Cleaning Different Kinds of Upholstery: How to Clean Upholstered Furniture
What is Upholstery?
The term ‘upholstery' originated from the words ‘up' and ‘holden', or ‘to hold up.' Upholstery is the work that provides furniture (particularly seats and beds) with the following: padding, springs, webbing, and fabric/leather covers. However, the word ‘upholstery' is commonly used to refer to the covering of domestic furniture; and also in automobiles and boats.
Upholstery has 4 Main Categories:
- Spring Support Systems
- Cushion, Pillows, Padding, and Fills
- Fabrics and Leathers
Automobile upholstery is typically made of leather and often comprises the interior of the car, including: soft furnishings, carpets, soft tops and roof linings.
Marine upholstery has to be resistant to dampness, sunlight, and other factors related to the sea. Common materials are vinyl or any other material that has protection to UV and hot/cold weather.
The frame, usually made of wood, is the life of upholstered furniture (or the ‘soul' because the framework is often unseen). The legs and the arms of chair usually seen outside the upholstery are called "show wood."
Common hardwoods used are: oak, alder, and other tightly-grained woods.
3 Techniques Used on Upholstery Frame:
- Joints - one piece of frame wood intersects to another part of the frame at particular angle.
- Blocking - additional blocks of wood are placed behind or diagonal to joints and corners for support.
- Dowelling - alternative to blocking, where two dowels are drilled, hammered, and glued into wood for extra support and strength to frame. Nails, screws, and fasteners are also used.
Upholstery Spring Support Systems
The spring system is installed after frame construction. A spring system with top layer of padding installed is called "seat deck."
2 Types of Spring Support System:
- Standard springs - have formal and firm ‘sit'; move only to up-and-down direction.
- Eight-way hand tied springs - have even and individual ‘seat'; move to up-and-down and side-to-side direction.
Fabrics and Leathers
The term ‘textile' is used to both upholstery materials: fabrics and leathers.
2 Types of Upholstery Textile:
- Fabric should be tightly-woven to wear longer. This could be heavier than the loose weave of natural fibers but lasts longer.
- Leather is durable and improves after a while of use. Leather comes in different color, pattern, texture, and polish.
Grand Rapids, Michigan is considered as the ‘Furniture City' because many of the best upholsterers are found there.
Cushion, Pillows, Padding, and Fills
Cushion, pillows, padding, and fills are installed after completion of frame and springs system. Cushions and pillows are usually sewn into cotton cases and put on top of the seat deck. Common materials include: polyester, feather/down, buckwheat hulls, and synthetic down.
How to Care for Upholstery
Upholstery furniture needs regular cleaning and attention so that it will last longer. Professional cleaning services can be a bit expensive so knowing some helpful tips on how to clean upholstery can be handy to furniture owners.
Stains are easy to remove when attended to at once. Spills may not cause permanent damage when blotted with clean and absorbent cloth.
Upholstery manufacturers normally put tags that have suggested cleaning methods. The industry standard cleaning codes are listed below:
- W - Use foam or water-based cleaning agents. Use only distilled water - not tap water, which often contains minerals causing ringed or faded stains.
- S - Use mild and water-free cleaning solvents. No water. Always dry clean in whole, not parts.
- SW - Use foam and water-based cleaning agents. Use very mild water-free cleaning solvent. No tap water - only distilled water.
- X - Use only vacuum or brush lightly to remove dirt. Do not use water, foam, and any liquid cleaning agents.
Important: Use the S cleaning code for pre-washed upholstery fabric.
More Tips on Upholstery Care
- Avoid placing upholstered furniture under direct sunlight.
- Plump the cushions regularly, or rearrange if possible, to distribute wear.
- Vacuum upholstered furniture weekly.
- Annual cleaning by professional services is recommended.
- Spray fabric protection sparingly.
- Do not leave newspapers and other printed materials on the upholstery to prevent ink bleeds/stains.
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Basic Steps on Cleaning Upholstery Fabric
- Scrape off excess soil using a dull knife or spoon.
- Perform a pre-test of any cleaner on a hidden spot of the upholstery to make sure that it will not cause shrinking or fading. Always consult the fabric code.
- Do not remove cover of cushions. Do not soak.
- Use foam sparingly. Do not use strong chemicals and/or detergents.
- Rub gently using soft cloth or sponge. Do not scrub.
- Rapid drying is important. Rinse off the soap using a damp sponge.
- Use vacuum cleaner to remove excess moisture and help hasten up drying process.
How to Remove Upholstery Stains
Fabric protection is not a complete shield against stains and dirt. Spraying the solvent to upholstery only minimizes the risk of getting soiled and/or stained permanently. Regular cleaning is still required to extend the life of upholstery fabrics. Fabric protection is recommended to use on upholstered furniture placed outside the house, such as in the outdoor kitchen.
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Tips on How to Remove Different Stains
- Red Wine - Try to act fast. Blot out the spilled wine with absorbent cloth. On persistent stains, blot/dash/spray mixture of soap detergent and hydrogen peroxide on the stained area (2:2 ratio). Note: hydrogen peroxide can cause fading so use it carefully and sparingly.
- Juice or Mustard (and Other Organic Dyes) - Use the rinse-and-blot-rinse method on the stained area with vinegar-water mixture (1:3 ratio - 1 Tbsp vinegar and 3 Tbsp water). Use water-based cleaner.
- Blood - Use the rinse-blot-rinse technique with salt-and-water solution (mix 2 Tbsp table salt and 1 quart water). With sturdy stains, apply water-diluted hydrogen peroxide on the stained spot.
- Butter - Apply dry solvent (commercially prepared for greasy stains) to a clean cloth and blot the spot. Use mixture of 1 Tbsp detergent with 1 cup of water - to finish off the stain. Then, wash off both the solvent and mixture with damp cloth. Do not rub. Just blot everything out.
- Cheese - Wet a soft cloth with mixture of mild detergent with warm water. Blot the stained area. Then, blot the spot again with the ammonia-water solution (mix 1 Tbsp ammonia and ½ cup water). To rinse, blot with clean water using clean cloth. Dry the spot thoroughly.
- Ink - Spray hairspray solution on the spot; and use the rinse-blot-rinse technique to wash off.
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Tips on How to Clean Upholstery Leathers
- Upholstery leathers are prone to fading when exposed to direct sunlight and/or heat. Try to arrange the furniture away from windows whenever possible.
- Regular dusting and vacuuming are the only care that upholstery leathers need because they are preserved permanently during the tanning process.
- Wipe up spills at once. Wash off with lukewarm water using the rinse-blot technique. Wipe off moisture with absorbent cloth.
- Use very mild soap and lukewarm water to remove stains. Rinse-and-blot with clean water and wipe with clean cloth thoroughly.
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