Best Way to Clean Upholstery. from Yahoo Answers.
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First, DO NOT attempt to clean your upholstery without knowing what fabric or blends you are dealing with. It is very easy to ruin your sofa beyond salvation. It's best to look for a cleaning code. This will be located on a sticker placed on your frame underneath your cushions. It is not required by law for a manufacturer to place a cleaning code on their furniture, so yours may not have one. If it does, read it. Near the bottom of the sticker you will see one of 4 codes: "W" (means wet or water. You may safely apply moisture) "S" (means solvents only. Dry-clean, NO WATER) "S/W" (means dry-foam. Safer than S, but still dry-clean) "X" (means vacuum only. Do not attempt to clean. A very rare code) If there is no cleaning sticker, then it's best left to a professional to decide on the cleaning method. There is no one way to clean all furniture. The material dictates which method and also how well it will clean. But be careful! Clean doesn't always mean it will look good. Tell the technician your expectations (visibly) before any cleaning is done. Ask if he/she can do a test spot for free. If you're not satisfied, don't waste your money. Unfortunately, some materials cannot be effectively cleaned. Find out how we clean upholstery at Cleancare. If you are set on trying to save money and clean it yourself, here's what to do... Assuming you found no code, feel the fabric. If it's smooth and almost silky, it's most likely dry-clean. These fabrics are often more decorative (formal), and have a bit of a sheen to them. If it feels more rough or plush (such as the fabric on a car seat), there's a good chance it's steam cleanable. If in doubt, test an inconspicuous area with a little water. Most dry-clean fabrics tend to be non-absorbent and will repel or bead water. Applying moisture to a dry-clean fabric may cause shrinkage, color loss or bleeding, and/or water stains (yellow/brown rings, such as when a kid wets the bed. All rings from liquid are called water stains). Once there, water stains are almost always permanent. It is also a good way to check your fabric. If you see previous water staining on the upholstery already, there's a good chance it's dry-clean. DO NOT APPLY MOISTURE. Water stains may appear in a couple minutes or even a couple hours on a dry-clean fabric. If you feel your sofa is dry-clean, I don't recommend you do anything yourself. Usually, only a dry-fabric solvent is buffed on and vacuumed off. This is only good for surface dirt. For stains and a visible difference, it's highly ineffective. Dry-clean fabrics don't absorb water well and therefore don't flush or clean well even if moisture were applied. Your options are limited with a dry-clean fabric. If you feel your sofa is steam cleanable, then you're in luck. You may choose to rent or use your own portable steam cleaner (a professional's equipment will do a better job). Do not use much cleaner at all. If it is soap or foam based, it will leave an unwanted residue or film in your fabric. In short time, this will rapidly attract dirt and may stiffen the fabric a bit. If it recommends to use the cleaner, just water it down. The idea of steam cleaning (which is actually hot water at a high pressure) is to break up and extract dirt, so the added cleaner only plays a small role. Go over your entire sofa with the steamer. As long as you apply even moisture and have plenty of dry passes to suck up as much water as possible, you should be fine. See an excellant example of professional steam cleaning here.If you run across stubborn spots, apply a small amount of cleaner directly and go over it with multiple short passes. DO NOT use Resolve, Woolite, Shot-Spot,...etc. These sprays or foams have you rub soap base into your upholstery. Just the regular steam cleaning will be more effective and safe than these products. As a home spotter, white vinegar and water is safe. Just give it a little agitation with a brush first. There is no magic concoction a consumer can use as a miracle spotter though. More effective spotting agents will be highly acidic and should only be used by a professional with proper equipment. To note, some spots may be permanent stains. No amount of cleaning will be effective. Usually brightly colored spots will be the worst. Kool aid, mustard, urine, and other bright colors act as a dye on your fabric. When the cleaning is done, leave your cushions standing up on your sofa frame to allow an even air flow. It should be dry within 4-8 hours. Only as a last resort would you want to try and throw your cushion covers in the washer. COLD CYCLE and AIR-DRY. Because of the risk though, I can't recommend it. Plus, you can't very well throw your upholstered sofa frame in the washer.