I have pets in my home, and my dogs love lounging on the sofas and armchairs, yet people are always amazed by how clean my soft furnishings are. A friend recently asked me what my secrets fabric cleaning are, and it’s simple:
- Clean frequently
- Spot treat
- Deep clean seasonally
- Know your fabrics
With these basic pillars that govern my cleaning routines, I manage to get rid of hair, dirt, bacteria, smells, and stains with very little effort. Want to know how? Read on!
Home Fabric Cleaning Guide: How to Stay Spotless
For starters, your home has different fabrics, and while a few basic cleaning methods work on most, like vacuuming, you have to take care not to damage the fabrics by treating each type correctly.
Know Your Fabrics
Starting with your curtains and drapery, you should check whether each has a manufacturer’s guide to cleaning methods. Usually, your premade or professionally made curtains will have a laundry tag attached to a hem or seam somewhere. This tag will give you clear instructions on whether the fabric can be washed, dry cleaned, tumble dried, or ironed.
When the tag has the following letters, you can take the suitable actions to clean it:
W – Can be cleaned with water
S – Solvent-based cleaner only
WS – Water and solvent-based cleaners can be used
X – Only vacuum cleaning is allowed
Some popular fabrics and their respective cleaning treatments include:
Can be washed and tumble dried as a deep cleaning method. Hang immediately after washing to prevent wrinkles forming. If you notice wrinkles, pop the fabric back into the tumble drier on a warm setting with a wet (but wrung out) rag and tumble until the rag is dry. Hang immediately to prevent wrinkles reforming.
Linen is another natural fabric that’s very popular as an upholstery and curtaining fabric. When a deep cleaning is required, clean linen by washing in cold water and air dry. Avoid tumble drying as linen is prone to wrinkling. Wrinkled linen can be ironed on a mild heat setting.
Many upholstery and curtaining fabrics are made of different blends using polyester. Made from synthetic fibers, polyester is fairly easy to clean. You can wash polyester fabrics, though cool water and a low heat setting for the dryer is advised. Again, hang as soon as the fabric is dry to avoid wrinkling.
If you are fortunate enough to afford real silk fabric upholstery or curtaining, you will have to be somewhat more careful in cleaning it. Wash in cool water with a very mild detergent. Air drying is best, but you can use the lowest setting on the tumble dryer.
If wrinkling occurs, a cool iron can help smooth things out. It’s best to simply shake and hang the fabrics once it’s been through the dryer or as soon as it’s air dried outside.
- Olefin and Wool
Olefin is a synthetic alternative to wool, and it’s very popular in upholstery applications. When cleaning either olefin or wool fabric, it’s best to opt for hand washing and then drying the fabric flat to avoid pulling and piling. Avoid introducing heat to iron out wrinkles and don’t steam clean either.
Leather is a tricky “fabric” since it’s a living textile. When you clean leather, you need to replace any natural oils that are removed from the fabric. Cleaning leather usually involves a glycerine-based cleaning solution or cream followed by a nourishing lotion or oil. Spot cleaning leather is vital to avoid spills becoming stains.
Seasonal Deep Cleaning
While you may want to wash your curtains and removable upholstery covers as often as you soil them, it’s not advised to wash soft furnishing fabric more than once a season. Too much exposure to the chemicals of washing and your fabrics can begin to wear or suffer chemical damage.
To deep clean fabric, it’s advisable to wash each fabric set together and not wash these mixed in with other colors or fabrics.
Heavy washing can wear away and twist fabric fibers, so take care to use the lightest setting on your washing machine and air dry where possible as this will help your fabrics last many more years.
When you have pets in the house or little children who may touch everything with sticky hands, having a good spot treatment available and treating spills as they happen is better than a stack of dry-cleaners bills. The sooner you treat a spill, the better it cleans and the less the chance of it staining.
My go to stain-prevention spot treatment routine is as follow:
1. Remove Excess Spill
Using a paper towel, I gently dab at the spot, soaking up any liquid before it can penetrate too deeply into the fabric. Note, dab; don’t rub. Dab in a soft manner, letting the paper towel absorb the liquid.
Work from the outside inward, as you don’t want to spread the spill and make a bigger mess.
2. Clean up Pigment
Whatever has spilled on your fabric, it will have pigments that need to be removed. After the spill has been dabbed, use a stiff bristled brush to gently brush the solid pigment particles up from the fabric pile. Use a rag or paper towel to remove any loose particles.
3. Washing the Spill
The next step is to wash the spill. Use a spray bottle and mix a solution of two tablespoons of detergent with one tablespoon of vinegar and one tablespoon of baking soda. Top up with fresh water. Spray a light coating of the solution and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Then wipe with a lint-free cloth (microfiber cloths are great).
4. Brush to Restore Pile
Brush the fabric with a clean soft brush to return the fabric to its normal pile.
With effective spot treatment, there is no need for in-depth washing any more frequently than seasonally. With pets or kids, spot treatment is essential to prolong the life of your soft furnishings and prevent stains from forming and becoming permanent.
To ensure your fabrics remain super clean and tidy, it’s vital to ensure no particles become lodged in the fabric weave. When your fabric becomes laden with dust or lint, it creates a home for stains, bugs, and other allergens.
Clean your fabrics at least once a week by vacuuming with a good quality vacuum cleaner and a crevice brush attachment. Start by vacuuming the crevices between seat cushions on sofas, lift curtains, and vacuum hems and any areas that are in contact with people or pets.
For a daily clean, fluffing your upholstery or pillows with a good pat will be sufficient, and curtains can withstand a good shake to remove any loose particles. Sweeping the floor or vacuuming the floor will ensure the particles don’t return.
Cleaning With Solvents
When your fabric has an S on the tab, you can use a solvent-based cleaner to remove stains and prevent them from forming. Microfiber is one of those color-fast fabrics that take well to solvent-based cleaners.
To clean with solvents, simply use rubbing alcohol and a clean white sponge or lint-free white cloth. Apply a generous amount of rubbing alcohol to the sponge and scrub at the spill or stain. The stain will transfer to the sponge or cloth.
Drying the fabric is easy as rubbing alcohol quickly evaporates, so working quickly is required.
Once the rubbing alcohol has evaporated, you can use clean distilled water to remove any further pigments or staining.
The Final Clean
Of course, prevention is better than cure, so if you have children and dogs that love mud, covering your expensive furniture with a sofa cover is probably the best choice by far.
When you are ready for spills, you can easily sort them with minimal effort. If your friend spills a glass of red wine on your new white linen sofa, you want to be ready for action immediately. My advice is to keep a spill-cleaning kit ready, with a bucket, lint-free cloth, spray bottle with spot treatment mix, paper towels, and a good quality furniture brush.
Butler wipes are also a great idea for when you don’t want to seem obsessive and scrub fabric while your guests watch. If you want to learn how to clean your vehicle’s upholstery, we’ve got a full guide on cleaning automotive upholstery.