Spot cleaning upholstery is one of those chores that needs to be done immediately. I’m reasonably certain that the majority of responsible furniture owners are aware of this. It’s the right thing to do, and stands the best chance of successful stain removal. Having said that, let’s consider for a moment the times when it’s just not possible to immediately handle a stain.
A quick search of the internet might lead you to believe that no one in the history of the world has failed to blot and treat a spill in a timely manner. There are things you can do to revive a stained piece of upholstery, even if the staining took place long ago.
First: Vacuum the Upholstery
Upholstery cleaning includes vacuuming. Upholstery should be vacuumed frequently to keep the fabric in good shape and prevent dust and crumbs from settling into the body of the furniture. In the case of an old stain, it’s surprising how much a simple vacuuming can help. It should always be the first step in dealing with this kind of damage. You don’t really know how bad the stain is until all of the loose particles have been vacuumed.
Check for Upholstery Cleaning Instructions
Check your furniture for its cleaning codes. This gets you on the right track of how to best tackle your stain. Some pieces can be cleaned with water; however, others will require moving directly into various solvents. If your furniture lacks a cleaning code, do a simple spot test on a hidden piece of upholstery. I like to test water, vodka and vinegar because they’re always my first choices for cleaning, before getting into the more heavy-hitting chemical stuff.
Try Some Steam
If your furniture can be cleaned with water, hitting the stain with a bit of steam loosens it up and makes the stain more responsive to treatment. I typically just grab my iron and and use the steam button for this application.
Spot Cleaning, Phase 1
This is the phase where you cross your fingers and hope that a simple solution is all that’s needed. If your furniture can be cleaned with water, mix a little dish soap with cool water and, using a wrung out sponge, blot the stain with the soap mixture. Take care not to rub at the stain. At this point, it’s unlikely that the stain will set in deeper, but rubbing can weaken and pill your fabric.
Next, rinse the sponge and use just water to blot out some of the soap mixture. Press dry with a cloth or paper towels. If your furniture cannot be cleaned with water, try using vinegar or vodka on a cloth to blot the stains. The smell of both the vinegar or the vodka will disappear when the area is dry.
Spot Cleaning, Phase 2
If a more gentle clean doesn’t work, it’s time to go heavy duty and break out the tough cleaners. Any cleaner you choose to use should be spot tested. Some people swear by Resolve or Tuff Stuff. Jenny Komenda of Little Green Notebook has had some truly remarkable results with Folex. I’m fortunate that my stains came out without having to venture into this territory. When an entire glass of red wine or a mug of hot coffee has spilled, Wine Away has been a real lifesaver.
Rinse and Repeat
If your stain has survived this entire cleaning process, you are dealing with one stubborn stain. As exhausting as the process can be, doing it all over again can give you the result you’re looking for.