How To Protect Upholstery From Wear And Damage

Not only is our furniture a major household investment, it is also a truly good friend. It takes care of us, supporting us when chatting with friends or falling asleep in front of the TV, holding on to our loose change and by proving a safe haven for family – human and animal members. 

However, over time, our favorite chair, sofa, recliner or ottoman can begin to show wear and tear; eventually getting demoted and donated to the local thrift shop. Following are several helpful suggestions prepared by The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) that are designed to help you protect your upholstery from damage.

There are a number of things you can do to retain the “new” appearance and quality of fabric of upholstered furniture, in both a residential and commercial setting. The main thing is that care must begin when the upholstery is first put into service. But what kind of care are we talking about?

  • Immediate Spotting – Most spills and spots can be removed easily if the excess is scooped up or blotted and treated immediately with plain water or a neutral spotter. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions and use caution when spotting leather or dry-clean-only fabrics.
  • Controlling Soil – Upholstered armrests, seat cushions, headrests, and pillows are more susceptible to soil buildup. Using arm covers and rotating cushions frequently can prolong fabric life and appearance.
  • Dry Soil Removal – Vacuuming on a regular basis and, depending on fabric durability and construction, brushing upholstery routinely is recommended to remove dust and particle soil.
  • Cleaning Frequency – Have upholstered furniture and fabrics professionally cleaned – the IICRC recommends every 12-24 months; more frequently for heavily soiled fabrics or when the piece is located in a home occupied by persons with allergies or respiratory sensitivity or in a commercial setting.
  • Fabric Protectors – Fabric protector (e.g., Scotch-Gard®) is a chemical based product that may be applied to the finished fabric by the manufacturer, the furniture dealer, or by a professional cleaner.  It is designed to bond with or coat the fibers to form an “invisible barrier” against water-based and oil-based stains. If applied too heavily, the fabric protector may adversely affect fabric appearance and texture. However, even with proper application, upholstery must be vacuumed regularly and the fabric protection may need to be re-applied after professional cleaning.
  • Blot up spills as soon as they happen with a dry, white cloth or white paper towels, using a light touch. Turn or replace the cloth or towels frequently. Excessive pressure can push liquid deeper into the fabric.
  • Don’t use a wet cloth initially to clean a dry or soil spot. Instead, remove with a soft brush or vacuum with a brush attachment. Mud should be allowed to dry, and then gently scraped away before vacuuming.
  • Test spot-removal products in an inconspicuous area, even if the cleaner has been recommended for your particular upholstery fabric. Do not over-saturate upholstery fabric, even if it is water-washable. Never scrub or use vigorous motions, which could damage the fabric.
  • For peanut butter, lotion, or other oil-based messes, lift excess carefully using a plastic scraper. Do not use any liquid cleaner until all of the surface substance has been removed. If an oily stain remains, dab a manufacturer-recommended spot cleaner from the outer edges of the spot to the center.

Questions About Custom Upholstery