How to Clean a Sofa Made of Polyester Fibers

Jann Seal

Polyester upholstery, unlike fabric made of natural fibers, has specific codes for cleaning, spot-staining and maintenance.

Polyester became the butt of jokes in the 1960s and '70s, when shapeless clothing and wild and crazy patterned pantsuits made from polyester fabrics vied for popularity in the fashion scene. It took until the 1990s, when the DuPont corporation's patent expired on its version of the polyester microfiber known as Ultrasuede for a number of American manufacturers to join in the transformation of the tainted image of polyester fibers.

The introduction of microfiber upholstery, a soft and silky polyester fabric with the feel of suede, expanded polyester's universe, and it is now a sought-after furniture fabric. Like all microfiber and polyester-blends, cleaning is specific to the upholstery. Read the care instructions first, test a non-visible spot to ensure it's colorfast, and proceed with caution.

Interpret Cleaning Codes

If the sofa still has its tag, look for the letters S, W or X and use it as a guide. You'll still have to test the solvent you choose, but you can clean with more confidence than if you went into it blind. S means you can use a solvent on the fabric, and W indicates that a water-based cleanser won't damage the sofa. X tells you to dry vacuum the piece only; do not even think about steam cleaning it. A code of SW indicates you can use distilled water or a mild, water-based solvent.

The Cleaning Process

  1. If the cushions are removable, take them off the sofa and set them aside.

  2. Vacuum the sofa and the cushions thoroughly, dipping into the creases under where the cushions go. Doing so removes any loose dirt and dust.

  3. Use a damp, white microfiber cloth and wipe the entire sofa.

  4. For tough stains, spray the spot with the alcohol and scrub gently in a circular motion with a cotton cloth or the soft nail brush. The alcohol dries quickly and won't spot. Beware of spraying too much solvent, and avoid saturating the fabric.

  5. Let the sofa dry. You can speed up the process by giving it a blast with the hair dryer, set on low.

  6. Fluff up and soften the fibers with the nail brush.

  7. Warning

    Tap water is not a friend to a polyester-covered sofa. It pools on the surface of the sofa and leaves a ring, especially in areas with high-mineral content water. Use distilled water only and do not let it sit.

    Oil is another foe of polyester. Body oils and commercial products stain the fabric. Use alcohol on a dry cloth to soak the oil. Machine wash with cold water and a soft detergent.


    • Baby wipes are useful for maintenance cleaning. * A lint roller removes pet hairs from polyester sofas.