therefore, other methods, such as spot cleaning or professional cleaning services, might be more suitable for maintaining the cleanliness and appearance of cotton upholstery fabric.

How often should upholstery be cleaned?

Professional upholstery cleaning should be conducted at least once or twice every two years. However, if there is a musty smell or the upholstery is subjected to frequent abuse by children and pets, it may require more frequent cleaning. Also, if the manufacturer recommends frequent cleanings, follow their guidelines.

Can you clean upholstery without a machine?

Yes, you can clean upholstery without a machine. This can be done by hand shampooing, which requires a bucket, sponge, several white terry cloth towels, and upholstery shampoo suitable for hand-shampooing. These materials can all be purchased at a home improvement store.

What is the best way to clean and sanitize upholstery?

The optimal method for sanitizing and cleaning upholstery involves the use of a 1:10 bleach-to-water solution. Before the cleaning process, it is crucial to safeguard the furniture frame and the nearby surroundings. This process should occur in a well-ventilated space, and gloves and eye protection are recommended for safety.

Once the upholstery has been thoroughly disinfected with the bleach solution, ensure to rinse it meticulously several times using clean water to get rid of any residual bleach.


So, washing upholstery fabric can seem daunting, but it’s quite simple if you follow the right steps. By using the right cleaning products, testing a small area first, and being gentle with your fabrics, you can keep your furniture looking great for years to come. So go ahead and give it a try, and enjoy your fresh and clean upholstery!

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