There's nothing like new upholstery to freshen up your fave soft furnishing for spring. A few yards of fun and flirty fabric can certainly breathe new life into a timeworn treasure, but how long it remains looking crisp and clean is entirely up to you. Follow our three-prong strategy to keeping soft furnishings looking fab year-round.
Step one: Preventative measures
• Vacuums ain't just for floors and those intimidating attachments they come with can actually prolong the life of your furniture. Use the upholstery attachment to vacuum soft furnishings on a weekly basis. The angle-tipped crevice tool is great for reaching sneaky areas where the evidence of daily use - dirt and oils - like to set up shop: namely, creases, fabric folds and tufted areas.
• Once a month, take cushions outside and beat them by hand. This will help prevent dust from settling into the fibres. When replacing cushions, rotate and flip them as you would a mattress to ensure even wear.
• Granny was on to something with the "no eating the living room" rule. If you've the stamina to enforce a ban on food, drink and pets on the furniture, you'll avoid worry - and work - down the road. Take care with other less obvious sources of stains, too: even newsprint inks can bleed easily onto fabric.
Step two: First-aid for stains
• The first rule of tending to a spill? Get to it quickly before it has time to set. Use a blotting motion with either a paper towel or clean white cloth. Rubbing can smudge the spill into a larger stain - an effect that upholstery cleaning pros call "blossoming". Work from the outside of the spot towards the centre. Blot dry.
• If blotting hasn't done the trick and a cleaning solution is required, take a moment to examine the manufacturer's care label, usually located under the chair seat or inside a cushion cover. Here, you'll find instructions as to which types of products can be used in the cleaning of the fabric: W for water-based cleaners, S for solvents, WS for either, and X for none of the above - in which case, vacuuming is your only option. Note that many grease or oil-based stains (gravy, butter, cosmetics) are only treatable with dry cleaning solvents.
Step two continued
• Before applying a cleaning solution of any kind, it's a good idea to test the colourfastness of the fabric on an inconspicuous patch of the furnishing. Apply the solution to a clean white cloth, and press against the test area firmly for 30 seconds. Examine the cloth for evidence of colour transfer.
• Whether spot cleaning with a pH-balanced (neutral) detergent in a 1:20 water mixture or a commercial dry cleaning solution, where appropriate, finish by blotting with clean water.
• Never overwet the fabric. Applying too much water or cleaning solution can spread the stain and saturate the padding underneath the upholstery, creating the perfect haven for mould, mildew and bacteria – all of which are far worse than a surface stain. Don't try to speed up the drying time with a hot-air dryer, either – heat merely sets the stain. Instead, merely blot the area dry.
Step three: The deep clean
• Once a year, schedule your soft furnishings for a deep cleaning treatment.
• If your cushion covers are removable and machine washable (again, check that handy manufacturer's care label), it's still best to turn them inside out and wash in cold water to prevent fading. They're also likely ineligible for machine drying, so this is something to add to your fair-weather to-do list.
• If removable covers are dry clean only, strongly consider getting them all covers professionally cleaned at the same time, even if only one is particularly soiled. This will ensure any fading or colour variation after cleaning with be consistent across all matching fabrics.
• When in doubt, or if removing the upholstery isn't an option, don't hesitate to consult a professional. Professional cleaning is also in order if there's been a large-volume spill. Underneath that surface discoloration, the stain penetrating the padding may be three to four times as large.