South and Hickory Facade

Cleaning Upholstery the Right Way

Woman sitting on a couch drinking coffee. Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio

April 2023


At South and Hickory Place we love how passionate our residents about personalizing and decorating their apartments. For many, that means having upholstered furniture. If that includes you, sooner or later you’ll need to clean it. It could be sooner because of an accidental spill, or later because those frequently touched spots are starting to show some dirt. Either way, we’re here to help you decode the information on the fabric label and explain how to choose the correct cleaning product.

Let’s start with how often you should clean. If you’ve accidentally spilled something or gotten visible dirt on your upholstered furniture, clean immediately. Just like your laundry, the longer a stain or dirt sits, the harder it is to get out. If we’re just talking about normal use, you should vacuum upholstered furniture at least once a month and deep clean it twice a year. That’s sufficient to remove any dust, germs, dander, or dirt. That deep clean is important, especially if you’re an allergy sufferer.

When it’s time to clean, start by reading the label. There should be one somewhere on the fabric itself. It’s often on the bottom of the piece or on a removable cushion. If you’re lucky, there will be care instructions right on the label and you just need to let that be your guide. But that’s not always the case. So, look for the fabric codes. These help you identify the right type of cleaning product to use. They are W, S, W/S, and X.

If you see Code W, you should only use water to clean your upholstery – and that includes steam. Code S stands for oil-based solvents like acetone or methanol, or cleaning products that contain them. Code W/S means you should only use water-based cleaning products. And Code X means you should avoid using any liquids. In those cases, you’ll only be able to vacuum or brush the fabric.

One final note… even if you use the appropriate cleaner for the fabric code, it’s always a good idea to spot test it in an inconspicuous location. That will allow you to make sure it doesn’t damage the fabric or cause colors to bleed or fade.