Cleaning Your Couch and Other Upholstered Furniture


The best method of cleaning your couch and your other upholstered furniture is to not have to clean it at all. That is, prevent the upholstery from getting dirty in the first place. That might be easier said than done, but let’s ponder that, shall we?

Dirt on your furniture comes from several sources: There is the airborne dust that settles. Oils from cooking go into the air and then land on your furniture. Dirt can be transferred by direct contact with skin or clothing.

A few strategies for keeping the dust at bay include:

Vacuum often, both the carpeting and the furniture
Keep windows and doors closed when it is exceptionally dry and dusty outside and when the outdoor pollen counts are high
Since, a large component of dust is dead skin cells from us and our pets, use lotion regularly, drink lots of water, and use a humidifier when the house is unusually dry. Brush and wash your pets often.

Oils that originate in the kitchen can be stopped by having a strong hood over the stove. At the very least, use a splatter-screen over your skillets.

To prevent dirt from transferring directly from humans to your couch, you could simply not use the furniture. That isn’t very practical, though. I’ve seen people cover their furniture with fitted plastic; to me, that is tacky. Some people also cover their furniture with afghans or blankets or slip covers. All of these work, but you need to ask yourself: if you bought the furniture because you liked the pattern, do you want to cover it with some other patterned cloths or blankets?

Alternatives to the “no contact at all” approach would be to enact rules, such as “no shoes on the couch,” or simply “no feet on the couch.” This would certainly be a reasonable expectation for your most formal furniture. You might also want to ban shoes in the house altogether. And, hopefully it goes without saying, that if someone’s clothes are dirty, then they shouldn’t use the furniture at all.

Unfortunately, if you do plan on using your furniture, prevention will only go so far. So, vacuum your furniture regularly to remove loose dust. Periodically grease splatter guard, clean the furniture to remove oily residue.

Now, before you do this, you need to find and read the manufacturers’ label (yes, the one that says “do not remove or you will go to jail”). What you want to look for on the label is an indication of whether you should clean your upholstery with a water-based cleaner or a solvent-based cleaner. Conveniently, the codes used follow logic! If the label is marked with a “W,” then you can use a water-based cleaner. If it is marked with an “S,” then you should use a solvent-based cleaner. This is important to know, because if you apply water to an unsuitable fabric, you risk causing shrinkage and leaving watermarks. If the furniture is labeled “S-W,” then you can use either type of cleaner. If, however, the furniture is labeled “X,” then you can only vacuum it. Other cleaning must be done by a professional.

In conclusion, then, do use your furniture, but take steps to keep it clean. Vacuum it frequently, and, a few times a year, use the appropriate cleaner to clean it thoroughly.

Penelope Pettikrew is known as the Speed Cleaning Queen. She has spent over 25 years optimizing her cleaning methods so that she could spend less time cleaning and more time with her daughter and husband. In her latest book, “Speed Cleaning Secrets Revealed,” she shares her techniques for getting the maximum amount of cleaning done in a minimum amount of time.

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