How to Clean Upholstered Chairs

Keeping upholstered chairs clean can seem like an uphill battle. Unlike hard surfaces, fabric readily absorbs stains and dirt which can be difficult to remove. However, with the right techniques and cleaning solutions, you can keep your upholstered chairs looking fresh and new. This comprehensive guide will provide tips and step-by-step instructions for cleaning all types of upholstered chairs.

Vacuuming Regularly

Vacuuming often is one of the best ways to keep upholstered chairs free of dust, dirt, and debris. We recommend vacuuming at least once a week to prevent buildup. Be sure to use an upholstery attachment and adjust to the proper height to reach dirt trapped deep in the fibers. Slowly work the attachment back and forth over the entire surface of the chair, including in crevices and along seams.

Vacuuming frequently will prevent dirt from becoming embedded in the fabric over time. It also keeps dirt from abrading and damaging delicate fibers. For best results, vacuum under cushion seats as well to remove crumbs and dirt.

Spot Cleaning Stains

Inevitably, spills and stains happen. Treat them immediately for the best chance of removal. First, blot liquid spills with a clean, dry cloth to absorb as much as possible. For semi-solids like food, use a dull knife or spoon to lift the substance off gently. Avoid aggressive rubbing as this can further embed the stain.

Once excess has been removed, mix a mild detergent with warm water in a spray bottle. Lightly spritz the stain and let sit for a minute or two. Blot with clean cloth and check to see if the stain has lifted. Repeat as needed, rinsing with clear water and blotting dry in between treatments.

For tough grease stains, try an upholstery cleaner or spot remover specifically designed to dissolve oils. Always follow directions and test on an inconspicuous area first. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners which could damage or discolor the fabric.

Spot Cleaning Treatments

Dish Soap

For many basic stains, a mild dish soap mixed with warm water makes an effective spot treatment. The gentle surfactants help lift dirt without damaging fibers. Thoroughly rinse all soap residue after cleaning.

Hydrogen Peroxide

The oxidizing properties of hydrogen peroxide can help lift certain stubborn stains like wine, coffee, and blood. Mix with equal parts water and spray on the affected area. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before blotting and rising with clean water.


White vinegar is useful for removing greasy or waxy residue. Mix 1 part vinegar with 1 part water and apply with a clean cloth. Do not leave vinegar on fabric for more than a few minutes to avoid discoloration over time.

Baking Soda

Baking soda can deodorize and brighten fabric as it absorbs dirt and oil. Allow upholstery to fully dry after spot cleaning. Sprinkle a light coat of baking soda and let sit for 15-20 minutes before vacuuming thoroughly. The mild abrasive action of the powder will lift dirt from fibers.

Deep Cleaning Methods

For a more thorough deep clean, upholstered chairs may need more intensive treatment beyond routine vacuuming and spot removal. Here are methods to clean the fabric more comprehensively:

Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning uses heat and pressurized vapor to sanitize and refresh fabric. Use an upholstery steam cleaner following all equipment directions. Work slowly and evenly over the surface, taking care not to oversaturate the fabric. Wipe with a clean cloth to absorb excess moisture. Allow upholstery to fully dry before use.


Shampooing uses carpet cleaner applied with an upholstery brush head. Use a high-foaming, low-moisture formula made for delicates. Work into a lather and wipe clean with a dry cloth. Avoid over-wetting and let dry fully before replacing cushions.

Dry Cleaning

Some upholstered furniture may have a removable cover that can be taken to a dry cleaner. Check manufacturer instructions first and point out stains or delicate areas needing special attention. Dry cleaning uses chemical solvents to deep clean fabric.

Cleaning by Fabric Type

Upholstery comes in a wide array of fabrics from delicate silks to durable canvas. Cleaning methods may vary slightly depending on the composition:


Cotton is a breathable natural fiber that responds well to washing. Machine wash removable cushion covers on a cold, gentle cycle. Spot clean stains on attached cushions with dish soap and water or an upholstery cleaner, rinsing thoroughly after.


Linen is a durable material made from natural fibers. Vacuum regularly using a soft brush head. For stains, immediately blot with water and treat with a neutral detergent. For a deeper clean, use an upholstery shampoo and rinse thoroughly after cleaning.


Genuine leather should be cleaned gently to avoid damaging the finish. Wipe down occasionally with a soft cloth dampened in a leather cleaner or mild soap solution. Use small circular motions and avoid over-wetting the leather. Condition regularly with leather oil to prevent cracking.


Microfiber fabric can be cleaned using a mild laundry detergent in warm water. Use a soft cloth dampened in the solution and wipe clean using gentle motions. Rinse with fresh water and pat dry with a lint-free cloth. Machine washing occasionally will also refresh the fabric.


Polyester is a synthetic material that resists stains but attracts lint. Use a lint roller or shaver to remove debris regularly. Spot clean with warm water and a heavy-duty detergent. Rinse thoroughly and allow to fully air dry. Do not machine wash polyester upholstery.


Delicate silk must be cleaned very carefully to avoid water marks or other damage. Vacuum using a soft brush and protect from direct sunlight to preserve the fabric. Spot clean stains immediately with distilled water and a few drops of mild dish soap using gentle dabbing motions. Allow silk to fully air dry.

Upholstery Stain Removal Guide

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This handy chart summarizes the best treatments for common household stains on upholstered furniture. Keep it handy for quick reference. Test any cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area first.

Cleaning Upholstered Chair Cushions

Chair cushions receive a lot of wear and require regular cleaning to keep them looking fresh. Here are some tips:

  • Vacuum cushions frequently using an upholstery attachment. Get under and around cushions to remove dust and crumbs.
  • Blot liquid spills immediately with an absorbent cloth. Avoid rubbing, which can force stains deeper into the filling.
  • Spot clean stains on cushion covers using a mild soap and water solution or upholstery cleaner. Rinse and blot dry.
  • Cushion covers that zip or button off can be removed and machine washed according to care instructions. Air dry thoroughly.
  • Foam cushion interiors can be spot cleaned with an upholstery shampoo using very minimal water to prevent waterlogging.
  • Down and feather cushions should be professionally dry cleaned to prevent damage to delicate fill.

Flipping and rotating cushions weekly helps wear evenly. Cushions may need replaced every few years depending on use. New inserts keep chairs looking pristine.

Cleaning Wood Frames and Legs

Over time, wood frames and legs can collect dust, dirt, oils, and fingerprints from use. Clean regularly using the following steps:

  • Wipe wood with a soft, lint-free cloth to remove light dust and dirt.
  • For deeper cleaning, use wood polish or a mix of equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Rub into grain with soft cloth.
  • Buff wood with a clean, dry cloth to remove any residue and restore shine.
  • For sticky spots or grimy buildup, use a degreasing cleanser made for wood furniture. Rinse and dry completely.
  • Avoid excessive moisture and do not saturate wood with liquid cleaners or water which can damage the finish.

Common Questions About Upholstered Chair Cleaning

What is the best way to clean everyday dirt from upholstered chairs?

Frequent vacuuming using an upholstery attachment is highly recommended. This prevents dirt from becoming embedded and picks up dust and debris before it can stain. Go slowly to remove as much as possible from fabric and crevices.

How do you clean tough stains like wine, ink or grease from upholstered furniture?

Treat tough stains immediately by blotting up any excess. Avoid rubbing, which forces stains in deeper. Use an upholstery spot remover made for your fabric type and the specific stain. Lightly mist on, let soak in, and blot clean. Rinse with water and repeat if needed.

What cleaning solutions are safe for upholstered chairs?

Avoid harsh chemicals which can damage fabric. Mild dish soap and water works well for many basic stains. Specialty upholstery cleaners are also a good option. Always check care instructions and test solutions on a hidden area first.

How often should upholstered chairs be deep cleaned?

Plan to deep clean upholstered chairs about once a year to revitalize fabric and keep chairs looking their best. Methods like steam cleaning, shampooing and dry cleaning give a thorough clean. Vacuum and spot clean routinely in between.

Can you put upholstered chairs in the washing machine?

Inspect your chairs carefully – some have removable cushions and slipcovers that may be machine washable if care instructions allow. Do not put chairs with attached cushions or coverings in the washing machine as this will likely cause damage.

Best Practices For Keeping Upholstered Chairs Clean

  • Vacuum chairs weekly using an upholstery attachment to prevent dirt buildup in fabric.
  • Immediately blot spills and treat stains to avoid permanent damage to the upholstery.
  • Learn the best cleaning method for your fabric type and treat stains accordingly. Test all solutions first.
  • Deep clean chairs annually with steam, shampoo or dry cleaning based on manufacturer guidelines.
  • Wash removable cushions and covers regularly according to care instructions to keep chairs fresh.
  • Use protective pads under chair legs to prevent scratches and vacuum under cushions routinely.
  • Rotate and fluff cushions weekly so wear occurs evenly and filling stays even.

Keeping upholstered furniture clean does require some work but is worthwhile to extend the life of expensive chairs. With regular care and by treating stains promptly, you can keep chairs looking like new for years of use.


Upholstered chairs are prone to all kinds of dirt, spills and stains from daily use. By vacuuming regularly, spot cleaning messes right away, and deep cleaning fabrics annually, you can keep chairs in great shape. Always use appropriate cleaning methods based on the fabric composition. With the proper techniques, solutions, and regular maintenance, upholstered chairs can stay looking fresh and clean for years of use.