Understanding Upholstery Fabric Cleaning Codes

2014_January-upholstery-1Do you have a stain on your sofa? A dirt spot on your chair? It can be tricky to figure out the best course of action for dirt and stains on upholstery. Luckily, most decorator fabrics and upholstery pieces are labeled with a cleaning code, and once you understand the codes, you can tackle most mild cleaning jobs yourself. Today we’re going to take a look at those cleaning codes as well as some best practices for great looking, long-lasting upholstery.

The first thing to do if you have a stain on your upholstery is to look for the fabric’s clean ability code. If the piece is store-bought, the code should be on the tag. If it’s been re-upholstered, check with the fabric manufacturer. At Sailrite, we list the fabric codes (or other care and cleaning instructions) on each fabric’s product page.

Once you’ve determined how to clean your fabric, it’s always a good idea to pre-test the cleaner on a small, inconspicuous spot on the fabric. This way you can make sure the cleaner works and doesn’t leave a spot or cause the colors to bleed. If you’re in doubt about how to proceed, it’s usually best to call a professional upholstery cleaner.

Upholstery Fabric Cleaning Codes:

“W”—Code W stands for ‘Water based cleaner’ and these are the easiest fabrics to clean. This is not the same as being machine washable, however. This code means that you can spot clean your fabric with a water-based shampoo or foam upholstery cleaner. You can use a brush to agitate the cleaner or even an upholstery attachment on a carpet cleaner. Be careful to avoid over-wetting the stain.

“S”—Fabrics that are Code S must be cleaned with solvents (dry clean only). You can spot treat stains with a water-free solvent or dry-cleaning product. Use solvent cleaners in a well-ventilated room and keep away from open flames. Avoid using cleaning products containing carbon tetrachloride, as it is highly toxic.

“W/S”—A W/S code, as you might expect, means that a combination of dry cleaning solvents and water-based cleaners may be used. These fabrics can be spot cleaned with upholstery shampoo, foam from a mild detergent, or a mild dry cleaning solvent. This is a case, where the pre-test is especially important. For overall dirt, call a professional to clean these fabrics.

“X”—If you have fabrics with Code X, they can only be cleaned by vacuuming or light brushing. A Code X means the fabric is not cleanable with water or solvent cleaners.


Now you’re equipped with a guide for cleaning upholstery fabrics, so you’ll know just how to handle that next stain on your sofa! For day-to-day care and cleaning, here are some basic tips on keeping your upholstery looking good for years to come.

Basic Upholstery Fabric Care Tips

  • • For everyday cleaning of your upholstered pieces, use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner to vacuum the surface of the furniture to remove and loose dirt.  It’s also good to vacuum underneath the cushions as well.
  • • If you can, flip your cushions regularly to distribute the wear and to reduce soiling.
  • • Clean spills immediately by gently blotting with a clean, absorbent cloth. If a stain remains, then you’ll have to do some deeper cleaning according to the fabric’s code.

If you’re fabric is soiled beyond repair, maybe it’s time for a reupholster. Check out Sailrite’s wide selection of fabric at Sailrite.com.

Have you tried DIY upholstery cleaning? Share your tips and techniques in the comments!

  1. We all want that wonderful feeling when we first purchased our new furniture. Cleaning can be daunting if you don’t exactly know how to deal with stains especially on upholstered furniture. I’m planning to replace my leather furniture and I’m hoping to get all the help I can in order to take care of them. It’s not like it’s my first time owning upholstered furniture but being sure is always the best. Thanks to this blog and I’m halfway ready.

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