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Upholstery Cleaning: Professional Tips and Tricks

by Stephanie Cooper 5 months ago in house
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Learn about Fabric Cleaning Codes and How to Use Your Upholstery Cleaning Machine

Before attempting to wash the fabric you need to find out what the cleaning requirements of your upholstery are. Each material has its own set of DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to the usage of water and detergents. So let's dive right in and check some valuable tips and tricks from our professional upholstery cleaners.

Upholstery Cleaning Codes

Cleaning codes are the most overlooked piece of information when it comes to upholstery cleaning. Ironically they are the most important ones, and failing to check them can lead to serious consequences. We can’t stress enough how essential it is to determine your upholstery cleaning code before attempting to wash or spot clean the fabric. Most permanent stains are the result of this simple mistake.

Upholstery cleaning codes are pieces of information that can provide the user with the notion of how to clean and wash their upholstery. They consist of one or two letters and are pretty much universally used.

There are around fifteen cleaning codes used to mark different fabrics, from which the most common are:

W ( Wet or Water clean)

This is the dream code, as it indicates the fabric can be washed with water. These types of upholstery are the easiest to maintain, and generally, you are advised (but not required) to get them professionally cleaned once a year. One such fabric is polyester.

S (Solvent Clean)

The code indicates that the fabric is sensitive to water and can get permanent stains if in contact with it. Usually, natural fabrics that are very absorbent have this marking ( for example, jute). The S code is similar to the D code, as they both require dry cleaning products. However, the difference is that the S limits you only to solvents that are in dry or foam form, whereas the D requires specific chemicals used in the dry cleaning method.

S/W or W/S (Both wet and solvent clean)

You are allowed to use a little bit of moisture in combination with the appropriate cleaning solvent. This code doesn’t mean you can pop your upholstery in the washing machine. It gives you the green light to spot clean the fabric, not worrying that the water cause permanent damage. Usually, acrylic, olefin, or microfiber upholsteries have this code.

X (No water or solvents)

The upholstery can not be washed or treated with any type of solvent. Usually, natural fabrics like silk have this label. Gently vacuum the furniture to remove dust. If stains occur, seek professional help.

D (Dry cleaning only)

Some upholstery fabrics like rayon or suede can be dry cleaned only. Any water can cause permanent damage, so even wiping with a damp cloth can be detrimental. If you can, remove your upholstery and take it to a professional cleaner. If you can’t - purchase a home drying kit or book a dry cleaning agency.

E or N (Use specialised leather cleaning kit)

These codes are usually put on expensive leather furniture and indicate the need to use only the cleaning kit provided by the manufacturer. Do not use water or any other solvent. Remove any moisture immediately. Wipe the leather with a soft microfibre cloth to remove dust.

Bear in mind that different fabrics also have specific requirements for water temperature and chemical ingredients within the cleaning solvents. If you are unsure how to proceed, it’s best to do a little research and consult with the manufacturer or a cleaning expert.

How to Use an Upholstery Cleaning Machine

There are a couple of different types of upholstery cleaning machines:

  • No solvents, just vacuum - These are essentially furniture vacuum cleaners. The nozzle is small and has a sticky lining that catches small fibres and hairs. You can use them in your weekly cleaning routine to maintain your upholstery clean of dust and small debris.
  • No water, only dry solvents - This type of machine is more sophisticated and can allow you to surface wash your upholstery without the need to use water. Just apply foam shampoo or a similar product, leave it to do its job, and then use the machine to suck the dirty foam.
  • Deep cleaning machines - They can extract the dirt embedded in the fabric by “injecting” a cleaning solution in between the fibres. Then using water, steam, or high pressure can suck the dirt away. These machines are primarily used by professional cleaning companies due to how expensive they are.

How to Use Steam and Liquids for Stain Removal

  • The W mark does not mean you can freely steam clean your upholstery. It only indicates that the fabric reacts well on being treated with water.
  • Steam cleaning is a great method with multiple benefits. However, people often forget that aside from the water, the steam cleaning machines also use heat, a lot of heat, enough to put water past its boiling point and transform it into steam. Meaning, if you are not careful, you can melt your upholstery.
  • Use a steam cleaner only if you have the green light from your furniture manufacturer.
  • Some pieces of furniture have wooden parts, be very careful when cleaning your upholstery, as some chemicals can stain the wood or damage its coating.
  • Do not use hot water when spot cleaning your upholstery. Some stains oxidize under certain conditions, and you can trigger that reaction by introducing heat to the fabric. Always apply lukewarm liquids.
  • Use small amounts of liquid cleaners and do not pour them directly onto the fabric. Dilute them in water and damp a sponge or a soft cloth into the mixture.
  • Blot, don’t rub. The more you rub, the more liquid is absorbed into your furniture making it harder to dry off. Not to mention the mould problem that can occur underneath the upholstery.

Hope our London cleaners have helped you gain some insight into the science of upholstery cleaning. Now you are ready to wash your couch without worrying that you might damage the fabric.


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Stephanie Cooper

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