I was motivated to write this post after reading an in depth article called "Giving the Old Family Couch A Good Sudsing" in this morning's WSJ,. The Journal does a great job of comparing outside service companies that specialize in upholstery cleaning. But why not do-it-yourself? I believe we're all a bit too quick to outsource occasional tasks that we consider menial and propose that you consider making your Saturday or Sunday morning workout pay off beyond the calorie burn -- and even involve the kids.
Furniture cleaners are great at pitching their professionalism, secret sauce solvents and attention to detail. Believe me, you can do it just as well if not better. You'll need a wet vacuum cleaner – small is fine – or you can buy a small upholstery cleaning machine for under $100 that will last a long time and is also great to have around for emergency spills and pet issues.
Upholstery fabrics tend to be very tough and do not need to be treated delicately unless they are made of silk or some other delicate fiber that most professionals won't touch anyway. Test the following procedure on a hidden part of your upholstery and give it a whirl:
1. Work one section at a time: Cushion, Arms, Back, Front etc.
2. Pre-treat stains and spots with a general laundry spray stain remover.
3. Fill a spray bottle or larger pump sprayer with a 20-30/1 mixture of cold water to laundry detergent and another with clean water.
4. Spray the fabric with the detergent and agitate with a soft brush or wash cloth and suck out the moisture with a broad wet vac nozel 4-6 inches wide.
5. Let the fabric rest for 5-10 minutes and then spray with clean water to rinse and suck out that moisture with the wet vac.
6. Drying time can be accelerated with air conditioning and box fans.
And since your children likely contributed to the need for cleaning, they'll learn the consequences of remediating spills and stains and will also have a great time spraying, vacuuming and seeing the muddy water that accumulates in the wet vac. Also feel free to repeat the cleaning and/or rinse process that the "professionals" almost never perform.