Cleaning your furniture is often a headache, but there are few furniture chores more agonizing than getting stains out of your upholstery. It only takes one minor accident — a spill, or worse, a misbehaving pet — to create those annoying spots that will always stick out like a sore thumb.
"Upholstery is more difficult to clean than other household items because it's absorbent and has a weave to it that catches stains, making them difficult to reach," says
Taylor Spellman, a New York-based interior designer and expert stager. "When a stain soaks through, it is hard to penetrate through the fibers."
Getting this taken care of by professionals might cost you a small fortune: According to
research by HomeAdvisor, upholstery-cleaning services typically charge between $118 and $309 a pop. Although it may seem like a pain, returning your couch to pristine condition is not as hard as you may think. "The key is to act quickly before the stain sets in, and get to the problem with homemade cleaners and as little water as possible," says Becca Napelbaum, cleaning expert at Handy. We've asked Spellman and Napelbaum to walk us through the best quick fixes to keep your sofas spotless. Click through for seven DIY first-aid solutions for the nastiest household stains.
Food & Grease Stains It happens: You're refueling during a Netflix binge, and the next thing you know, you've spilled takeout on your sofa. To deal with food stains effectively, Napelbaum suggests mixing one tablespoon of dish soap or laundry detergent in one cup of cold water, and blotting the stain with a cloth dampened with the solution. For any grease spots, soak up the excess by pouring baking soda on the spot. Dust everything off after 20 minutes, and remove any residue with a toothbrush and a small amount of dishwashing liquid. Dab away the suds with a wet paper towel. The same dab-and-repeat process applies for most food stains, but do pay extra attention if it's a cheese stain. "Remember that it’s the protein that you really need to get rid of, so don't try to clean it out with hot water," says Napelbaum. "This will cook the cheese and make it stick."
Beverages Your stomach may drop at the sight of spillage, but it's important to stay calm and handle the situation with the right strategy. To deal with coffee stains, Napelbaum recommends mixing a teaspoon of detergent with a cup of warm water, and blotting it with a paper towel. If the stain persists, use a solution of one part vinegar and two parts water to remove what is left. Allow everything to air-dry. Beer stains are relatively low-maintenance: Just rub an ice cube over the spot before proceeding with the aforementioned tactic. As for red wine? "A bit of sparkling Poland spring water does the trick for me every time," says Spellman.
Blood The best antidote to blood is cold water. Keep your bloodstained fabric under ice-cold, running water, before throwing it in the washing machine as usual. If your stain is a real doozy, Napelbaum has an ice cube method up her sleeve: Place an ice cube onto the blemish and cover it with a clean cloth. Once the ice has melted, leave the now-wet cloth on the stain for another 20 minutes. Then, remove the wet cloth and dab the stain with a dry one to lift as much as possible of the stain out of the fabric. Finally, treat the stain with a laundry stain remover.
Ink "Baby wipes can be used for many things, but they work wonders on washable markers," says Spellman. If you've messed up with a ballpoint pen, try Napelbaum's method of pouring rubbing alcohol onto the spot and leaving it for half an hour. After that, dab on the stain by starting from the corners and moving your way into the middle. "It's important to never rub the stain," says Napelbaum. "This is to avoid the ink floating out and making the damage worse." When the smudge looks mostly faded, finish off with a carpet-cleaner spray.
Pet Urine It's a good thing we have unconditional love for our pets, since their pee stains are pretty nasty. Cover the wet area with paper towels and soak up as much moisture as you possibly can. Mix together a solution of half vinegar, half water, and pour directly onto the stain. Resume pressing the wet area with paper towels to soak up the liquid. Once this is done, sprinkle baking soda over the affected area and leave it to dry. Vacuum off the excess baking soda once it feels completely dry. This type of stain is no fun to deal with, so if this last-ditch effort doesn't work, you might be better off with a professional — or just replacing the item altogether.
Vomit Anyone with small children — or, you know, roommates who haven't outgrown their kegger phase — can expect to have to clean up vomit from time to time. Once you've wiped away as much as you can with a paper towel, scrape off any excess using a blunt knife. Sprinkle the stain with an absorbent, such as baking soda or cornstarch, to help soak it up, and then leave it to dry before vacuuming off excess powder. Mix one tablespoon of laundry detergent with two cups of warm water, and then dab the stain using a dry sponge. Keep dabbing the stain until it has mostly come out of the fabric. You may need to repeat the whole process twice — and make sure you get properly thanked if this wasn't your own doing.
Dust & Dirt The key to keeping dust and dirt at bay is simply regularly vacuuming your upholstery. "Any dust on cushions or fabric-covered seats will eventually be pushed through the fibers if it isn’t removed," says Napelbaum. "This will make your upholstery look tired and discolor the fabric over time." So, when you're vacuuming, pay special attention to any seams and corners where dust and dirt might be hiding.