Sofas and armchairs are some of the largest and most often used pieces of fabric upholstered furniture in the home. They look great when you first buy them – the colours are bright, the fibres are fluffy and free of dirt. But over the years, fabric upholstery picks up grease and grime and starts to look dull and tired.

One of the great things about fabric furniture, though, is that it responds dramatically to cleaning. A thorough cleaning, using simple home cleaning products, can not only prolong the life of your fabric furniture it can bring back the vibrancy and softness that attracted you to it in the first place.

Prevention is Better than Cure

You can reduce the amount of damage you soft furnishings suffer by taking a few simple precautions:

  • Reduce as much as possible the level of airborne pollutants in you home. Use a range hood over your cooker – greasy cooking fumes will settle in the fabric of your furniture. Prohibit smoking in the house – cigarette smoke will discolour upholstery fabric and give it an unpleasant odour.
  • Keep your furniture out of direct sunlight. This will prevent fading and prolong the life of the fabric.
  • Consider placing covers over armrests and the tops of cushions to protect these areas from hair and skin oils.
  • Turn loose cushions regularly to spread wear and tear evenly over the piece of furniture.

Day to Day Cleaning

If you remove loose dirt and debris on a regular basis it has less chance to work its way into the fibres of your fabric upholstery. A sticky lint roller is great for picking up hair, crumbs and dust. Using a lint roller has the advantage of lifting the nap of the fabric, rather than flattening it and pushing dirt deeper into the weave as a brush might.

Vacuum your fabric upholstery once a week using the furniture nozzle and the crevice attachment. Regular vacuuming removes dust and prevents it building up within fabric fibres.

Washing Fabric Upholstery


Check the label on the back of the furniture for cleaning instructions. Some furniture is upholstered in fabric that can be damaged by water or detergent. If your furniture is marked “dry clean only” it’s likely you’ll need to have it professionally cleaned.

Before washing a piece of furniture, test the cleaning solution on a small inconspicuous area to avoid bleaching, colour bleed or other adverse fabric reaction.


When cleaning upholstery fabric it is important that you keep the use of water to an absolute minimum. Getting upholstery too wet can result in fabric shrinkage and watermarking. Similarly, water should not come into contact with any metal parts of the furniture, particularly the zips of cushion covers, as it will cause rusting.

To clean fabric upholstery follow the steps below.

  1. Make a solution of ¼ cup of dishwashing liquid and 1 cup warm (not hot) water.
  2. Whisk this solution using an electric hand mixer until stiff, dry suds form.
  3. Using a clean cotton cloth and working on one small area at a time, massage the suds gently into the fabric.
  4. Use a rubber cooking spatula to scrape off the dirty suds.
  5. Rinse the area with clean water by dabbing with a damp (not wet) cloth.
  6. Allow the fabric to dry thoroughly before use – a fan can be useful to speed drying.

As Good as New

By ensuring a clean environment around your furniture, regularly removing surface dirt, and by using the suds cleaning method outlined above you’ll keep your fabric upholstery looking as good as new for years to come.

To lean more about cleaning your furniture check out this video.

How to Clean Fabric Upholstery, 3.3 out of 5 based on 7 ratings

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  1. Bev. says:

    Thank~You, so much, for this information on cleaning sofa’s & chair’s, it is very helpful, as I need to clean mine, and was wondering about a safe & good way to do it, and also, I’d too would rather use a home-made cleaner, rather then store bought, not knowing just how safe store bought is, so….thank’s again.

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