Can Upholstery Fabric Be Washed In Washing Machine?

Upholstery fabrics per se are machine washable in most cases. However, if the fabric is covering the stuffing made of foam, cushions, springs, and padding, it is not recommended to machine wash them as the stuffing inside may not be machine washable.

Even though most upholstery fabrics can be machine washed, you should always check the care label to ensure that the fabric is preshrunk and colorfast.

The care label will have clear instructions on the right method to wash your upholstery fabrics (more on that later).

can upholstery fabric be washed in washing machine

Key Takeaways

  • Most upholstery fabrics are machine washable as long as the care label allows you to machine wash them.
  • If the same fabric is covering the stuffing made of cushions, foams, and padding, you may want to avoid machine washing as the inside stuffing may not be machine washable.
  • If the fabric is removable or if you can separate the fabric from the inside stuffing, you can opt to machine wash them. 
  • Spot cleaning is the best alternative if the fabric is not removable or if you cannot separate it.

What is upholstery fabric?

Upholstered fabric is a type of fabric or textile that covers the inside padding or foam of your furniture (for example, a sofa).

Let’s take a quick look at the image below to understand this better.

sofa made of upholstery fabric

As you can see, the above image shows a sofa that is made with upholstered fabric, and it covers the inside foam and padding pretty well.

So, the fabric not only hides the foam, springs, and cushions but also makes the sofa look more elegant and classy.

You can always choose a color that blends well with your living room.

How to Wash Upholstery Fabric?

The right method to wash upholstery fabric entirely depends on the type of fabric and the current assembly of the furniture.

For example, you may not be able to machine wash a fabric that is permanently attached to the furniture.

So, even if the fabric is machine washable, you will not be able to wash it as the internal cushioning may not be compatible with the machine washing process.

Likewise, if the fabric is detachable from the furniture and if it is labeled as “S”, it means you cannot use water to clean it.

Let’s take a quick look at the common codes used by furniture manufacturers, so you can identify the type of fabric and the right method to wash it.

Common Wash Codes for Upholstery Fabric

  • “S” – If you see the letter “S” in the product, it means you can only spot clean them or use a dry cleaning solvent.
  • ‘W” – This means you can use water to wash the fabric.
  • “W/S” – When you see this code, it basically means that you can wash the fabric with water as well as dry cleaning solvents.
  • “X” – The “X” code means that you can only clean the fabric by vacuuming or by dry brushing.

Note: These are the codes that are usually specified by furniture manufacturers. Some manufacturers also attach the care label with cleaning instructions that look something like this.

Care label

So, either you will have the code or the care label with clear washing instructions.

How to Spot Clean Upholstery Fabric?

Spot cleaning your upholstery fabric is relatively simple and doesn’t need any special equipment or instructions.

Here’s how you can spot-clean your upholstery fabric in five easy steps.

Instructions to Spot Clean Upholstery Fabric

Step 1: Mix Dish Soap With Water

To make a cleaning solution, combine a few drops of dish soap with a bowl of cold water.

Step 2: Blot the Stained or affected areas

Now, soak a sponge in the solution and then wring it out.

Next, blot the stained or dirty areas of the fabric with the sponge.

Note: Keep in mind that pilling can occur if you rub the fabric too harshly.

Step 3: Dip the Sponge in clean cold water and rinse

The next step is to dip the sponge in clean water and then gently rub the stained areas to get rid of soap residue.

Step 4: Wipe the cleaned surface with a dry cloth or paper towel

Now that you are done with the cleaning, simply wipe the cleaned surface with a paper towel or a dry microfiber cloth.

Note: If the fabric is smelling bad, you can also use a vinegar solution to spot clean it. Alternatively, you can simply spray the vinegar solution on the stained areas after finishing the spot cleaning process.

Step 5: Let it Air Dry Naturally

The last step does not require any action from your side, just let it air dry naturally.

The above steps are gentle and simple. However, sometimes it may not be that easy to get rid of stains.

If that’s the case, you may need to use a spot cleaning solution that is stronger than the ones you used before.

You May Need a Stronger Spot Cleaning Solution

Just choose a spot cleaning solution that is specifically for the fabric you are cleaning.

Check with your furniture manufacturer or retailer to find out the best cleaning solution for your fabric. Not all fabrics are treated the same, so the cleaning solution may vary depending on the fabric.

Lastly, even if the cleaning solution suits your fabric, do a test spot cleaning before applying it to the main areas.

You can test the spot cleaning solution by applying it to less visible areas of your sofa or furniture and then just notice if it has any negative consequences.

If everything looks OK after a test spot cleaning, you can proceed with the main cleaning process.

How to Machine Wash Upholstery Fabric?

Not all upholstered fabrics may qualify for a machine wash, particularly because internal fillings are typically not water-friendly.

With that said, if the care label recommends machine washing, you can go ahead with the process; otherwise, you may need to detach the fabric from the furniture frame and wash it separately.

While the fabric can be detached from the furniture, that does not mean that it can be machine-washed (in most cases, it’s machine-washable).

Just read or go through the care label to confirm if the fabric is suitable for machine washing.

Alright!

Once you have confirmed that your upholstery fabric is machine washable, follow the below steps to wash it.

Instructions to Machine Wash Upholstery Fabric

Step 1: Pretreat the Fabric

Once you detach or separate the fabric from the furniture, pretreat the stains using a gentle and suitable stain remover or by using a mild detergent diluted in water.

Simply dip a soft microfiber cloth in the detergent solution and blot the stained areas, and then gently rub the stains using a soft brush in a circular motion.

Next, wipe the blotted area with a clean microfiber cloth or a paper towel.

Step 2: Add mild detergent to the washer’s detergent tray

The next step is to add a mild detergent to the detergent tray of your washing machine.

If the care label prohibits the use of any detergent, you may simply use a vinegar solution (vinegar diluted in water).

Step 3: Select the Right Wash Cycle (Set your washer to wash Upholstery fabric)

Now, set the washer to a gentle wash cycle along with cold water settings, as high-temperature wash can damage the fabric.

These are the ideal wash settings.

  • Wash Type: Delicate
  • Pre-Wash: Not required as pretreating is recommended
  • Detergent Type: Mild (Refer to the care label)
  • Spin Speed: Normal
  • Soil Level: Low
  • Dryer: Not Recommended, instead air dry the fabric naturally

Step 4: Hit the start wash cycle button

Now, start the wash cycle and let the washing machine complete the wash cycle.

Step 5: Air Dry the Upholstery Fabric Naturally

Take the fabric out of the washer and do not wring it. Instead, hang them so that the water drains out of the fabric.

Once the excess water has drained out, hang them on a clothesline to air dry naturally.

Note: Do not dry the upholstery fabric in direct sunlight as it will fade.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that, in most cases, you can wash your upholstery fabrics in the washing machine by separating them from the furniture.

With that said, not all fabrics are the same, so just make sure you read the care label before deciding to wash them.

Talk to the furniture manufacturer if you are unable to figure out the fabric type or if you are unsure about the cleaning method.