It’s happened to everyone, the inevitable spill on your office chair. Whether you’re having a snack at your desk, or a customer spills their coffee in the waiting room, what you do next is most important. The problem with office chairs is there are a significant amount of upholstery types in use. This guide was put together to help you clean the most popular types of upholsteries, protecting your investment and helping to keep the best first impression for your clients.
How-To Clean Upholstery Guide
- Standard upholstery cleaning
- “W”: Water-based cleaning
- “S”: Water-free solvent cleaning
- “SW/”WS”: Water-based OR water-free products
- Crypton fabric cleaning
- Standard vinyl cleaning
- Healthcare grade vinyl cleaning
- Permablok process cleaning
- Leather cleaning
- Mesh upholstery cleaning
- Final Thoughts
4 Quick Tips For Cleaning All Upholstery Types
Before we even get started with the different cleaning methods for different types of furniture in your high-traffic areas, keep in mind that in all cases there are a couple of things you always want to do:
- Clean stains right away! The longer you wait, the harder they are going to be to remove.
- With any cleaning method, make sure to pre-test a small, inconspicuous area before moving on to the rest of your piece of furniture.
- Always follow instructions whether on your furniture or on the products you are using.
- Use cleaning products in a well-ventilated area.
Standard upholstery: What cleaning method do I use?
The first step in the cleaning process is to check your furniture for tags that may have cleaning instructions on them. They may also be labeled with a lettered cleaning code that easily allows you to determine which cleaning method to use. We’ll go further into detail of each cleaning method, but here’s a brief overview:
- “W” means you can spot-clean the item with water-based cleaning products.
- “S” indicates you should clean your furniture with a solvent or water-free product, like a dry-cleaning solvent.
- “SW” or “WS” means you can use either water-based or a dry-cleaning product.
- “X” means the item should be professionally cleaned.
- “C” means Crypton cleaning. Generally, stains are removed with plain water and powdered enzyme detergent or Crypton upholstery cleaner.
“W”: Water-based cleaning
First we’ll take a look at what to do if you‘ve determined you can clean your furniture with water-based cleaning products. This cleaning method is commonly used on 100% polyester products with acrylic or latex backing.
- Run a vacuum over your furniture to remove any remaining debris.
- Create your cleaning solution by mixing a few drops of mild soap (dish soap is always a good choice) with water.
- Again you first want to test the solution on an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn’t change the color or texture of your furniture.
- If the solution looks good after your test spot dries, you can then apply it to the rest of the piece. Gently blot the stain with a cloth dampened with the solution. Do not pour the cleaning solution directly onto your furniture! Make sure to continually turn the cloth so you are always using a clean part of it, rather than making things worse. You may need to repeat this process several times to get out the stain.
“S”: Using water-free solvents and dry cleaning products
Some products require you to use a mild water-free solvent (like Renuzit®) or a dry cleaning product for cleaning. You can purchase these cleaning products at furniture stores, home improvement stores or online. When choosing a product, avoid any that contain tetrachloride or other toxic materials.
- Once you have purchased your cleaning product, you again want to make sure to test it on an inconspicuous spot.
- Once you are sure it will work, apply it to your furniture by gently blotting the stain with a cloth dampened with the solution. Remember: when using a solvent or dry-cleaning product, carefully follow the instructions and only use them in a well-ventilated room. Make sure to continually turn the cloth so you are always using a clean part. Repeat the process until your stain is gone.
“SW/”WS”: Working with water-based OR water-free products
Many pieces of furniture, like those made with 100% recycled polyester or polyester mixes, are able to be cleaned using either of the methods described above.
You may choose whether to use water-based cleaning agents or water-free solvents and simply follow the preceding instructions. It is recommended that you vacuum or lightly brush this furniture on a continuous basis to prevent dust and soil build-up.
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The way Crypton fabric is made it offers permanent protection from stains, moisture, mildew, bacteria and odors. Because of this, the cleaning process is different than for other upholstery.
If the Crypton fabric becomes dirty you can remove stains with plain water and powdered enzyme detergent. You can also use foam shampoo, water-based cleaning products, germicidal detergents and Crypton Upholstery Cleaner. But do not use solvent-based cleaners or dry-cleaning products. Before doing any cleaning, make sure to use a clean towel to remove any excess liquid or loose dirt.
For most light to medium stains you can follow this process:
- Prepare a cleaning solution of 1/4 cup mild dishwashing liquid per gallon of lukewarm water.
- Apply the cleaning solution using a misting spray bottle.
- Work the solution into the affected area by lightly scrubbing the area with a sponge or soft bristle brush. Make sure to work from the outside of the stain inward so as not to spread the stain and rinse your sponge or brush frequently.
- Allow cleaning solution to soak into the fabric.
- Rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residues, as residues will attract dirt. Blot excess moisture with a clean, soft towel or sponge.
- Repeat steps 3-6 as needed.
- Allow fabric to air dry.
Standard Vinyl Cleaning
Vinyl seating is a great, cost-effective option and has a look and texture similar to leather with less maintenance. To begin cleaning your vinyl, remove any excess spills with a damp cloth. Then:
- Clean with a mild liquid soap and water mixture using a soft brush or cloth. Rinse your vinyl and pat dry.
- If you need something a little stronger for your stain you can next try using a straight application of concentrated cleaners such as Fantastik® or Formula 409®. Rinse with water and then wipe with a clean cloth.
- For the most difficult stains use a 6% mixture of bleach with water. Rinse with clear water and dry. Never use full strength bleach or alcohol-based cleaning agents on your vinyl.
If the stain is still there it might have set.
Note: Most vinyl is resistant to the most common stains. However, some dyes and inks can create a permanent stain.
Healthcare Grade Vinyl Cleaning
Healthcare vinyl is resistant to sulfide, urine, common stains, moisture and bacteria. It also offers outstanding cleanability. For vinyl without PERMABLOK3® finish, (we’ll go through that cleaning method next) follow these steps:
- Remove any excess spills with a damp cloth. Then saturate a soft brush or cloth with a cleaning mixture made with mild liquid soap and water. Rinse your furniture with clean water and dry.
- If that doesn’t work you can try a straight application of concentrated cleaners such as Formula 409 ® or Fantastik ®. Rinse with clear water, wipe with a clean cloth.
- For even more difficult stains use a 6% mixture of bleach with water. Rinse with clear water and dry. Again, never use full strength bleach or alcohol-based cleaning agents on your vinyl.
If none of these steps work, the stain might have set.
PERMABLOK3® Cleaning Process
Some vinyl has a PERMABLOK3® finish, which is a protective coating that creates a barrier against the three biggest problems in healthcare and hospitality settings: germs, abrasion and stains. If your vinyl has this finish there are several steps you can take depending on the type of stain:
- If you are attempting to remove things like mascara, grease, black felt tip pen, crayon or chocolate you will want to first remove the excess spill with a damp cloth. Then clean the area with a 1:1 mixture of mild liquid dish soap and water. Rinse and dry.
- For removing red lipstick, use a straight application of a cleaner like Formula 409® or Fantastik®. Wipe the area with a clean cloth.
- If you’re tackling tougher stains like blood, urine, feces, oil base paint, tar and asphalt, you want to use a 1:1 mixture of ammonia and water or a 1:4 mixture of bleach and water. Rinse and dry.
- For all other tough stains use a straight application of naphtha (lighter fluid). Rinse thoroughly with water and dry.
- The final thing you can try is a 1:1 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water. If that doesn’t work you can use straight alcohol. Rinse thoroughly with water and pat dry.
If you need to use steps 4 and 5 use a soft cotton cloth saturated with the cleaning material and rub the stain in circles 10 times. Pat the area dry with another cloth.
Caution: Naphtha and isopropyl alcohol are flammable so be sure to adhere to the precautions on the product containers.
How To Clean and Care For Leather
Leather office chairs are comfortable, classy and professional. When you invest in a high-quality, great looking chair you want to make sure it stays that way.
Before cleaning your leather you always want to check on which type you have. Check the tags on your furniture and the written information from the manufacturer which may also provide cleaning directions. Here are some ways to keep your leather looking like new:
- Vacuum your furniture on a frequent basis. You only want to use a soft brush attachment so you don’t scratch your leather, and make sure the suction isn’t too strong to do any damage.
- Wipe down your leather once a week with a clean cloth. Choose a cloth that won’t leave any dye or lint. Be sure to wipe, not scrub.
- If your leather needs a deeper clean, mix a few drops of liquid soap with about a quart of distilled water. Dampen a lint-free rag with the solution and wipe (again don’t scrub) the surface of your furniture. Use a clean, damp rag to get rid of any soap or residue and then dry.
- You may want to consider applying a leather protector or conditioner. To do this, refer to the product instructions for the type of leather furniture you have.
Mesh chairs are great in an office because of the ventilation they offer. The back of a mesh chair allows airflow on your back which can help you stay cool. The additional airflow cuts down on the amount a person sweats while sitting, and in return means less cleaning.
That being said, mesh office chairs will need occasional cleaning. To do this:
- Vacuum any dirt off of your chair.
- Remove any remaining dirt with warm soap and water.
- If stains persist, gently dab the area with a spot cleaner. Do not rub or scrub your furniture… that could cause the mesh to fray.
Plastic Chair Cleaning
Plastic polypropylene chairs are comfortable, can handle the wear and tear well, and clean easily. They are also a great choice if you want the option of stacking chairs.
You can typically get away with using a solution of mild detergent and water for cleaning most of your polypropylene furniture:
- Be sure not to use any abrasive or highly alkaline cleaners.
- To clean, use a soft rag or brush and make sure you don’t trap any dirt between your rag and furniture because this could cause scratching. Also, avoid using scouring pads or any similar product, as they will also scratch your furniture.
- When you are done cleaning with the detergent mixture, make sure to rinse off your furniture to remove any remaining dirt or soap.
Wood Chair Accent Cleaning
Your chairs may feature wood accents, which can enhance the look and feel of an office. But with daily use, you will need to take some steps to keep your accents looking elegant. These suggestions should help:
- Dust your furniture with a soft, clean cloth dampened with polish. Don’t use any material that will scratch the wood.
- Once you pick a furniture polish, stick with it. That way you’ll make sure to avoid mixing chemicals on your wood surface which could cause damage.
- Don’t use soap and water on your wood accents… it can cause the grain to rise.
- If liquid spills on your furniture, make sure to wipe it up right away by blotting the area with a clean, dry cloth.
How often you clean is going to depend on how much you use your furniture. Your best bet is to clean and maintain your furniture frequently and again tackle any spots or dirt as soon as you notice them. None of these cleaning methods is a guarantee but hopefully, they will help you get a good handle on how to care for your furniture.
If you find that you are cleaning up the same things over and over again, there might be a chance that you do not have the correct upholstery for your environment.
If you have any cleaning tips you would like to share, please do! I always look forward to hearing from you!
*This information is not a guarantee that all stains will be removed and responsibility for the proper and safe use of the furniture and cleaning agents belongs to the furniture owner.