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Home Care Library

Caring For Upholstered Furniture

Whether your upholstered furniture is brand new or 100 years old, here are some tips on how to protect it, maintain it, and how to handle routine spills.


Most upholstery is treated at the factory with soil and/or water repellents, and some form of mildew inhibitors may also be used. But over time this wears off, so you will want to either apply fabric protectors yourself, or leave the job to a trained professional.

But don’t let fabric protection give you a false sense of security. Even with fabric protection applied to your upholstered furniture, it only helps keep spills from being quickly absorbed into the fibers of the fabric. The best form of fabric protection is to promptly deal with any spills (as we will discuss further below).

Also to protect your upholstery, you should avoid the damaging effects of sunlight. Too much sunlight can damage your upholstery fabric, causing it to fade and fray. Try to position your furniture so that it isn’t exposed the sun for extended periods of time, especially if it is upholstered with silk fabrics.

And you should also avoid allowing your upholstered furniture to be exposed to airborne pollutants, such as fumes from cooking or smoke, which can be harmful to your furniture’s fabric. Proper ventilation of the areas around your furniture can help with this. In addition to protecting your furniture, keeping airborne pollutants away from your upholstered furniture will also help control odors in your home, as your upholstery can easily trap and hold odors for long periods.


You can help extend your upholstered furniture’s life by periodically turning over your cushions. This allows for a more even distribution of wear, and your cushions will resist developing indentations from being sat on in the same way over and over again. Fluffing up your pillows regularly will of course also help them keep their shape. In addition, from time to time you should also regularly change the locations of your cushions, as some seating areas get more usage than others.

Regular vacuuming of your upholstered furniture will help to keep it looking nice by removing surface dust, dirt, and debris. But also, surface dust acts as an abrasive, which will damage your upholstery and cause premature wear. And regular vacuuming also helps prevents dirt from becoming embedded into the fibers, which when once trapped will cause on-going abrasive damage. When vacuuming, be sure to be gentle, so that you don’t damage the fibers of your fabric (helpful accessory: vacuum cleaners). And similarly, you can use a brush to gently whisk the dirt away, but be sure to always use a soft-bristled brush, so that you don't snag the fabric as you are sweeping.

You might want to consider deodorizing your upholstery from time to time. And when you do, be sure to use an enzyme-based product which will destroy odors, rather than just covering them up (helpful accessory: smoke odor eliminators).

And finally, to properly maintain your upholstered furniture, it is best to have it professionally cleaned every couple of years or so (helpful accessory: upholstery cleaners). You should not wait too long to do this, as the dirtier your upholstery becomes, the harder it is to restore it to its original look.


Even if you have fabric protection applied to your upholstered furniture, you should still gently blot up any spills immediately with a clean folded towel. Never rub your upholstery, as this can damage the fabric fibers, but instead blot gently. The sooner you can catch the spill, the better.

If you need to use an upholstery cleaning product on a stain, always first test it in an inconspicuous area before you use any product for spot cleaning. You should check your furniture manufacturer's instructions to see if you should use a water-based or solvent-based cleaner. And it is best to use as mild of a cleaning product as you can. Of course, always be sure to follow your cleaning product’s instructions for how it should be applied and removed.

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