How to Clean Upholstered Chairs

Take a look at how to clean upholstered chairs in the kitchen or dining room. Get tips for dealing with furniture fuzz and how to get stubborn stains out of fabric.

beige upholstered chair after cleaning

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If you have any kind of upholstered furniture and you live with kids or pets (or just messy people) are a brave soul. Upholstered everything is all the rage right now, but it can be kind of a pain to keep clean. Adding a regular cleaning for both the sofa and any upholstered chairs is a must!

I try to keep cleanings of my heavily-used upholstered furniture on a rotation. I've got a task for cleaning furniture built into Journey to Clean (during the living areas week). One month I'll clean the couch; the next I'll clean the kitchen chairs. That way, I don't have a ton of work to do in any given month (and we have a dry place to sit on cleaning day 😉).

Let's take a look at how I clean upholstered furniture!

Step 1: Protect the upholstery before it ever gets dirty.

As soon as we purchase any kind of furniture, I give it a good spray with Scotch Guard. I try to repeat this once a year. It's not 100% going to eliminate stains, but it does help repel liquids before they soak into the fabric. I think it's worth a $10 can every once in awhile! One can usually covers all 4 of my kitchen sectional sofa typically requires 2 cans.

Step 2: De-fuzz and de-string.

Before I get to the cleaning part, I like to get rid of any kind of piling, fuzz, or strings hanging out of the upholstery.

close-up of upholstered couch

My couch is notorious for this. When you have an old dog that doesn't take no for an answer and likes to sleep on the couch, this is bound to happen.

couch before removing fuzz
cutting strings off of a couch

First, I simply cut the loose strings out of the couch (carefully, not pulling them when cutting).

strings on a couch

Then, I take my trusty fabric shaver to get rid of the piling and fuzz balls. This is a little rotating set of razor blades covered by a protective plate that cuts off anything that's not flat on your couch (so I don't recommend it for any kind of super fuzzy upholstery...only flat!).

removing fuzz from a couch with an upholstery shaver

Simply rub it over the top of your upholstery and it takes care of anything sticking out.

lint shaven from a couch

Kind of gross, but that's how much fuzz I typically get off of my couch monthly.

Step 3: Give it a shampoo and rinse.

(Note: this was my month to clean my kitchen chairs instead of my couch, so I'm switching to the chairs for this part.)

upholstered chairs lined up in a row

My kitchen chairs get dirtier than basically any other upholstery in my house. I mean, with reason - kids eat there a few times a day right now. It's to be expected.

dirty upholstery on a chair

Even with Scotch Guard, you're going to have spills and stains if you have upholstery - it's just part of owning chairs like this. Luckily, it's really easy to clean!

Hoover carpet cleaner sitting next to upholstered chairs

I've had this upholstery/carpet cleaner for years and I absolutely love it. I think anybody that has kids or pets should own one of these. You can use basically any cleaner you want in it (more on that in a minute) and it's no more difficult to store than a vacuum cleaner. Warning: you will be totally and completely grossed out by the water you pour out of this thing every time. But I'm glad that nastiness is in the throw-away water, rather than my furniture!

water tank of a carpet cleaner

Start with the machine on the wash mode with your upholstery attachment (included when you buy the cleaner). I fill my machine with warm water (it seems to lift stains better) and I use my tried-and-true favorite Totally Awesome cleaner (undiluted) in the cleaner tank. I buy this at Dollar Tree - yes, it's only a dollar and it's one of my favorite cleaners ever!

using carpet cleaner to treat upholstery

The upholstery attachment has a sprayer a brush, and a vacuum to lift the dirty water. Go over the entire seat, spraying everything and concentrating on the stained areas by brushing back and forth a few times. I like to go in lines on the seat to make sure I get every little bit.

using a carpet cleaner on an upholstered chair

Then, going in the opposite direction, don't press the trigger to turn the sprayer on. Just run the attachment over the wet upholstery; this will suck up a lot of the extra cleaner.

I usually just do this to the seat part (because it's always the dirtiest); I might spot clean the back of the chair, but it needs cleaning a lot less.

water tank of a carpet cleaner

Then, flip over to the rinse cycle and repeat the process.

using a carpet cleaner on an upholstered chair

Spray the seat really well in lines, concentrating on any remaining spots. Then, go over the seat with the attachment (not spraying) in the opposite direction to get as much water out of the upholstery as possible.

upholstered chairs lined in a row

Allow your seats to dry for 6-8 hours and you'll notice a huge difference!

before and after of cleaning upholstered chairs

This is an easy cleaning task that makes such a massive difference - try putting it on your schedule once a month! Once you learn how to clean upholstered chairs the easy way, it's so simple to integrate into your cleaning schedule.

Catch up on more of the Cleaning 101 series with the links below!

xo, Leslie - signature at the end of blog post.

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  1. Alicia Hursley says:

    I've got to hand it to you, this worked PERFECTLY! We bought new dining room chairs last year and have been working hard to keep them clean ever since. We've used a professional furniture cleaner who did a great job but we knew we needed to find ways to clean on our own too. These steps were just what we needed and the chairs look amaaaaaazing now! Thank you so much.

  2. Katy Tomlinson says:

    We just used your techniques on some of the seats in our car and it worked! I am very impressed because we have tried a few different ways to get a nasty, melted deodorant stain off the front seat, and we rented an actual upholstery cleaner, and finally worked! I will definitely be using this upholstery cleaner as a carpet and furniture cleaner in the future. Thank you!

  3. Britney Jones says:

    This worked like a charm for me! It is so hard to keep chairs clean with kids, and our chairs were looking pretty rough. I've been looking for a good furniture cleaning solution and I'm so glad I found yours! Thank you so much for sharing!