Cleaning traditional fabric sofas

traditional fabric sofa cleaning

All fabric sofas gradually pick up a bit of dirt and grime and should anything get spilt they’re usually quick to soak it up. To keep a fabric sofa fresh, looking great and to resist the fibres degrading over time you’re going to need to clean it.

To fully clean a fabric sofa is quite an undertaking. Cleaning the covers alone needs to be done carefully but to clean every last part of your sofa and to remove dirt from inside the upholstery filling it takes the right equipment, cleaning products and training.

A good upholstery cleaning service should be able to tackle a modern sofa or armchair no problem but not all services are well prepared for older more traditional furnishings.

Challenges of properly cleaning traditional fabric upholstered furniture

Sofa cleaning service

The sofa and armchair set you see here is over 50 years old.

We fully support everyone in making furniture last if only because it reduces the environmental impact of our furnishings. If you’ve got a leather rather than fabric sofa, check out our leather cleaning service, we can help you keep a leather sofa going for years. Whether fabric or leather, the older the furniture the more careful you must be in cleaning.

Older upholstered furniture often comes with a range of considerations that are unlikely to crop up with more modern fabric furniture. Some of these are down to it being old, others are because older furniture tends to be made differently.

Why is older furniture harder to clean safely?

  • More sensitive fabrics
  • More chance of colour seepage
  • Wider range of tassels, toggles, buttons often in a worse state of repair
  • Much more stitching, far fewer zips
  • Potential for there being worn out or damaged parts of the fabric

What you need from a cleaning service for traditional upholstery

If you’ve got an old piece of furniture and you want it cleaning, it’s likely you want to keep it in good condition for the long term. So whoever cleans it for you could be an enormous help in looking after it or at worst they could cause it harm. Here’s what we think a good cleaning service should offer

Genuinely experienced in working with all kinds of furniture.

Someone who works with all kinds of furniture and has a broad experience and is perfectly knowledgeable about furniture construction is going to take more than just operating the cleaning machine into account. This will mean they’ll understand whether stitching should be unpicked to properly clean certain parts, they’ll notice any further damage and will avoid doing harm.

Well equipped with well maintained equipment.

Furniture repair stitching

It takes skilled hand-stitching techniques to replace the tassels on a sofa like this.

A good quality cleaning nozzle for our machine costs about 4 times more than a cheap one. We take the greatest care not to snag the surface and to keep it smooth and polished. This means it slides with minimum friction over the fabric. Our machine has variable power so we can be delicate on sensitive areas. Our cleaning products are of the highest quality, if we’re dealing with a colour sensitive material we’ve a gentle cleaner just for that purpose. The equipment matters.

Experienced in upholstery repair, especially stitching.

Someone who only cleans furniture will not be able to do small helpful repairs to nip small issues in the bud. When we work with older furniture we sometimes find a loose button or some tassels hanging off in a certain place. It adds very little to the bill if anything to have us hand-stitch things like that and put them right. Should what we discover be something a little more serious like a broken spring as we’re cleaning, it’s so convenient to have us just get that fixed right away too.

Cleaned and repaired sofa

With new tassels and every bit deep cleaned, the sofa will now dry before being ready for use.

In summary

It’s great to have your older furniture looked after by real furniture experts rather than a cleaning company who also does furniture. Whether it has value as an antique or simply means a lot to you, furniture that has lasted years deserves to be taken care of properly. We advise anyone looking for a service like this to take a bit of care, ask about some of the things we’ve mentioned and make sure you’re comfortable you’ve made a good choice.

Useful links


Our upholstery cleaning service
Did you know we also clean leather furniture?
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Check out our upholstery cleaning video!

What about cleaning my own antique upholstery?

Any DIY job can go wrong in certain circumstances, we couldn’t give you any assurance that any cleaning you do at home would work out fine.

It’s also perfectly possible to successfully do some amount of cleaning and maintenance yourself. If you properly research your fabric type, get a suitable cleaner and do proper tests on a sample swatch you could find a cleaner that’s safe to use.

Light cleaning of the fabric in the heavy wear areas can be done safely, depending on the design of the covers this may mean cleaning the covers on the furniture or removing them.

The pitfalls are many and if you’ve read this and resolved to do it yourself, our advice is to be very careful indeed. Avoid getting the covers fully wet (unless you know what you’re doing) and make sure you test your cleaner.

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Upholstery Cleaning