How to Remove a Stain From Upholstery

Unless you cover everything with plastic, stains will appear on your upholstered furniture.

Blotting a Stain
Homes with young children tend to see the most stains, but no home is free of upholstery stains. If you find the stain quickly, your chances of removing it completely are increased. Even if the stain is old, you can still use these steps to try and remove it from your furniture. .

Remove as much as you can of the item that caused the stain. It's best to do this by blotting the stain with a clean, white cloth. If the stain is caused by greasy crumbs, it is helpful to vacuum or lightly brush the area before beginning stain removal.

Check the fabric care label which is sometimes under a cushion, or on the back of a piece of furniture. The codes for fabric care are: W, S, W-S, or X. W means that you can use a water-based cleaner on the upholstery. The code S tells you that you must use a dry-cleaning solvent to clean the fabric, because water may shrink or stain the upholstery. W-S means that you should use either a dry-cleaning solvent or an upholstery shampoo for cleaning. X is the code to avoid when furniture shopping -- you should only clean this fabric by vacuuming or light brushing. Any use of solvents or water may shrink, discolor or otherwise damage the upholstery.

Use a fabric cleaning solvent, or a mixture of warm water and a few tablespoons of white vinegar to begin cleaning the stained area. Test this solution first in a place that isn't easily seen in case it causes your fabric to change color. Still using clean, white cloths, blot the solution on the stain and rub gently from the outside of the stain to the center of the stain. If the stain is greasy, increase the amount of vinegar in the water to help combat the grease.

Do not overuse the cleaning solution, or soak the upholstery. Use just enough to dampen the stained area and clean it. Fold your clean cloth over so that you are not putting the dirt back onto the upholstery.

Rinse the area with plain water, unless the directions of the fabric solvent advise otherwise. Use a new, clean cloth to dry the area by blotting. It's important to dry the area as much as possible to avoid shrinkage or water spots. If the area becomes very wet, use a hairdryer to blow warm air on the spot to shorten the drying time.

Things You Will Need

  • Clean cloths, preferably white
  • Water
  • Solvent, if approved for fabric


  • Test any stain removing technique on an inconspicuous spot. Choose the back of the piece of furniture, or small corner near the bottom in case the stain removal causes discoloration or damage.


  • Avoid vigorous rubbing because that could cause the fabric to pill or become damaged.

About the Author

Melanie Rogers is a training professional and freelance writer. She has been writing professionally since 1995, and with Demand Studios since 2008. Her specialties include training manuals, technical manuals, marketing materials and parenting and lifestyle articles.