A Guide to Upholstery Cleaning

For many of us, sofas are a big deal. They’re expensive. They’re the focal point of many living rooms. And they’re the place where we relax after a long day. But despite their importance, most of us have no idea how to clean our sofas in the event of an accident. Fortunately, your sofa knows.

Modern sofas include a tag with a one-letter code that corresponds to the best and safest cleaning upholstery method. For example, a tag might feature a W – which indicates that you ought to use water-based cleaning agents on your upholstery fabric. Here are some explanations of the most commonly-found cleaning codes:

Code W 

You’re probably wondering: What is a water-based cleaning agent? Think steam cleaning or hot water extraction. Along with the water, commonly used additions are light applications of mild detergent, baking soda, and vinegar.

No matter which mixture you use, you’ll want to be careful and conservative. This means you’ll use as little moisture as possible to get the job done; use distilled water to avoid leaving a mineral deposit behind; and use a white, pattern-free towel to avoid transferring any dye. Before you do anything else, you’ll want to test your cleaning solution on a part of your sofa that you rarely see.

Code S 

Some fabrics are sensitive to water, and may shrink or discolor if water is applied to them. Despite their sensitivity to water, some of these fabrics can be effectively cleaned by solvents. Cleaning with solvents probably isn’t as unusual as you think; solvents are the cleaning agents used whenever your clothes are dry-cleaned.

It’s worth mentioning here that you should never assume which cleaning method is safe for your sofa. For example, that seemingly rugged polyester fabric might not be as good a candidate for water-based cleaning as you think. Always make sure to check your code.

Code WS 

These durable fabrics can be cleaned by either water-based cleaners or solvents; this allows you to select the cleaner best-suited for the task at hand. While water-based cleanings work in most cases, solvents can be more effective at dealing with some oil-based stains – think pizza grease or oily salad dressing.

Code X 

If you have a stain on your sofa, this is the code you don’t want to see. Code X means that your furniture can be vacuumed or brushed, but not cleaned with any sort of liquid; if liquid is used, there’s a good chance that shrinking, staining, or distortion will occur.

That said, if the stain is prominent enough, cleaning may still be your best option. But don’t just try your luck. Instead contact your local Chem-Dry or other professional upholstery cleaner. The technician can evaluate the situation, assess the risks of using a cleaning solution, and choose the one most likely to work.

No code

If you can’t find a code, you’ve still got two good options: First, you can contact the manufacturer. If you can provide the manufacturer with the product name or number, they should be able to provide you with the cleaning information you need. If this isn’t an option, contact a cleaning professional. A skilled technician will be able to identify the fabric through examination, and then choose the best method of cleaning.