A Comprehensive Guide to Furniture Care and Cleaning

furniture cleaning and care

For many of us, once we have acquired that piece of furniture we really wanted, we don’t pay much attention to its upkeep – other than when it gets scratched, spilled on, or otherwise damaged. However, it’s essential to think about furniture maintenance, especially if you have a quality piece of furniture. Properly maintaining your furniture is the best day to make sure it lasts and continues to look good and function for a long period of time. Remember if you’re renting your furniture, it’s always best to contact the company you’re renting from before attempting any of these methods.

Cleaning Wood

While wood furniture is generally low maintenance, it does need some attention to make sure it lasts. You might decide that it’s time to clean it if there is an accident that mars its surface or if simply starts to look somewhat dull.

To determine how to clean wood furniture, you will need the following supplies:

  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Dishwashing liquid soap
  • Cotton balls
  • Mineral spirits
  • Clean cloth
  • Wax for wood
  • Cheesecloth
  • Denatured alcohol

Basic Cleaning

You will need to first test an area of the wood that you want to clean to ensure it won’t remove the finish or harm your furniture in any way. Add a tiny amount of dishwashing detergent to a cotton ball that’s been moistened with water, and wipe the surface of the wood furniture. 

If there is no damage to the wood, you can continue to clean the wood with a solution of dishwashing detergent and water that you mix in a bucket. Apply the solution using a sponge, and make sure you lightly wash the surface of the furniture without completely soaking it with the mixture. You will also need to dry the piece of furniture thoroughly to ensure there is no residue from the cleaning solution.

cleaning wood with detergent

Deeper Cleaning

If you have decided you want to clean your piece of furniture a little bit more thoroughly, you can try mineral spirits. As when using dishwashing detergent as a cleaner, make sure you test a small area with a cotton ball moistened with water and mineral spirits first. If you don’t see that the wood has been harmed in any way, you can use a cloth with mineral spirits. It is also very important when working with mineral spirits that you use them in a well-ventilated area. After you are done cleaning the wood, you will want to wipe away any remainder of the mineral spirits with a clean cloth with just water on it.

You will not be able to use mineral spirits if you get unfavorable results when testing an area of the furniture with a cotton ball and dish detergent. In that case, you might want to try using denatured alcohol, which you can test with a cotton swab. If the finish changes when using the denatured alcohol, then it is likely the finish may be made from shellac. If it doesn’t dissolve when you are cleaning with the denatured alcohol, then it is likely the finish is made from polyurethane, oil, varnish or lacquer.

Finish with Wax

Once you have cleaned your furniture, you can now apply furniture wax. This can be applied with a cheesecloth, rubbing it in the same direction as the wood grain. You can then buff the wood with a clean cloth. Remember to dust your wood furniture with cloths that are soft and lint-free. Do not use feather dusters, because they have quills that may scratch your furniture.

Extra Credit: Removing Watermarks

If you are not just interested in cleaning your wood furniture but want to remove watermarks, consider using some of these simple methods:

  • Try rubbing the area with an oily substance such as petroleum jelly, mayonnaise or a furniture polish with oil. What you are trying to do is get rid of the watermark with the oil. If you have achieved success, you can now wax the furniture.
  • A little toothpaste is often a cure for a watermark. You can rub the mild abrasive of the toothpaste in the watermark to help get rid of it. If you are successful, you can now wax the furniture.
  • As an extra abrasive, you can mix some baking soda with toothpaste, as little as a half teaspoon each.
  • If none of the above methods works to remove a watermark, try mineral spirits on a clean cloth. You should rub gently until the stain is gone.

toothpaste removing watermark

Cleaning Upholstery

While you may have put great effort into selecting your upholstered furniture, you should also think about the proper cleaning of its fabric. Proper care will add years of use to your furniture and ensure it always looks good. Not every piece of upholstered furniture uses the same type of cleaner. When determining how to clean furniture fabric, you will need to look at the codes underneath the cushions.

The upholstery fabric cleaning codes are:

  • W denotes water-based cleaning, meaning only cleaning agents that are water-based can be used. Tap water cannot be used because it has minerals that may leave rings on the fabric. Only distilled water can be used.
  • S implies that solvent-based cleaning agents should be used. They are generally very mild and free of water. These types of materials should never be cleaned by water.
  • SW means the materials can be cleaned by both solvent- and water-based furniture-cleaning products, which would be cleaners with foam or other mild agents free of water. Only distilled water should be used when cleaning these types of materials.
  • X means the material should only be cleaned using professional cleaning methods. While you can vacuum to remove the dirt, cleaners based with water or solvents should not be used. You would need to have a professional clean this type of material if you need a deeper cleaning than a vacuum can provide.

Though the various codes will tell you what types of cleaning solutions to use for your particular piece of furniture, the material used in your furniture can also be a guide to help you decide upon the proper cleaning agents. While synthetic materials are very easy to clean, it is also important to check the codes underneath the cushions to determine which type of solvent to use. Not all furniture made from synthetic fibers can be cleaned in the same manner.

Cleaning Synthetic Fiber Furniture

You can clean most furniture made from synthetic fibers with water-based cleaners. You will first want to use the water-based cleaner on a small area of the furniture that is not very visible. Make sure the area being cleaned does not react in such a way that it shrinks or becomes discolored. If shrinkage or discoloration result, you will need to consider another type of cleaner.

cleaning synthetic fiber furniture

Cleaning Combination Fabric Furniture

When considering how to clean couches made from combination materials, you need to know that these types of couches are made from both natural and synthetic fibers. Because of the combination of types of materials, it is best to consult with a professional before you begin to clean couches made from these materials.

Cleaning Natural Fiber Furniture

As an alternative to combination or synthetic fiber upholstery, you may decide upon upholstery made from natural fibers. Furniture made with natural materials can generally be cleaned without the assistance of a professional, usually with a cleaner that is water-based, unless labelling indicates otherwise. Make sure when you are using water that you don’t apply too much, which might either leave rings or cause shrinkage.

Stain Removal

Sometimes, you may not be cleaning for general maintenance purposes, but you may be trying to get a particular stain out. You will need to take some very specific steps to clean a stained area.

  1. Get as much of the stained area off the upholstery as you can by using either the edge of a spoon or a spatula. You want to remove the stain without rubbing it in.
  2. In order to prevent the dried pieces of the stained area from getting ground into your upholstery, use your vacuum brush. Using a brush attachment turns your vacuum into the perfect furniture-cleaning machine.
  3. You can make your own upholstery cleaner from very simple materials that you have at home. Combine one-quarter cup of biodegradable dish detergent with one cup of warm water. By using an electric mixer, you can create a cleaning solution that is very thick foam.
  4. You can now apply the cleaning mixture with a cloth or a brush that has very soft bristles. As you rub the cleaning solution into the stain, you will notice that the solution will lift the stain from the fabric. You can then get rid of the stained foam by gently removing with a rubber spatula.
  5. After you have lifted the stain, you will want to rinse off the formerly stained spot with a clean wet cloth.
  6. Dry all of the cushions or soiled areas thoroughly before using in order to prevent mildew.

Cleaning Leather Furniture

While leather furniture can add elegance to any room, you need to be careful that you don’t mar that sense of elegance by using cleaners that could ruin the surface. There are very important steps to take when cleaning a leather sofa:

  1. First, you should vacuum the sofa to remove any grime that could potentially get ground in if you were using a cleaning solution.
  2. Make a cleaning solution out of equal amounts of water and white vinegar, if you don’t have premade leather cleaner.
  3. A soft cloth, especially a microfiber cloth, is perfect to use in this solution, and you want to ensure it is damp but not soaking wet.
  4. After starting from the top of the leather upholstered material and working your way down, you will want to wipe your entire leather sofa or chair with the cloth. Be sure to rinse out the cloth in the cleaning solution as the cloth becomes soiled.
  5. A clean towel should be used to dry the leather. Never use a heated drying source such as a hairdryer, as this could cause the leather to crack and shrink. When considering how to keep furniture looking new, you will want to make a leather conditioner from white vinegar and linseed oil. The ratio you use should be one part of vinegar to two parts of linseed oil. Once you have applied this mixture, you will need to leave it on your leather furniture overnight. You can then buff the leather to a shine the next day with a clean cloth.

dry leather with a clean towel

Removing Stains from Leather Furniture

Though general cleaning and conditioning of leather furniture is important, what should you do when your leather furniture becomes stained? Different stains will need different treatment in order to ensure the stains are completely removed.

  • Equal amounts of rubbing alcohol and water is the perfect solution to get rid of mold and mildew. Wipe the solution on with a clean cloth.
  • You can remove permanent marker by spraying aerosol hairspray on the stains and then wiping away gently with a clean cloth. Ballpoint pen stains may be removed by using eucalyptus oil saturated in a cotton ball.
  • It is also possible to use nail polish remover, gently abrasive toothpastes and baby wipes to get rid of some stains. You will need to make sure to test an inconspicuous area before you use these methods to ensure these types of solutions don’t cause the leather to fade.
  • Though dark stains on a light-colored leather couch can be troublesome, you may be able to remove them by using a mixture of one part each of lemon juice and cream of tartar. After leaving this on the stain for 10 minutes, rub more of the mixture on the stain and then wipe the area off with a damp sponge.
  • Grease stains may be a challenge to get out on any type of furniture, but there is a specific remedy to remove them from leather. Dust the area of the stain with baking soda and leave on the stain for several hours. You can then brush the area off with a clean cloth, and the oil stain should be gone since baking soda absorbs it.

Now that you have a good understanding about how to clean and maintain your furniture, you may have a better idea about what type of furniture will best fit your needs. Interior Furniture Resources has a variety of furniture for rent and sale that can suit your lifestyle.