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deciphering upholstery cleaning codes 

Kids are rough on upholstered furniture. They put their shoes on the couch, jump on the chairs, pull off the loveseat pillows to make forts, and stash crumbs, pencils, quarters, etc. under the cushions to create a perpetual collection of odds and ends. 

The good news is that you can keep the furniture nice, and even clean it yourself when needed. This upholstery cleaning guide can help decipher the often-confusing upholstery care label codes, so that you can safely remove the stains and spills of daily life.

Upholstery Cleaning Tips

Treat upholstered furniture with a fabric protector spray with stain guard to make it more stain-resistant. This is an invisible finish that coats the fabric so that spills and dirt don't penetrate as quickly or easily. It's safe for most fabrics.

Protect your upholstered furniture from direct sunlight. Rotate and reverse cushions occasionally so they will fade evenly and receive equal wear.

Monthly upholstery cleaning should include vacuuming the furniture with a soft brush attachment to remove surface dust and dirt before it becomes a ground-in upholstery stain.

No matter how many house rules you have about no eating in the living room, chances are someone will eventually spill juice on your couch. It's just one of those things a Mom can count on.

Wipe up spills on upholstery with a clean cloth immediately after they happen. Blot, don't rub! And use this guide to understanding upholstery cleaning codes to find the right cleaner for removing your upholstery stains and spills.

Understanding Cleaning Codes

What exactly do those cleaning codes on your couch or sofa cushion mean? They're not exactly self-explanatory. The letters you'll find are generally W, S, WS, or X. And they're meant to tell you which upholstery cleaners or solution to use to clean the fabric without damaging it safely. (And which to avoid.) 

This guide will help you decipher the meaning behind the codes, so you can find the right upholstery cleaners and cleaning process for stain removal on your fabrics.

Cleaning Code W

W = Water based cleaning agent. Clean wth a water-based product such as a little foam from mild detergent or a non-solvent upholstery shampoo.

Use as little foam and water as possible to do the job; you don't want to get the upholstery too wet.

Cleaning Code S

S = Solvent. Clean with a mild water-free dry cleaning solvent. Use just a little and make sure you have plenty of ventilation.

Cleaning Code WS

WS = Water-based cleaning agent or solvent. Depending on the stain, fabric cleaning code WS tells you can use a dry-cleaning solvent, the foam of a mild detergent, or upholstery shampoo.

Cleaning Code X

X= Don't clean it yourself. Hire a professional. You can, however, vacuum or brush off surface dirt and grime.

A Word About Cleaning Zippered Cushions

By the way, zippered cushion covers do not mean you can remove the covers for cleaning separately. The zippers are there to provide a tighter fit.

If you clean covers separately, they may shrink, tear, or discolor. It's deceptive, I know.

I've bought decorative pillows myself on the mistaken notion that I could clean the zippered, removable covers myself in the washing machine.

Furniture Wearability Codes

In addition to the cleaning code, manufacturers use a wearability code to gauge how well a particular fabric will hold up under use.

When you're shopping for furniture, ask the salesperson about the wearability of the various fabrics. Then go for the one that will take the most abuse.

Here's how to break the secret code:

HE = Heavy Duty

This is what you want in your family room.

MD = Medium Duty

Reserve this until your kids are out of the toddler stage.

LD = Light Duty

This is rather delicate fabric that is definitely not kid proof. Use it for entertaining.

DD = Delicate Duty

Do we need to even discuss this one? If you have a room that's off-limits to kids and pets, buy this fabric.


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