How to Clean Fabric and Leather Sofas

Perhaps you live in a small apartment and started furnishing your living room seating area with just an affordable sofa. Or perhaps you live in a house in the suburbs and have a matching sofa, loveseat, chair, and ottoman or maybe even a large sectional clothed in top grain leather in your living room. Regardless, where you live, what your budget is, and how much you spent on your living room set, eventually the seating will get soiled, especially if you entertain often and/or have children. Spills do happen. It’s a part of life. So, how do you clean that sofa? What are the different cleaning methods for fabric versus leather upholstery? The following guidelines are intended to help you successfully clean any stains on your living room upholstery.

How to Clean Fabric and Leather Sofas

Cleaning Fabric Sofas

If you happened to stain your microfiber or chenille upholstered sofa, the first thing you should do is to figure out the cleaning code for that sofa. The code can be usually found under the seat cushions (if they are detachable). The other usual location is underneath the actual sofa itself. If the cleaning code is not in any of those locations, contact the manufacturer or the store where you purchased it. The cleaning code specifically states how the sofa should be cleaned properly; otherwise manufacturer’s warranty will be invalidated.

Fabric Cleaning Codes

“W” – Water-Based Cleaner – If the cleaning code is a W, then spot-clean your stain with a water-based foam cleaner or an upholstery shampoo. It’s always a good idea to first pretest the cleaning solution in an inconspicuous location to see if there will be any color loss or if your chosen cleaner is compatible with the fabric. Apply the cleaning agent in a circular motion using a soft brush. Finally, vacuum the sofa, but only when it’s dry.

“S” – Solvent-Based Cleaner – If the cleaning code is an S, then spot-clean your stain with a water-free dry cleaning solution. Don’t use any water to clean your upholstery with the S cleaning code. Don’t saturate the area. Just like with any other cleaning code, it’s a good idea to pretest an inconspicuous area first. Make sure the room is well ventilated before attempting to clean it.

“WS” – Water/Solvent-Based Cleaner – If the cleaning code is a WS, then spot-clean your stain with a water-based foam cleaner, upholstery shampoo, or a water-free dry cleaning solution. Even with this cleaning code, it’s a good idea to pretest it on an inconspicuous area.

“D” – Dry Clean Only

“X” – The only way to clean a fabric upholstered sofa with this code is to vacuum only. It can not and should not be cleaned with anything else. In today’s furniture stores, it’s rare to find sofas with this cleaning code.

Cleaning Leather Sofas

Regardless of what kind of leather you have on your sofa, it’s always a good idea to frequently dust it with a damp cloth. When attempting to clean a leather sofa, you need to find out what kind of leather is upholstered on your sofa because the cleaning methods will vary. If you’re not sure, contact the manufacturer or the retailer.

Fully Aniline Leathers – These types of leathers should only be cleaned by using a slightly damp cloth. It is not recommended to use any type of a cleaning soap on these types of leathers.

Semi-Aniline/Protected (Pigmented) Leathers – When cleaning these types of leathers, use a pH balanced mild soap combined with water. If the label on the cleaning product says that it is harsh on the human skin, it will be harsh on the leather as well, so don’t use this type of a cleaning product. Just like with fabrics, pretest this solution of mild soap and water in an inconspicuous area first.

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