Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

How to Clean Upholstered Chairs Without a Steam Cleaner

how to clean upholstered chairs custom graphic

Anything that can’t be pulled off and thrown in the washer poses a bit of a challenge when it comes to cleaning. Upholstered chairs are no different, often needing the use of a steam cleaner to remove grime and stains from the material. Unfortunately, not everyone has this machine which is why MaidForYou is sharing a tried and tested step-by-step guide on how to clean upholstered chairs without a steam cleaner!

Before we begin, here’s what you will need to carry out this simply upholstery cleaning method:

  • Vacuum cleaner + upholstery attachment(s)
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Microfibre cloths
  • Hand towel
  • Paper towels
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush (optional)

Gather the items above, make some room for the cleaning process (a patio/front porch is ideal), and follow the steps below to clean your fabric chairs efficiently.

Step One: Vacuum the Upholstery

man cleaning upholstered brown 2 seater couch

Depending on the design of the chair, there may or may not be corners where more dust and dirt tend to collect. Pay attention to such spaces when vacuuming as this is the only step that is intended to tackle built-up dust and debris. To vacuum fabric chairs efficiently, use an upholstery attachment. If you don’t have one, the best alternative is a clean, soft brush attachment. 

After vacuuming the chair back and seat, switch to the narrow head attachment to remove dust and dirt from crevices, corners, and edges where the material meets the wood/metal or chair legs. If you’re having a hard time getting dust and dirt from these tight spaces, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to dislodge the debris, and then vacuum. For fully upholstered chairs such as armchairs, be sure to vacuum every inch of the material including the underside. 

Step Two: Spot Clean Stains

red wine spilt on a brown upholstered sofa

Before you attempt to remove stains from your fabric chairs, it’s important to identify the type of stain(s) you are dealing with. Most mild stains can be removed with a combination of white vinegar on their own and creating a separate paste with baking soda, and water while stubborn stains may require the use of a specially formulated product that is fabric-appropriate. If by the end of this upholstery cleaning method you are still left with existing stains, the latter option is advised.

Nevertheless, that unsightly discolouration and the dingy stains left by dust and dirt can be removed effectively using organic products. Start by mixing 2 cups each of water and white vinegar; Pour this solution into a spray bottle and shake vigorously to combine the ingredients properly. Dampen a clean microfibre cloth with this homemade upholstery stain remover, and gently rub the area. Inspect the cloth to ensure that the stain/discolouration is lifting. Use this method to spot clean any areas of your upholstered chairs before moving on to the next step.

NOTE: As a precaution, test the cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area first to ensure that there is no damaging effect or discolouration caused to the fabric.

Step Three: Scrub the Upholstery

woman scrubbing an upholstered seat with a hard brush

To clean and freshen up the upholstery of your chairs, a deeper clean with an eco-friendly laundry detergent cleaning solution is advised. Make a mild cleaning solution by mixing 1 teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent in a basin of (1 litre) water; stir well. It’s important to avoid saturating the material when deep cleaning your upholstered chairs, therefore, we use a microfibre cloth, soaked and completely wrung, to clean the fabric. 

Gently wipe down the upholstery from top to bottom including all the corners, edges, and crevices. Bear in mind that the cloth you are using is likely to become soiled as you go about deep cleaning the upholstered chairs and therefore, must be rinsed or replaced at intervals. 

NOTE: If at any point the fabric seems to be getting saturated, use paper towels to soak up as much water as possible.

Step Four: Rinse Off the Cleaning Solution

person scrubbing upholstered pillow with a cleaning solution


Obviously, you can’t rinse your fabric chairs under running water, however, the cleaning solution must be removed thoroughly or else you will be left with detergent patches all over the material after it dries. Moreover, you wouldn’t want an overwhelming smell of detergent when in close proximity to your fabric chairs!

To get rid of the cleaning solution, take a clean damp towel, and wipe over the upholstery. Rinse the towel every now and then (wring it properly when you do), and continue wiping the fabric till you can longer feel a soapy residue on the surface.

Step Five: Dry Your Upholstered Chairs

water drying on a grey upholstered chair

Knowing how to dry upholstered chairs properly after cleaning them is important as many homeowners make the mistake of using a hairdryer or keeping them out in direct sunlight in a bid to speed up the process. Remember, high heat from a blow dryer can damage the material (especially when wet) while harsh sunlight will cause fading.

Here are a few recommended ways to dry your cleaned fabric chairs:

  1. Use paper towels to dry the material as much as possible; then leave the chairs under a running ceiling fan to dry overnight. 
  2. Take the chairs outside and leave to air-dry in a shady area. If it’s a windy day, you might want to reconsider this option as unsettled dust and debris will leave your upholstered chairs looking dirtier than before you cleaned them!
  3. Leave them where they are; open up all the windows and doors in the room while running the ceiling fan on high speed. Increasing ventilation in the room will help dry the material faster.

If you think this simple DIY guide to cleaning upholstered chairs is easier said than done, it’s not! Anyone can get rid of fabric chair stains and revitalise the upholstery without a steam cleaner by simply using our tried and tested cleaning method above!

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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