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How To Remove Old Stains From Upholstery

upholstery cleaning

It’s far easier to remove stains from your sofa if you can get to them as soon as possible. But in reality, this rarely happens, and stains can sit and set for a long time, making them more difficult to get rid of. However, there are some simple guidelines you can follow for how to remove old stains from upholstery! Read on to find out more…

Sofa stain removal – Know your cleaning code

You need to be able to understand the cleaning code that you’ll find on a label attached to your sofa. This will help you to choose the right cleaning solution for your sofa fabric:

W: water-based cleaner
If your upholstery has a W tag this means that you can use a simple water-based cleaner suitable for synthetic materials such as acetate, nylon, and polyester.

S: solvent-based cleaner
S-labelled upholstery means that it must be cleaned with cleaning solvents as the fabric will not react well if water is applied to it. Materials here include cotton, linen, damask, and rayon.

S/W: solvent or water-based cleaner
If your sofa is made with a blend of natural and man-made fibres it indicates that the cleaner should be selected based on the type of stain. It’s safest to use a solvent-based cleaner in most cases.

X: vacuum only
X labels are rarely found on upholstery these days but it signifies that the sofa is not cleanable. However, a professional cleaning service would be able to provide you with successful cleaning options.

Sofa cleaning methods

Take these few simple steps to remove old stains from your sofa:

  1. 1. Vacuum: thoroughly vacuum your sofa to remove any loose dirt
  2. 2. Check the cleaning code: identify the code from the list above. If there isn’t a code you’ll need to do a spot test on a hidden area.
  3. 3. Clean with water or solvent-based solutions: a mixture of washing up liquid and cool water, or vinegar can be used to blot the stains.
  4. 4. Use a steam cleaner: sofas with a W tag will benefit from steaming the stain making it more responsive to treatment.

Cleaning techniques in more detail

If your sofa can be cleaned with water you can mix a solution of diluted washing-up liquid. Use a sponge or clean microfibre cloth to gently blot the stain with the soap mixture. Don’t rub as this can cause the stain to penetrate deeper into the sofa fibres.
Rinse and blot taking care not to overwet as this can cause mildew and an unpleasant smell. Press dry with clean paper towels or a clean microfibre.
When your sofa can’t be cleaned with water you can use vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Spray the stain before rubbing from the exterior to the centre using a clean white microfibre cloth to absorb the stain. Repeat as necessary.

Food stains

Bear in mind that proteins in food stains will curdle and hot water will tend to set them rather than remove them. When you’re unsure of the stain you should use cold water with a liquid detergent. Apply to the stain and let it sit for about 30 minutes then gently scrub with a sponge or cloth starting from the outside and working inwards. Rinse with a clean sponge and blot dry.

Fruit and wine stains

If your sofa has the W tag you can mix cold water, a tablespoon of vinegar, and a teaspoon of washing up liquid, laundry detergent, or shampoo. Rub the stain with the solution and then rinse it out with clean water and clean cloth before drying.

Oil and grease stains

Absorb as much of the stain as possible by using baking powder and letting it sit for about 15 minutes. Scrape off the excess before thoroughly vacuuming, and finish with an application of dry cleaning solvent or rubbing alcohol, blotting until all residues are absorbed.

Get professional upholstery cleaning

Achieving the best results from your upholstery cleaning is what trained and experienced technicians do best! Your sofa will be thoroughly inspected to identify any markings or stains. This identification will help choose the correct solution to treat the stains with an initial pre-treatment before the comprehensive clean begins.

A modern upholstery steam cleaner will be used to carry out the cleaning process. The hot water extraction method has tool attachments allowing reach into awkward places. The hot water solution will actively break the bonds between the stain and your upholstery fibres, extracting the dirt and grime alongside any excess water. This means your sofa will dry very quickly, and look and smell as new.

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