How to Get Dirt Out of Upholstered Chairs

Dirt transfers to upholstered chairs from a wide variety of sources, including hands, clothing, shoes and pets. Whether loose, caked on or a stain, dirt detracts from a chair’s appearance and, if not regularly removed, can damage upholstery over time. Although several types of upholstery fabrics require professional cleaning, getting dirt out of most fabrics typically only requires gentle cleaning using a vacuum and/or carpet/upholstery cleaner or steamer.

Step 1

Check your chair’s upholstery fabric label or contact the manufacturer to determine the upholstery fabric type. Many fabric types need professional care, as the fabric can shrink and/or break down from brushing, steaming or washing. If your upholstery doesn't require professional cleaning or dry cleaning, go to Step 2.

Step 2

Gently run your vacuum’s upholstery brush attachment over the surface of your chair's upholstery to remove loose dirt. Use an up-and-down or side-to-side motion, depending on the fabric type and direction of the weave.

Step 3

Dislodge caked-on or hardened dirt with a soft-bristled brush. Brush lightly in a circular motion across the top of the dirt to break up the dirt and dislodge it from your chair's upholstery.

Step 4

Clean the chair’s entire upholstery with a carpet/upholstery cleaner or steamer if necessary. Use a cleaner or steamer for general cleaning and maintenance, removal of oils that can trap dirt in fabrics or removal of dirt stains and/or stubborn caked-on/hardened dirt that won't dislodge with brushing. Follow the cleaner or steamer user instructions for your fabric type.


  • Never brush forcefully into caked-on or hardened dirt, as you can push it into the upholstery threads.
  • Always test a small amount of upholstery shampoo and/or hot steam on your chair’s upholstery to make certain that any dyes in the fabric don't fade or bleed.
  • Never saturate a chair's upholstery if using a carpet/upholstery cleaner or steamer, as the water can cause fabric color damage, make upholstery drying times longer, weaken fabric threads and potentially damage a chair's frame. In addition, water inside of the chair or chair cushions can make the chair musty or moldy.
  • Always run a carpet/upholstery steamer or cleaner over the entire surface of a chair's upholstery when cleaning dirt stains as moisture from spot cleaning only the stained area can push dirt into the clean portions of the upholstery around the stain.