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Upholstery Cleaner: How & Why

If your upholstered furniture is stained, dirty, or discoloured, it may be time to clean it.

The first section below summarizes a standard process you can use to make your cloth upholstery cleaner at home, followed by tips for other materials, and advice on when it’s time to contact the professionals.

  1. How to Clean Cloth Upholstery
  2. Solutions for Other Materials
  3. Benefits of Professional Cleaning

If you want professional help getting your upholstery cleaner, contact us at Graham’s & Son.

Upholstery Cleaner: The Why

Keep your living room looking great by periodically cleaning your upholstery.

Upholstery can last a while, but often after 15-20 years of regular use, furniture can begin showing signs of wear and tear. Cloth coverings on items like pillows, couches, or chairs are especially prone to wearing out, as they get touched and used more often than something like the frames of your furniture do.

One way to combat wear and tear on cloth-upholstered items is to use coverings, like pillow cases or furniture slipcovers. However, slipcovers have their own difficulties, as they have to be cleaned and can become damaged themselves.

If the wear-and-tear damage to your upholstery isn’t too bad, you may want to attempt cleaning it yourself.

After returning your upholstery to its prime condition, try to keep it clean by kindly asking guests to not bring food or drink near it, or clean it more regularly to prevent deep stains from developing.

To learn how to clean upholstery at home, read on to the guide below.

1. How to Clean Cloth Upholstery

If the stains on your furniture aren’t too severe, you may be able to refresh the upholstery by using standard upholstery cleaner as shown in the video below:

Many different brands of upholstery cleaner will work.

If your upholstery cleaning project is larger than what the person in the video was dealing with (perhaps you have more chairs to clean all at once, or the stains are worse), then try following the steps below:

How to Clean Cloth Upholstery:

1. Buy some upholstery cleaner: Hardware and big box stores will usually sell a few varieties of bottled upholstery cleaner. Read the bottle to make sure it’s for the material you intend on cleaning.

2. Prepare your work space: Cleaning can be messy, so try to adjust your environment so you won’t make a mess on anything important. You can bring your item out to your garage or into your yard, or put down a tarp or heavy drop sheet to catch any mess or liquid that might drip off as you clean. 

3. Stay safe: Read the bottle of upholstery cleaner for any warnings. To be safe, wear gloves and eye protection just in case things get messy. 

4. Apply cleaner: Apply a reasonable amount of cleaner, similar to what was used in the video above, to all of the upholstered surface. 

5. Scrub upholstery: Wait as long as the bottle of cleaner instructs, then, using a basic handheld bristle brush, scrub the surface.

6. Clean the surface: Using a cloth, or shop-vac if you have one, remove all the dirty cleaning solution from the surface of the cloth.

7. Repeat (If needed): If your first attempt didn’t fully remove the grime or stains, repeat the process. It’s normal to have to do this process 3-4 times to get the furniture completely clean.

If your item of furniture is so old that the cleaning process is tearing or damaging the upholstery, you should stop, clean up as best you can, then consider fully replacing the upholstery instead of cleaning it.

Other Methods:

If you don’t want to use a tough upholstery cleaner solution for whatever reason, or if the stain is very minor, you can try simply using hot water and a bit of regular dish soup, as demonstrated in the video below:

Make sure you have a dedicated water vacuum cleaner.

2. Solutions for Other Materials

Different materials need to be cleaned in different ways.

Tips for Cleaning Wood:

To clean wood, start by using a gentle cleaner mixed with water, and a damp, (not soaking,) cloth. 

Rinse your cloth often, and keep an eye on the surface of the wood to make sure you’re not eroding anything.

Remember that wood can stain deeply, in a way where it can’t ever be removed. If the wooden surface of your furniture is in really bad shape, it may be time to re-polish or refinish the wood, as wiping with cleaner can only do so much.

Tips for Cleaning Leather:

Leather can discolour easily, but is still quite durable.

Here are some tips about cleaning your leather-finished furniture:

  • Before starting to clean, vacuum the leather furniture as best you can. Then, apply an equal mixture of vinegar and water to the problem areas.
  • Rinse your cloth often to avoid smearing dirt around.
  • Don’t let the vinegar mixture sit, or it can set in and stain.
  • Use a dry cloth to wipe your leather dry, then apply leather condition once you’re sure it’s dry.
  • Remember, you can often find products specifically designed for leather. It should say clearly on the label what materials it’s meant for.

For an example on cleaning leather, check out this video:

Leather can be intimidating to clean, but it's not that difficult.

3. Benefits of Professional Cleaning


Professional service can be trusted to have a high standard of quality.

Sometimes your upholstery is so dirty, or the piece of furniture is so large, that it’s not worth your time to try to clean it. Fortunately, home interior businesses like Graham’s & Son offer upholstery cleaning services in addition to their regular home renovation options.

Some of the benefits of using a dedicated professional upholstery cleaning service are:

  • They already have the necessary equipment. Because they do this professionally, they already have all the best tools for the job.
  • Convenience. Cleaning upholstery can take a while, or may be inconvenient for your schedule. Using a pro service means you won’t have to worry about anything until the item is cleaned.
  • Experience. A professional company will understand the difference between different materials and what it takes to clean them properly without damaging anything. If you’re cleaning an especially delicate piece, or an antique, using a professional service can provide a lot of peace of mind.

If you have any questions about what’s involved in a standard upholstery cleaning procedure, give your local cleaning business a call to hear the details from their perspective.

Your Professional Upholstery Cleaner: Graham's & Son

For anything from that old reupholstery project you never got around to finishing, to redoing your living room decor, Graham’s & Son is the local, experienced home interior company you can rely on.

With decades of experience in not only the furniture industry, but in bathroom and kitchen renovations as well, Graham’s offers a diversity of experience to help you enhance and develop your living space to become the perfect home.

Graham’s services the Tri-City area of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo, as well as the towns in and around Waterloo Region.

For quality workmanship, excellent installations, and personalized customer service, contact Graham’s & Son today.


“Quality! Everything about their installs are high-end. A pleasure to work with.”
– Matt S.

“Looking forward to having Graham’s and Son Interiors decorate my new house!”
– Sharon V-E.

“Received my furniture back including living room, wing chairs, 4 other pieces. Turned out beautiful, looks like new, well beyond expectations. A great family business, dealt with all of them – cooperative, patient, positive dialogue, easy to deal with. Used their services in the past, again in 2001, and will again if this service is required. Always 100% satisfied.”
– Blayne R.