How to Clean Your Furniture

Cleaning sofa with vaccuum

Is figuring out how to clean your furniture always a challenge? You’ve come to the right place. We’re breaking down every situation, so you don’t have to think twice the next time you see a stain.

A state­ment piece can change the entire look of a room. How­ev­er, a state­ment piece of fur­ni­ture cov­ered in stains, scratch­es, and pet hair will also change the look of a room, but prob­a­bly not in the way you were going for. Whether you’re hav­ing peo­ple over or prepar­ing your home to sell, keep­ing your fur­ni­ture in top con­di­tion is crucial.

Mess­es on uphol­stery like leather, suede, vel­vet, and che­nille can’t be sim­ply scrubbed away using what­ev­er clean­er you find under the sink. Luck­i­ly, it won’t take the whole kitchen sink to keep these pieces clean. 

A few sim­ple ingre­di­ents — plus a handy tool or two — will keep your used fur­ni­ture look­ing lux­u­ri­ous and like-new for years to come. Read on to dis­cov­er easy tips to help you keep your used fur­ni­ture in top condition. 

How to Clean Leather Furniture

Leather pants are a tough com­mit­ment to make. Ease your­self into some­thing a lit­tle less restrict­ing and recline into a great leather chair, instead. The fol­low­ing steps are easy to fol­low and will help bring a lev­el of cool to your liv­ing room that every­one will appreciate:

  • Start by vac­u­um­ing all dust and loose debris from the piece using a brush attachment.
  • Be sure to clean between the cush­ions and down into the crevices of the furniture.
  • Once fin­ished, wipe the whole thing down with a dry cot­ton or microfiber cloth.

Your next steps will be deter­mined by the type of leather you’re work­ing with: ani­line (unpro­tect­ed) or semi-ani­line (pro­tect­ed):

  • Ani­line leather: Reg­u­lar dust­ing and light vac­u­um­ing of unpro­tect­ed (ani­line) leather will main­tain the vin­tage flair of this type of leather. For a more thor­ough clean, gen­tly wipe the sur­face with a damp cloth or fol­low the direc­tions on a leather clean­er suit­able for this type of leather. Just keep in mind that its nat­ur­al tex­ture is sen­si­tive to scratch­ing and stain­ing, so clean it with extra care.
  • Semi-ani­line leather: Pro­tect­ed (semi-ani­line/pig­ment­ed) leather can stand up to heav­ier use and clean­ing than the ani­line vari­ety. Just be sure to stay away from prod­ucts con­tain­ing ammo­nia or alka­lies, like sad­dle soap and deter­gents. These abra­sive mate­ri­als can dam­age leather beyond repair.
    Con­sid­er mak­ing your own semi-ani­line leather clean­er com­pris­ing equal parts of vine­gar and water. Mix the two in a bowl, slight­ly damp­en a clean tow­el and wipe down the soiled parts of the fur­ni­ture. Rinse the cloth every so often to avoid spread­ing dirt around.
Table in front of leather couch with blanket in white flat interior with poster and plants. Real photo

Additional tips for leather furniture

  • Extend the life of your leather fur­ni­ture: Leather fur­ni­ture is espe­cial­ly sought after for its sup­ple tex­ture and soft shine. To main­tain this, con­di­tion your pieces every 6–12 months. For a home­made leather con­di­tion­er, com­bine one part white vine­gar and two parts lin­seed oil or flaxseed oil. With a soft, clean cloth, apply this mix­ture on the material’s sur­face in large cir­cu­lar motions and leave on overnight. The next day, buff with a clean tow­el to restore the leather’s shine.
  • Elim­i­nate grease stains: Imme­di­ate­ly wipe the mess away with a paper tow­el or clean, dry cloth in case of a grease stain. Do not add water, which could cause the grease to soak into the leather. If the grease has dried by the time you real­ize the mess, sprin­kle bak­ing soda onto the area to draw it out. Leave the bak­ing soda on for a few hours, then brush it away with a rag.
  • Get rid of mark­er stains: If a sneaky tod­dler takes a ball­point pen to your leather ottoman, then rub­bing alco­hol may be your sav­ior. Try dab­bing alco­hol onto a cot­ton swab, then gen­tly wipe the stain until the ink clears.

How to Clean Suede Furniture

Suede is the under­side of the ani­mal skin, sand­ed and brushed to cre­ate a soft, del­i­cate fin­ish. Main­tain­ing the suede nap — what gives the tex­tile its dis­tinct tex­ture — is the most impor­tant part of pre­serv­ing the look of your suede furniture.

Peri­od­i­cal­ly brush the mate­r­i­al with a suede brush (tooth­brush, veg­etable brush, or nail brush) to remove dirt or light stains. If the nap is not cared for, it will start to look dull and lose its smooth finish.

If your piece needs a deep clean, sweep the sur­face with a brush, then rub it with a suede eras­er. The eraser’s small par­ti­cles can get under the sur­face of the nap, tak­ing dirt with them when they’re light­ly brushed away. A pen­cil eras­er or slight­ly damp kitchen sponge would also do the trick.

Red/Orange Suede couch in a bright

Additional tips for suede furniture

If a spill or smudge occurs, wipe it up with a suede cloth, Turk­ish tow­el, or a paper tow­el as soon as pos­si­ble so that the fab­ric does not soak up the liquid/ dirt and become flat.

Next, locate the manufacturer’s tag to deter­mine how to prop­er­ly clean your piece:

  • S and W labels: Grab an emp­ty spray bot­tle and make your own mix depend­ing on the label’s specifications: 
    • W‑labeled fur­ni­ture can be cleaned with a water-based solu­tion so you can mix warm water and a few drops of mild dish soap.
    • S‑labeled pieces should be cleaned using a sol­vent which is why we rec­om­mend to fill the spray bot­tle with rub­bing alcohol.

    Once you’re done with your clean­er, spray the stain itself and damp­en the fab­ric to loosen the dirt (tip: do not soak the fab­ric as soak­ing the suede may lead to fur­ther stain­ing). Then, rub a soft, white tow­el or a clean sponge in a cir­cu­lar motion over those sec­tions until the stain dis­ap­pears. Let dry. Once the fab­ric feels com­plete­ly dry, fluff the fibers using a soft-bris­tled brush to soft­en the mate­r­i­al and refresh its look.

  • X labels: An X label means that absolute­ly no liq­uid should be used on the piece. That means vac­u­um only. Skip the spray-on cleanser and care­ful­ly maneu­ver the uphol­stery attach­ment on your vac­u­um to remove debris from the surface.

How to Clean Velvet Furniture

There’s no bet­ter way to lounge like a king than by doing so on a vel­vet chaise. How­ev­er, one spill from your jew­eled gob­let can cre­ate a roy­al mess. But no wor­ries, here’s how you can take care of it.

Start by vac­u­um­ing using the brush attach­ment, mov­ing in the direc­tion of the velvet’s nap. Find the clean­ing code for the piece of fur­ni­ture on the man­u­fac­tur­er’s tag. Keep in mind that most vel­vet fur­ni­ture has an “S” clean­ing code which means that you should avoid water or water-based prod­ucts and only turn to solvents.

Royal blue velvet armchair with gold frame standing in vintage living room interior with wooden cupboard and coffee table with magazines

Additional tips for velvet furniture

When a spill occurs, it’s impor­tant to act fast and help the vel­vet dry as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. Use a paper tow­el to soak up the liq­uid. Then, apply the dry clean­ing deter­gent to a clean sponge and blot the stain until it has been removed.

Let the cleanser dry on the fab­ric, using a hair dry­er or fan to accel­er­ate the process as need­ed. Restore the velvet’s smooth fin­ish using a soft brush.

How to Clean Chenille Furniture

Che­nille is like a tiny pup­py: so cud­dly and soft that you just want to squeeze it, but del­i­cate enough that you know you have to be gen­tle. It’s not out of the ques­tion for fur­ni­ture uphol­stery, it just takes some extra care when it comes to cleaning.

Chenille’s ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal threads can loop and loosen from the rest of the knit­ting, result­ing in worm­ing. To prop­er­ly care for your che­nille fur­ni­ture and pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing, begin by brush­ing the sur­face with a very soft uphol­stery brush or baby hair brush to loosen any dirt. Vac­u­um up the debris in the direc­tion of the chenille’s nap using the brush attachment.

Three chenille West Elm dining chairs in mauve, grey, and navy

Additional tips for chenille furniture

Cot­ton and wool che­nille fibers tend to release dyes eas­i­ly, so check the manufacturer’s tag on your fur­ni­ture before clean­ing to make sure you’re fol­low­ing the cor­rect steps.

  • If the uphol­stery tag is marked with a “W,” use dye-free liq­uid soap or laun­dry deter­gent for del­i­cate fab­rics. Add a few drops of soap or deter­gent to a bowl of cold water and mix until small bub­bles form. Dip a clean sponge or white rag in the foam, and dab at stains until they fade. Don’t scrub across the nap. Rinse away the soap with a new, damp rag.
  • If the tag is marked with an “S,” then keep in mind that this type of che­nille requires a sol­vent-based clean­er. Light­ly wet a clean, white rag with dry clean­ing solu­tion and dab at the stain, mak­ing sure not to rub it.
  • For an uphol­stery tag marked with an “X,” steer clear of sol­vent- and water-based clean­ers would do the trick. Stains should lift with the help of gen­tle vac­u­um­ing and brush­ing, but if not, con­sult a dry clean­er or uphol­stery specialist.

Regard­less of the clean­ing method, dry all che­nille fur­ni­ture ASAP to avoid shrink­age or oth­er dam­age to the fab­ric. You can also try using a hairdry­er set on low or point a box fan at the piece to get an extra boost.

Arti­cle by Make­Space, a full-ser­vice stor­age com­pa­ny that picks up, stores, and deliv­ers your stuff so you nev­er have to vis­it a self-stor­age unit
Pho­tos via West Elm, Archi­tec­tur­al DigestSarah Sar­naDecor­PadVal­ue City Furniture,

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