7 Ways to Protect Your New Upholstery Fabric

There is nothing more exciting than bringing your newly upholstered sofa home and seeing it in your lounge for the first time. That sink-in goodness as you enjoy the luxurious microfiber, suede, or leather upholstery is simply heavenly. 

At least, it’s heavenly until you see that your new upholstery has been damaged or stained, or started to fade. Just how do you protect your upholstery fabric? Here’s how!

7 Practical Ways to Protect Your New Upholstery Fabric

There are several ways you can protect your new upholstered furniture or at least minimize the damage that could ruin the fabric. Some of these methods take a little effort, and others a small sacrifice. The ultimate way to protect your furniture requires the discipline to clean frequently and the self-discipline to enforce rules to keep your upholstery protected. Let’s get into it. 

1. Stain-Proofing Spray

When the furniture and upholstery are still new, you can opt to have the fabric treated with a fabric guard or stain repellent that gives the fabric an almost waterproof quality to prevent liquids from seeping into the fabric fibers. If you consider this option, it is worth it to have the initial treatment done by a professional upholsterer. 

For home treatments, you can also purchase a stain-proofing spray that you can apply to the areas where you have cleaned up a spill to prevent future staining. With any fabric treatment, it is advisable to first test the spray on an out-of-sight area to ensure the spray doesn’t affect colors and cause discoloration. 

2. Slipcovers 

To prevent stains and excessive wear of your new upholstery, you can use a protective layer of durable fabric such as a linen slipcover. Linen and 100% cotton slipcovers won’t bleed colors through to the upholstery you are trying to protect, and these are fully washable, making the slipcovers easy to clean. 

Slipcovers are usually fitted to mirror the shape of the furniture item, so you can remove them once a quarter to wash or as needed. 

While it does mean your original furniture and upholstery won’t be visible, slipcovers can protect your furniture when you have young kids. Slipcovers are also ideal if you have messy pets and don’t want to ruin the original upholstery with food stains or claw marks. 

3. Drapes 

If you prefer not to cover all of your upholstery fabric and furniture with a slipcover, you can opt for a drape or two that you use to cover the seat and armrest areas of the furniture, as these are the areas most prone to staining and wear. 

A thick drape can be folded over seat cushions, hung over the side of the sofa or chair, and even used as a light blanket if you are a sofa napper. 

Drapes are handy since you can remove them frequently for a wash, while they act as an intermediary, catching stains before these can damage your upholstery. 

4. Shaped Covers

A new choice that’s taken the furniture market by storm is a shaped cover. Unlike slipcovers, these are the equivalent of a furniture bandage. The shaped cover is cut to provide a panel that rests on the seat, back, and armrests of the sofa or chair.

Shaped covers are ideal for pet-friendly homes or homes with young children, as it’s like an apron for your furniture. Order shaped covers in different sizes to fit differently sized sofas and chairs. Size up if you’re unsure whether the shaped cover will fit your current furniture or provide better coverage. 

5. Regular Cleaning

One of the reasons a stain may penetrate your new upholstery fabric is if the fabric has been exposed to dander, dust, and hair. Dirt will allow the stains to sink into the fabric. One of the best ways to keep your fabric clean and stain-free is to clean it.

Upholstery fabric needs to be patted down daily to remove excess dust and particles that settle on the fabric. With cushions, simply pat these between your hands, gently shaking the cushion. Vacuum your new upholstery using the brush attachment. Be sure to clean out the edges between two panels of upholstery where dust and dirt will collect. 

Part of the cleaning routine to preserve your upholstered furniture is to clean a stain as soon as it happens. Once a stain has dried, it becomes a nightmare to clean up. So get in the habit of keeping a spray bottle with water and a few tablespoons of white vinegar and three drops of Dawn soap ready to spray on spills before they become stains. 

6. Furniture Placement

Not only will cleaning regularly preserve the life of your upholstery, but where furniture items are placed will also determine how long a chair’s upholstery will survive. When furniture is placed in direct sunlight, fading will happen. 

Furniture placed near doorways can be exposed to dust from outside, rain, and insects that may crawl into the home to infest the furnishings. Placing your furniture strategically will keep it away from UV rays that will fade the upholstery, and excessive heat or cold from drafty doors will no longer be a problem. 

7. Rules

Finally, one of the best ways to protect the costly upholstery fabric you paid a fortune for on your sofas is to follow rules that keep your furniture looking good. These rules will keep your upholstered furniture in great shape. Here are a few ground rules to follow:

  • No feet up: Nobody puts their feet on the furniture. 
  • No sleeping on the sofa: Some sofas are more comfortable than beds, but sleeping on a sofa will reduce the evenness of the padding, causing lumpy fabric.
  • Dogs and cats aren’t allowed on the furniture: Teach your pets to keep to their designated bed area.
  • No eating away from the dining room table: When people eat meals while sitting on the sofa, crumbs and sticky hands stain your sofas in a flash.

What to Protect Upholstery Fabric From

Now you know how to protect your upholstery fabric, it’s time to discover what the threats are so you can avoid them entirely. 


Stains happen when something is spilled on the upholstery fabric, which is allowed to dry, causing a permanent discoloration of the area. To prevent stains, always clean up a spill as soon as it happens. By using the right cleaning method, you can get any stain out of your new upholstery fabric. 

To clean up a spill before it becomes a stain: 

  • Using plain paper toweling or white microfiber cloths, dab at the spill, working from the outside in so as not to spread the spill.
  • Next, apply the correct cleaning fluid or homemade cleaning solution to the affected area and scrub with a small, stiff-bristled brush.
  • Dab at the spill with a white cloth or paper towel to remove more spilled materials.
  • Repeat as necessary until the spill has been completely removed. 

Excessive Wear

Furniture and especially soft furnishings like upholstery fabric will eventually wear out. However, some areas of your furniture may wear out quicker than others if you have heavy use from family or friends who visit frequently. 

Excessive wear happens when someone is habitually tapping the baseboard of the sofa or chair, tapping their fingers, or scratching their fingernails on your sofa’s armrests. 

Even having someone sit on your sofa while wearing a coverall that has zipped pockets can do excessive damage to the fabric surface. Take care to notice when someone is habitually wearing out your upholstery fabric. Next time they visit, have a sofa cover or drape ready to take the abuse and save your furniture. 


Another problem that quickly damages your upholstery fabric is when the inner padding of the furniture is not strong enough to support the fabric when you’ve been sitting on the chair or sofa for a while. 

Pulling can happen when you notice those telltale lines from the back of the seat cushion to the front. Over time, this can become a butt groove, which can quickly wear out the upholstery fabric. To prevent pulling of the upholstery fabric, ensure there is sufficient padding to the furniture before spending the money reupholstering it. 

UV Damage 

Sun damage, fade, or UV damage are all a disaster, as there’s very little you can do once it has happened. Instead, prevent UV damage by covering your furniture with slipcovers, placing furniture pieces away from strong light, and using heavy sun-resistant curtaining.


Cats, dogs, and tame birds may roam your home, but your furniture shouldn’t pay the price. Be sure to keep your pet’s nails trimmed short and filed to prevent the nails from hooking on your upholstery fabric. It’s even better to train your pets not to get on the furniture. 

A slipcover is a winner to protect your furniture from pet damage. Drapes and shaped covers are also great options to help separate your pets from your upholstery fabric. 


Kids can be a real challenge when it comes to teaching them to respect your furniture and keep their muddy or grass-stained feet off the sofa. Additionally, children lack the hand-eye coordination to eat on their lap, even though they often insist on doing so. 

The result is a constant threat of sticky hands, spilled juice, and craft paints. Use a slipcover or shaped cover to help take the brunt of spills, while regular cleaning is vital to prevent stains from forming. 

Best Protective Routine to Keep Upholstery Fabric Safe

To keep your upholstered furniture protected, the best is to make a routine you can follow every week. Here are a few pointers:

  • Pat down furniture daily
  • Shake occasional pillows daily to reposition the padding
  • Vacuum upholstery weekly
  • Wash and clean upholstery once a week for any stained areas
  • Keep cleaning solution and tools handy for any sudden spills to prevent the spill from drying out into a stain
  • Reapply stain-proofing spray to help repel liquids and seal the upholstery fabric after being washed

The Final Word

The cost of reupholstery is high, and purchasing quality upholstered furniture is equally expensive. Therefore, it is important to protect these investments. Simple slipcovers, fitted covers, and even changing where a furniture item is standing in the room can make a huge difference. 

Be sure to check with your fabric merchant whether the upholstery fabrics are stain-proofed before you buy. Ensure you select fabrics that are suitable to your lifestyle and those you share your home with. A white sofa is stunning, but not really practical in a home with pets or kids. You can still protect your upholstery. It’s essential to take care and choose appropriately and wisely.

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