How to Clean Upholstered Chairs in 6 Easy Steps

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Upholstered chairs can add elegance and character to any space, but they can seem like quite a puzzle to clean. After all, you can't just throw them in the wash. But keeping upholstered chairs clean doesn't have to be a challenge. Keep reading to learn how to clean them, what you'll need, and how to keep upholstered chairs clean longer.

How Often Should You Clean Upholstered Chairs?

The best time to clean upholstered chairs depends on their usage and condition. If your chairs are being used daily and start to look a bit worse-for-wear after a few months, clean them seasonally. If they're rarely used, clean them annually to keep the dust away and keep them in good condition.

What You'll Need

Here's what you'll need to have on hand to clean your upholstered chairs.

  • Vacuum with upholstery or brush attachment
  • Warm water
  • Gentle dish or laundry detergent
  • Clean washcloths
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3%), white vinegar, or a store-bought spot treatment for stains
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Steam cleaner (optional)
  • Fans

Step 1: Vacuum

The first step in cleaning your upholstered chairs is to vacuum them. This will remove surface-level dirt and grime, and can help loosen more stuck-on stains. To vacuum, use the upholstery attachment. If your vacuum doesn't have one, use the brush attachment. Using small, gentle strokes, sweep the vacuum over the upholstery to clean and lift up hair, crumbs, and other debris, working from the top of chair to the bottom.

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Step 2: Make Your Cleaning Solution

Next, gather the rest of your cleaning supplies—it's time to make some soap. Get a large bowl of very warm water (as warm as you can safely handle it), and add in a teaspoon of mild laundry or dish detergent. Mix the two together until you have a sudsy combo.

Step 3: Spot Clean

Now it's time to work on getting any tough stains out. To spot clean, you can either use a store-bought stain spot treatment, or you can make your own with 3% hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar. Either way, dip a clean cloth into the stain remover, and gently dab at the stain before letting it sit for 10 minutes. While it's working its stain-removing magic, move on to the next step.

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Step 4: Clean Your Chairs

Dip another clean cloth into the soapy mixture you made earlier and wring out any excess liquid. Then, use the cloth to gently dampen the entire upholstered surface of the chair, taking care to ensure the surface is moist enough without it being saturated with water. Dip your cloth back into the soapy mixture as needed to add more cleaning solution.

It's much easier to clean the entire surface of a chair than just a section, as a sectioned-off cleaning can leave water or soap stains. But if you must only clean a portion of the upholstery, try to 'fade' the wet upholstery out.

Step 5: Scrub and Steam

Next, grab your soft-bristled brush and very gently scrub the soapy mixture into the upholstery. Scrub in small circles, working from the top to the bottom the piece.

If you have a steam cleaner, now is the time to use it. Steam clean the chair from the top to bottom, using small, criss-crossed brush strokes.

Step 6: Rinse and Dry

To finish up cleaning your upholstered chairs, dip a clean cloth in warm water and wring it out until it's just damp. Then sweep the damp cloth all over the upholstered surface, repeating as needed with additional clean washcloths, until the upholstery is sud-free.

Finally, let the upholstery dry over the course of the day, or overnight. The best way to do this is to place the chair in a room with the windows open and with fans pointed at the furniture. This will provide plenty of cross-breeze to help the chair dry out evenly. Short on space? You can also place the upholstered chair in a shady spot outside for a few hours to dry too.

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How to Keep Upholstered Chairs Clean Longer

There are two key things you can do to keep upholstered chairs clean longer. The first is to immediately treat any stains that arise as they occur, rather than leaving them to sit and soak in. The second is to apply a stain-protection treatment to your chairs to provide further protection from spills and dirt.