Regular vacuuming is bout the best way to keep upholstery looking fresh. But you may not be motivated to vacuum upholstered furniture often enough; dust isn’t as obvious on an armchair as it is on a tabletop. Unless upholstered furniture is vacuumed regularly, the material can become so dirty that drastic measures may become necessary.
A surprisingly large number of people take the most drastic measure of all – they just throw out the soiled furniture and replace it with new furniture. According to a survey, that’s how a significant number of furniture owners dealt with the problem of soil build-up. Some took a less-drastic approach, opting for reupholstering or slipcovers. Still others choose heavy-duty overall cleaning—a far more economical solution, if it works.
There are three ways to clean upholstered furniture:
- You buy a cleaning product and apply it to the fabric by hand.
- You can buy or rent a machine that cleans carpets and upholstery.
- You can call in a professional cleaning service.
Generally, cleaning by hand means spraying upholstery cleaner on the fabric; gently rubbing the resulting foam with a damp sponge, cloth, or brush; and vacuuming the residue. The job can be time consuming, and the furniture may not turn out clean enough. Any hand cleaning product is likely to work better if the job is done before the upholstery is truly filthy.
Even those who cleaned with a machine weren’t always happy with the result, and some found a machine difficult to use. Setting up the machine, cleaning the piece of furniture, and then disassembling and cleaning the machine can be quite a lot of work.
Many furniture owners left the cleaning to a professional, but a substantial number indicated that some furniture soiling reaches the extent that even pros couldn’t get the furniture clean.
Rates vary for Cleaning a six-foot sofa depending on where you live and whom you hire. Replacing a soiled sofa with a new one can cost a lot more, so price shouldn’t be the main criterion when you’re hiring a professional; competence should be foremost.
Expect any upholstery cleaning firm to give you a preliminary estimate over the phone, then come to the house to evaluate the furniture and spot-test it—by applying a bit of cleaner to an inconspicuous piece of the fabric – before giving a firm price quote.
A reputable company should explain the procedure and tell you what the furniture will look like after cleaning. They should outline their guarantee and voluntarily offer references.
Some professionals may prefer to “steam” clean upholstery with hot water and detergent because the results are generally better than dry cleaning with a solvent. But cleaning with water, even when it’s done by a pro, can be a risky business. Therefore, a careful cleaner will spot-test when they come to your home to determine the potential damage before quoting a firm price. If problems appear as a result of a spot-test, a professional cleaner may switch from steam cleaning to dry cleaning.
Some professional cleaners spot test on the scheduled cleaning day. That’s also an acceptable approach, as long as the tested material has time to dry thoroughly—so any defects are visible before work begins.