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Exploring Womanhood > Heart of the Home > Homemaking > Cleaning

Out %$#@ Spot! Eight Magic Secrets to Removing Stains From Your Upholstery
Pamela Cole Harris

Grape Kool-Aid! Spaghetti! Chocolate! Pizza! As much as you try to avoid it, chances are good that one of these foods will sooner or later come to rest on your favorite chair or sofa. Since plastic covers for furniture are out of style (sweaty and sticky!), the only solution is learn to remove that dastardly spot! Here is a general guide to removing stains from your upholstered furniture:

1. Know your fabric! Look on the furniture tag to determine the method of stain removal. Letters are used to tell you what cleaner will work best on your fabric:

  • W means spot clean with a water-based solution or mild detergent. It is best to use the foam produced by the solution to do the majority of the work.
  • S means spot clean with a solvent only in a well-ventilated room (it stinks!). Cleaning with solvents may cause spotting and any water stains may be permanent.
  • SW means spot clean with either solvent or water-based foam
  • X means you are out of luck! Vacuum only! Not a smart buy for families with children!

2. Remove excess soil or food product right away if possible! Kids (and teenagers and at least one male adult in my house) are notorious about spilling things in between the sofa cushions where you find it months later! The longer a spill stays on the fabric, the harder it is to remove. Vacuum the fabric as soon as you can. If the spill is thick, scrape the excess spill with a dull spoon or table knife.

3. Find an inconspicuous spot to test your cleaner. The bottom hem of the back of the sofa is a good spot!

4. If the fabric can be cleaned with water, use one gallon cool or warm water to about 5 teaspoons of mild dishwashing liquid. If the spill is grease or something that has caramelized sugar, your solution should be 50% white vinegar and 50% water.

5. Don't over-wet the fabric. Let the foam of the solution do most of the work. Blot it frequently, whether you are using water or solvent, and work from the outer edge to the center of the spot to help prevent rings.

6. Don't rub the fabric too vigorously or it may pill.

7. Rinse the fabric with a clean sponge and clean water (unless you are using solvent).

8. Blot the liquid with an absorbent material. Cotton towels (white to avoid color transfer) or paper towels are great for this job. Some experts recommend placing a heavy weight over a thick layer of towels and replacing the towels periodically.

Remember vacuuming often is your first best defense against stains. Not only will it clean soil from your furniture, but it encourages you to check between those cushions and under those chair arms for food stains. Your second best defense is garbage bag slipcovers, but they may limit your decorating choices. Garbage bag Tuscan! What a concept!

Copyright 2004, Pamela Cole Harris.

Pamela Cole Harris is an editor, writer and eco-decorator with over 35 years experience. Her website, http://www.homeandgardenmakeover.com is full of her unique decorating ideas and "how-to"s. Her new book, "100+ Wildly Imaginative Ideas for Creating Your Own Coffee Table - a Handbook for the Creatively Deficient Decorator" is available through her website or at http://www.lulu.com/pamelacoleharris.

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