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How often you should clean upholstery — and the right way to do it!

Does your upholstered furniture look dingy and “tired?” Is your couch in desperate need of a clean? What about your car? Upholstery, like carpet, needs regular attention, says Shawn Bisaillon, owner of Professional Carpet Systems of North Denver. As an industry consultant for cleaning and restoration, he's sharing insider tips for keeping upholstery looking great.

Upholstery cleaning basics

1. If you're going to hire a professional: Bisaillon recommends having upholstery cleaned by a certified cleaning technician every 12 to 24 months — more frequently in households with small children or pets.

To assure that you’re getting a qualified cleaner, look for certification by International Cleaning and Restoration Association or International Institute of Cleaning and Restoration. Before booking an in-home cleaning, request the name of the technician and his/her ICRA or IICR registration number.

2. Vacuum: Use upholstery and crevice attachments (they make a huge difference!) to pick up crumbs and dust on a weekly basis.

3. Clean spills immediately: Blot them up ASAP. If the spill leaves a spot, follow instructions on the fabric care label. If it’s safe to use water, blot the area alternately with a damp towel and a dry towel to remove it.

4. Treat the stain: As always, follow cleaning instructions on the fabric care label. For stains on silk and antique fabrics, consult a professional, otherwise if the stain is from an organic source, like mustard, coffee or other foods, Bisaillon suggests lightly misting it with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide.

Pro tip: Always test in an inconspicuous place first to make sure the fabric is color-safe.

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For other stains, Bisaillon uses a CRI-approved spot remover like Benefect Impact Cleaner for Carpet and Fabric. Test it first in a hidden spot, then follow manufacturer’s directions. After working on the stain, leave a towel on top of the treated area as well as on the underside of the fabric to absorb residual liquid.

Clean it yourself

What to do:

1. Start by thoroughly vacuuming, using the upholstery and crevice attachments.

2. If using cleaning products to break up soil, remember to lightly mist them onto the fabric. (Overspraying can cause the cleaner to seep into cushions.) Then, with a gentle touch, groom the fabric with a soft sponge or brush.

3. Rinse the fabric by lightly spraying with warm water and suctioning away moisture with a wet/dry vac. Blot with an absorbent towel. Allow furniture to dry completely before using. To hasten the drying process, use fans or place the cushions outside to dry.

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Those vacuum attachments make a huge difference!

What to use:

For touch-ups, look for professional-grade home products like Stain X Pro Carpet and Upholstery Shampoo or any other approved upholstery product listed on the Carpet and Rug Institute website. Never use bleaches or de-greasers.

For pet messes, use a wet/dry vac to vacuum up as much of the urine as possible. Apply a bio-enzymatic urine digester, such as Urine Off or Nilodor, according to package directions.

Prepare for disaster

A word to the wise: Be proactive!

You can spare yourself a lot of work and expense by applying a fabric protector to new or newly cleaned upholstery, especially if the upholstery is made of delicate, soft fibers like silk. For such fabrics, professionally applied Fiber ProTector repels stains, adds UV protection, reduces static electricity and inhibits growth of bacteria, mold and mildew.

For family-friendly fabrics, professionally applied, high-performance 3M Scotchgard does the job. Regular 3M Scotchgard, while not as powerful, is a good DIY option.

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