Call Today: 1-513-398-5798

Cleaning Drapery and Upholstery Fabrics

Let’s face it. Things can get dirty. The best defense for window coverings and upholstery is frequent brushing and/or vacuuming with a non-metallic brush. The brush you use will depend on the fabric. Delicate fabrics need soft brushes; the sturdier fabrics used in upholstery can take something a bit stiffer. Curtains, draperies, and living room furniture seldom need more cleaning than this, but your family room sofa might be home to spilling, sticky little fingers, pets, and more. More drastic measures may be needed!

Before cleaning your couch or chair, you really need to know what kind of fabric covers your beloved furniture, or at least know what the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations are. Look underneath the chair or take the cushions off the sofa and look for a label on that flat, plain piece of fabric the cushions rest on. With luck, it has cleaning instructions. Do what it says! This is especially important if a “finish” has been applied to the fabric.

If you are having new curtains made, special ordering your furniture, or reupholstering it, you can find the proper cleaning method on the back of the sample in the fabric books you are browsing. Sometimes it’s spelled out; sometimes it’s just a letter code. Be sure to note the code on whatever fabric you choose so you’ll know how to take care of it later.

Any finishes will also be listed on the fabric label. They are usually a chemical finish that adds a property that the fabric does not naturally have, such as flame proofing or a soil and stain repellant finish. Soil and stain repellant finishes often cause spills to just bead up on the fabric—simply blot them off with a clean towel.

Cleaning code W means this fabric can be cleaned with water-based cleaner.

Cleaning Upholstery and Curtains with a “W” Cleaning Code

If the cleaning code for your draperies or chair is W, it means you can use a water-based cleaning agent. First, brush and vacuum the fabric. Then use water, water mixed with some upholstery shampoo, or foam upholstery cleaner. Use a clean sponge or towel to apply as little cleaner as possible—you don’t want to get it wet, just damp. Blot, don’t rub. Clean spots from the outside in to avoid rings. Take a second towel with just water, wring it out, and use it to “rinse” the fabric by blotting. Then let it dry. If you accidentally get it too wet, turn on the ceiling fan when you are done.

Cleaning Code “S” for Upholstery and Curtains

Alas, a cleaning code of S does not mean “simple!” You might be able to haul whatever it is off to the dry cleaner, because it has to be cleaned with a water-free dry cleaning solvent. But when’s the last time you saw someone carrying a couch into the dry cleaners? For furniture, the easiest thing to do is to call an upholstery cleaning company that will bring water-free solvents to your home to clean the piece. If you want to spot clean or try the whole thing yourself, you’ll need a home-safe dry cleaning fluid. Be sure to follow the directions carefully for the best results.

Upholstery and Drapery Cleaning Code “WS”

If the cleaning code is WS, you’re in luck. Either method, water or solvent, will work.

This curtain fabric has a cleaning code of SW, which means you can clean it with a water-based or solvent-based cleaner. Follow the label and make sure the liquid is not warm or hot. And don’t use any bleach.

What is Cleaning Code “X” on Upholstery and Draperies?

If the cleaning code on the couch is X and a spot won’t come off with vacuuming or a light brush, you might have to strategically place a piece of furniture or a throw blanket when you have guests over. X means neither water-based nor solvent-based cleaners should be used.

Keep the Covers on the Cushions!

Whatever method you use, don’t take the cushion covers off to clean them. The zippers are there for the manufacturer, not you. The covers may not fit when you go to put them back on.


Besides cleaning instructions, other important information on fabric labels include the design information to help you understand the pattern features, the fabric’s construction and its recommended uses, its durability, and ratings that may indicate how long the fabric will look good. Don’t be overwhelmed by all the choices and information! Your designer will help you choose the right fabric.

If you want more information on custom draperies or blinds or any of the other ideas here, contact Kim for your free in-home consultation – 513-398-5798 or email

Schedule Appointment