How to clean a fabric sofa

Category_Real Furniture

Here are our top tips for keeping your fabric sofa clean and looking as good as new... You spent a long time choosing that very special sofa – it had to be just right and you love it. The shape is perfect, the fabric is stunning, and the sofa looks great in its new setting. You chose carefully and invested wisely and now, like any investment, you’re keeping an eye on how it performs and, of course, you want to keep it looking good. And then life happens – a spilt drink, muddy paws and shoes, sticky hands, a blob of mayonnaise and let’s not forget babies . . . Your beloved sofa is suddenly looking the worse for wear. Don’t worry, our guide will help you keep your fabric sofa looking good, sort out those unforeseen disasters, and restore your fabric sofa to its former glory.

Don’t let the dirt build up

Let’s face it, there’s always detritus, such as hair (human and animal) and skin flakes, often barely visible, in even the cleanest of homes. Live in the city? There’s urban pollution. But, as any country dweller will tell you, dust finds its way into every crevice and onto every surface of rural homes too, especially older houses, and if you have a woodburning stove, there’s ash to contend with. Then there’s all the stuff that somehow finds its way deep into the sides and down the back of your sofa: coins, sweet wrappers, crisp packets, used tissues and miscellaneous bits of fluff . . . So our top tip is – don’t let the dirt build up. Make sure you do the following at least once a week; it really is the best way to keep your fabric sofa looking pristine:
  • Use a dry, stiff bristle brush – to remove loose particles on the surface. Make sure you go over the whole sofa, including the sides and back.
  • Vacuum – use a hand-held vacuum or the upholstery attachment of your vacuum cleaner across the entire surface. Use the nozzle attachment to go deep into the sides and back to remove any fluff and any stray loose particles.
  • Turn cushions – this helps to prolong the life of their covers.
  • Open your windows – and keep them open for a while. Let some fresh air in and let it circulate. Yes, even in winter. Stale air is full of dust and other particles and isn’t good for your health anyway!
If the amount of dirt you brush off or vacuum is alarming, think about getting a couple of sets of washable eco-friendly throws and cushions with washable covers, which will help keep some everyday dirt and dust away from the fabric of your sofa. Otherwise – and there’s no way round this – just vacuum more often . . . Avoid eating on your sofa – that’s what dining or kitchen tables are for. Use side tables (folding ones if space is tight) or have a coffee table within easy reach for drinks and snacks.

When disaster strikes

Accidents happen, even in the best-ordered houses, and before you know it there’s an unsightly stain or mark on your sofa. We asked the retired former head of a national laundry chain for his advice – there’s nothing this man doesn’t know about stains. ‘Three things: check the cleaning codes, check the manufacturer’s recommendations, and tackle the stain without delay. You can save yourself a lot of heartache and unnecessary expenditure by acting swiftly.’ Stain tackling: rule 1 – blot up as much of the stain as possible with kitchen roll, for example, as soon as you can. The longer you leave the stain, the harder it is to tackle. Stain tackling: rule 2 – check the sofa manufacturer’s or retailer’s recommendations regarding stain treatment. You may already have this information but, if not, we suggest that you ask for details before any accidents happen. Most of Raft’s sofa fabrics are dry cleanable only, while others can be machine washed. Call us on 020 8450 5078 or email us at customerservice@raftfurniture.co.uk for details. Stain tackling: rule 3 – check the cleaning codes. But what do those cleaning codes W, S/W and W mean? Here’s what you need to know:

Upholstery fabric cleaning codes

W – use a water-based solution only. This could be soap, washing-up liquid, carpet cleaner, upholstery shampoo or baking soda mixed with water (equal parts). Don’t use solvent-based cleaners. S/W – you can use solvents and water-based cleaners. Solvents are solutions that consist mainly of cleaning chemicals. S – solvents only; don’t used water-based cleaning solutions.

Our five-point guide to safe, sensible stain removal

  • Test before you start. If you are using a water or solvent-based cleaner, follow any instructions carefully and test a small area first, to check for any possible loss or change of colour. (But see ‘Commercial water-based cleaners and solvents’ below.)
  • Use baking soda. If your sofa has the W code, try using a simple household baking soda for a cost-effective, eco-friendly cleaning solution. Simply mix one part baking soda to one part water and apply to the stain. Let it absorb the stain for 15 minutes and then vacuum with the upholstery attachment. (You can also use dry baking soda to remove any odours – inevitable if you have pets - from your sofa. Just sprinkle over your sofa, leave overnight and vacuum in the usual way the following morning.)
  • Commercial water-based cleaners and solvents. If you do use any kind of commercial cleaner, water-based or solvent, follow instructions to the letter. We don't recommend spot cleaning Raft fabric sofas with heavy detergents as these generally make the blemish worse.
  • Towel dry the area you have cleaned. Pat gently but don’t rub.
  • Air dry the cleaned area naturally. Leave your sofa to dry overnight.
If the stain is large or particularly stubborn, you may want to call in the professional cleaners, as they have the right solutions and equipment to tackle different types of stain. Contact Raft on 020 8450 5078 or email us at customerservice@raftfurniture.co.uk for details of recommended specialist cleaning companies.

The subtle chemistry of stains

While our guide will help you deal with a range of general household stains, some require specific treatment. You can always ask Google® or your very own household AI goddess but we think every home should have its very own ‘manual and procedures’ – a comprehensive guide to general cleaning and stain removal. Keep it handy and make sure everyone in knows where it is, for instant reference. There are plenty of excellent guides available, including Fresh Clean Home, by Wendy Graham, whose green living blog Moral Fibres, has attracted visitors from around the world. You’ll also find detailed guides to stain removal in these very popular cleaning and home maintenance books: The Home Handbook by Rachel Simhon, How to Clean Absolutely Everything by Yvonne Worth with Amanda Blinkhorn and How to Clean Absolutely Everything: the right way, the lazy way and the green way by Barty Phillips. They’ve all been around for a while and are now out of print but are just as relevant as when they were first published. You can still find new, unused, and secondhand there are plenty of new and secondhand copies still available online.

It looks clean but does your fabric sofa smell clean?

We’ve already given a thumbs up to baking soda for stain removal but did you know that you can also use it dry to remove any odours – inevitable if you have pets - from your sofa. Just sprinkle over your sofa, leave overnight and vacuum in the usual way the following morning. But, as with the build-up of dirt, the best way to keep odours at bay is regular vacuuming. Avoid using chemical aerosol deodorisers, especially if you have pets. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly dual purpose water-based fabric cleaner and odour neutraliser, try Earth Friendly ECOS Stain and Odour Remover, available from companies like Big Green Smile. It’s safe and gentle on fabrics but tough on stains and won’t break the bank.

All Raft fabric sofas are handcrafted in our London workshop and are designed to last. We’re always happy to answer any questions you may have about cleaning and looking after your sofa. You can find general information on Raft fabric care and our contact details here.

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