How to Clean Chair Fabric by Yourself


One of the good things about redoing your kitchen was probably getting those comfy fabric chairs for the kitchen table. As beautiful as they were, hearty meals and other family activities have probably made them grungy.

Cleaning chairs seems to be one of those elusive tasks that we never seem to get around to doing, so chances are that the chairs in your home are due for some TLC.

If you’re wondering how to clean chair fabric by yourself, just read on for some easy methods that use simple household cleaning agents like baking soda and vinegar to make them look like new again.

intro clean chair fabric

While you can definitely use store-bought cleaners, most brands contain a mix of chemicals that is usually harmful. So if you have kids, elderly folks or pets in your home or if you just want something more eco-friendly, some simple cleaning methods will work like a charm.

However, check the cleaning codes of the chair fabric before you start the cleaning process. Manufacturers mark most upholstered furniture with one of the following four cleaning codes.

  • W (water) – This means that the fabric on your furniture can be cleaned with water-based cleaning agents only.
  • S (solvent) – Furniture marked with an ‘S’ should be cleaned with solvents only. Dry cleaning is recommended, but solvent-based cleaning agents can be used if you want to do it yourself.
  • W/S or S/W (water or solvent) – This code gives you more liberty with cleaning methods, as both water- or solvent-based cleaning agents can be used.
  • X (vacuum only) – Furniture marked with this code should not be cleaned at home with any cleaning agent. Only vacuuming is advised. Consult a professional for further cleaning.

Below are three basic cleaning methods and four stain-removal methods for cleaning chair fabrics by yourself. Choose your methods keeping in mind the cleaning code of the fabric.

Basic Cleaning

Basic cleaning done at regular intervals will prevent buildup of tough old stains that are a pain to tackle. How often you need to clean your fabric chairs depends on how frequently they get dirty. Incorporate one or more of the given methods in your cleaning regime as needed.

Method 1: Use a Vacuum Cleaner

before and after using vacuum

Vacuuming should be your first go-to method when it comes to cleaning any upholstered furniture. Fabric with any cleaning code can be vacuumed.

You may be surprised with the results after simply vacuuming the chair. It will not only clean up the settled-in layer of dust, you’ll notice that most stains will also become visibly lighter.

Single-Step Method: Thoroughly vacuum the chair upholstery

vacuum the chair fabric

  • To deep clean the fabric, use the brush attachment that comes with your vacuum cleaner.
  • If the fabric is delicate, use the upholstery attachment instead. If your vacuum didn’t come with one, brush the fabric with an upholstery brush and pick up the loosened dirt with the vacuum.
  • Vacuum in even, overlapping strokes to clean the entire surface area. Use left-to-right overlapping strokes for nappy materials like suede, velvet and chenille to catch the dirt lodged in the nap.
  • Use the crevice tool to clean the seams and crevices.

final clean chair fabric with vacuum

Method 2: Use a Steam Cleaner

before and after using steamer

If vacuuming doesn’t seem to make a dent anymore, use a steam cleaner to deep clean your fabric chairs. Before you start, check that the fabric’s cleaning code is ‘W’ or ‘S/W’.

Unlike water and other liquid cleaning solutions, steam can penetrate and loosen a stain without saturating the area. Then, the stain can easily be cleaned with a little spot cleaning.

In addition to deep cleaning and minor stain removal, the steam’s high temperature will thoroughly disinfect the area and eliminates mold, mildew and mites from upholstered chairs. Steam cleaning can also eliminate a bed bug infestation in your upholstered furniture.

Single-Step Method: Use a steam cleaner to deep clean the chair fabric

use a steamer to clean the chair fabric

  • Run the steam cleaner over the chair’s fabric in overlapping horizontal strokes, followed by overlapping vertical strokes. This grid-like manner will ensure that you cover the entire surface.
  • For any stains, steam them once before spot cleaning and again after to finish the job.
  • Allow the chairs to completely dry before using them. It shouldn’t take very long, as steam evaporates readily.

final clean chair fabric with steamer

Method 3: Use a Soap Solution

before and after using dish soap

If you don’t own a steam cleaner and don’t have access to renting one, a hot mild soap solution and some elbow grease can restore your dirty chairs. Just make sure that the fabric is marked ‘W’ or ‘S/W’.

Liquid dish soap is an efficient, all-purpose cleaner that easily lifts the grime and removes basic stains. Making a mild dish soap solution will minimize the cleanup process and hot water will simply boost the cleaning capacity of the solution.

Things you’ll need:

things you'll need to use dish soap to clean chair fabric

  • Liquid dish soap (all-purpose cleaning agent) – 2 teaspoons
  • Hot water in a spray bottle (boosts cleaning properties of dish soap) – 2 cups
  • Household sponge
  • Soft towel

Step 1. Make a dish soap solution in a spray bottle

make a dish soap solution

  • Pour 2 cups of hot water into a spray bottle.
  • Add 2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap.
  • Put the spray nozzle back on and shake it well to dissolve the soap.

Step 2. Clean the fabric with the hot soap solution

clean the fabric with hot soap solution

  • Spray the hot dish soap solution sparingly over the dirty surfaces of the chair.
  • Scrub out the dirt and stains with a household sponge.

Step 3. Soak up any moisture and let the chair dry

soak up excess moisture

  • Soak up as much moisture as you can with an absorbent towel.
  • If there is excess soap residue on the chair, sponge it with a damp towel before attempting to dry it.
  • Allow the chair to completely air-dry before using it.

final clean chair fabric with soap solution

Stain Removal

Whether you’ve spilled food or beverages on your chairs or your pet has made a mess on one of them, it is always good to have some stain-removal tips up your sleeve.

Method 1: Use Hydrogen Peroxide

before and after using hydrogen peroxide

While it isn’t effective on oil and grease stains on fabric, hydrogen peroxide can work wonders on organic stains like blood, urine, food, grass, and tea or coffee.

Hydrogen peroxide acts like a bleach, disinfects the surface and rids it of any offending odor. This makes it quite perfect for spot cleaning stained chair fabric. You need to ensure that your chair fabric is marked ‘W’ or ‘W/S’ before using this method.

Step 1. Dilute hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle

dilute hydrogen peroxide

  • Fill a spray bottle two-thirds of the way with water.
  • Fill up the remaining one-third of the bottle with hydrogen peroxide.
  • Put the spray nozzle back on and shake it well to mix the ingredients.

Step 2. Spot clean the stain with diluted hydrogen peroxide

clean the stain with diluted hydrogen peroxide

  • Cover the stained area of your upholstered chair with a spray of diluted hydrogen peroxide.
  • Let the solution sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Soak up the moisture with a towel.
  • If the stain is stubborn, repeat the process a couple more times.
  • Let the chair dry completely before using it again.

final clean chair stain with hydrogen peroxide

Method 2: Use White Vinegar

before and after using white vinegar

White vinegar is a multi-purpose cleaner that can help tackle oil and grease stains on upholstered chairs. It will also take care of the various odors set into the fabric. Don’t worry about the vinegar smell, it will dissipate as the chair air-dries.

White vinegar can only be used on fabrics with a ‘W’ or ’S/W’ cleaning code.

Step 1. Dilute vinegar in a spray bottle

dilute the vinegar

  • Pour 1 cup of water and ½ cup of white vinegar into a spray bottle.
  • Put on the nozzle and shake it well.

Step 2. Spot clean the stained area with diluted vinegar

spray diluted vinegar on the stain and clean

  • Spray the diluted vinegar liberally on the stain.
  • Blot the vinegar-soaked area with a towel. It will absorb the loosened stain along with the vinegar.
  • Repeat the process if the stain remains.
  • Blot up as much moisture as possible, and let the chair completely dry before using it.

final clean chair fabric with vinegar

Method 3: Use Rubbing Alcohol

before and after using rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can help you tackle ink marks and similar pigment-based stains like chocolate, tea, coffee, fruit, grass, wine or blood. If the fabric looks grungy with these tough stains, spot treatment with rubbing alcohol should set things right.

Rubbing alcohol disinfects the surface. It also evaporates fast, which makes the drying process easy. Diluted rubbing alcohol is safe on fabric marked ‘S/W’. Use undiluted rubbing alcohol to clean fabric marked ‘S’.

Step 1. Dilute rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle

dilute rubbing alcohol with water

  • Fill a small spray bottle halfway with water and top it with rubbing alcohol.
  • Put the nozzle on and shake it well to mix the ingredients.

Step 2. Spot treat the stain with diluted rubbing alcohol

treat the stain with rubbing alcohol

  • Spray the diluted rubbing alcohol directly on the stain.
  • Blot up the liquid with a kitchen towel.
  • Repeat the process until the stain is gone.
  • Thoroughly air-dry the chair before using it again.

final clean chair fabric with rubbing alcohol

Method 4: Use Baking Soda

before and after using baking soda

Baking soda is very good at absorbing funky odors set into chair fabric. While baking soda is not much good at erasing stains, it can lighten the stains considerably. Just ensure that the fabric is marked ‘W’ or ‘W/S’ before using this method.

Things you’ll need:

things you'll need to use baking soda to clean chair fabric

  • Baking soda (stain remover and deodorizer)
  • Water in a spray bottle
  • Old toothbrush
  • Vacuum cleaner

Step 1. Cover the dirty surface with baking soda

cover the stain with baking soda

  • Sprinkle baking soda liberally on the stained area.
  • Let it sit for about 20 minutes. If you need to remove a strong odor from the fabric, leave it on longer or even overnight.

Step 2. Vacuum up most of the baking soda

vacuum most of the baking soda

  • Use a vacuum to remove the bulk of the baking soda.

Step 3. Scrub out the stain

scrub the stain

  • Mist a little water over the remaining baking soda on the fabric.
  • Scrub out the stain thoroughly with an old toothbrush.

Step 4. Finish by vacuuming the chair

finish by vacuuming the chair

  • Thoroughly vacuum up the remainder of the baking soda using the brush attachment.
  • Let the chair completely dry before using it.

final clean chair fabric with baking soda

Tips

  • Always check the cleaning code of your fabric chair before choosing a cleaning method.
  • Always do a spot test in a discreet area before proceeding with any method on the rest of the fabric. If there is discoloring or similar issues, try another method.
  • When vacuuming with the crevice tool to clean the hard-to-reach areas, use a rubber band to secure a pantyhose over the open end. This will keep small coins and other similar items from being sucked into the vacuum.
  • Avoid getting moisture on the metal parts of the chair, as this could lead to rusting.
  • Let the chair fabric air-dry completely before using it again. Damp fabric will attract dirt more readily, and it’ll be prone to mold and mildew. You can open up the widows to improve the ventilation and speed up the drying process.

Summary of How to Clean Chair Fabric by Yourself

how to clean chair fabric summary

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