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Understanding Upholstery Cleaning Codes

May 15, 2024

Upholstery cleaning codes—those mysterious ‘W’, ‘S’, ‘WS’, ‘X’, or ‘D’ tags—are essential for maintaining your chairs and sofas.

They tell you which cleaning methods and products are safe to use so that you won’t damage the fabric of your furniture while trying to get rid of stains.

What are the different codes? What do they mean? Keep reading to find out!

The Purpose of Cleaning Codes

The cleaning codes come in handy when you’re dealing with lightly soiled furniture. They act as your compass, directing your cleaning efforts in the right direction while preventing potential fabric damage.

But remember, while they tell you how to clean, they don’t necessarily offer guarantees against all types of stains.

Common Upholstery Cleaning Codes

upholstery cleaning codesThere are five standard codes: W, S, WS, X, and D.

Code ‘W’ means you should use water-based detergents for cleaning, while ‘S’ means dry cleaning solvents are your best bet.

If you see ‘WS’ or ‘W/S,’ you’ve got the flexibility to use either of the two cleaning methods.

However, if you spot ‘X,’ steer clear of any water or solvents; vacuuming or light brushing is all you get to do. Finally, ‘D’ signifies that the fabric is to be dry-cleaned only.

Locating Your Furniture’s Cleaning Code

These codes are typically found on the underside of the furniture or on the tags attached to the seat cushions.

If your cushions are sewn to the frame, inspect the sofa’s platform underneath the cushions to find the cleaning tag.

In some cases, the codes may be hidden on a tag located completely underneath the furniture frame. So, if you don’t find them under the cushions, don’t lose hope – just check all the tags attached to the furniture.

Checking Under Cushions and Tags

Occasionally, the cleaning tag will be tucked along the front edge of the sofa’s platform beneath the cushions.

If the furniture design doesn’t allow for cushion removal, don’t fret! The tag bearing the cleaning code can typically be located underneath the furniture. Sometimes, the manufacturers also place these tags on the sides of the furniture piece, particularly near the armrests.

Contacting the Manufacturer

If you’ve looked everywhere and still can’t find the cleaning codes, consider reaching out to the manufacturer. They will be able to provide the necessary information based on the product information from your receipt.

For older pieces of furniture without visible cleaning codes, the manufacturer may have archival records or offer advice based on a description or image of the item.

If reaching out to the manufacturer isn’t an option, consider consulting a professional cleaner.

Proper Cleaning Techniques Based on Cleaning Codes

upholstery cleaning techniquesLet’s break down the cleaning techniques for each code:

  • Fabrics with an ‘S’ code should be treated with non-diluted cleaning solvent or dry cleaning fluid
  • Fabrics with a ‘W’ code should be treated with water-based shampoos or foam upholstery cleaners
  • ‘W/S’ and ‘WS’ fabrics are a bit more flexible and can be cleaned with either water-based solutions or solvents, or a combination of both.

Code W: Water-Based Cleaners

Code W upholstery fabrics can be spot-cleaned with a water-based shampoo or foam upholstery cleaner.

For example, you can use a brush to apply the cleaner to the fabric. The key is to be gentle and avoid any harsh movements that can damage the fabric.

Code S: Solvent Cleaners

Code S fabrics are a bit choosy and prefer solvent cleaning methods. You can use a mild dry cleaning solvent specially designed for Code S fabrics, such as Cleanup Solvent-22.

Apply the solvent cleaner to the stain on the fabric, and gently agitate the area with a soft nylon-bristle brush. Remember, patience is key here. You don’t want to rush and end up damaging the fabric.

Code WS: Water and Solvent Cleaners

Code WS fabrics are the best of both worlds and can be cleaned with either water-based solutions or solvents. To determine the appropriate cleaning solution, identify whether the stain is oil-based or water-based.

As a general rule, you want to start cleaning ‘WS’ coded fabrics with water-based cleaners and use solvent-based cleaners for any persistent stains as a second step.

Just remember, always pre-test the chosen cleaner on a discreet section of the fabric to ensure it doesn’t cause any damage.

Code X: Vacuum and Light Brushing

Code X fabrics are a little high maintenance and don’t like any water, cleaners, or chemical spot removers.

Routine vacuuming with a vacuum cleaner should be your go-to cleaning method for these fabrics. For a more thorough cleaning, you can also use a light dry brush.

Tips for Successful Spot Cleaning

spot cleaning upholsteryWhen you spot a stain, your first instinct might be to rub it off aggressively, but that’s the last thing you want to do.

Rather, you want to remove all excess liquid, solid, goo, or gunk as quickly as possible. Blotting spills immediately with a clean cloth can prevent the stain from setting into the upholstery fabric.

Pre-treating the stain with an appropriate cleaner will also improve the chances of complete removal.

Pre-Testing Cleaners

Pre-test your cleaner before you go all-in with your cleaning to ensure it doesn’t leave spots or cause color bleeding.

To do that, apply the cleaner to a small, hidden area of the furniture and check for any adverse reactions.

Avoid Over-Wetting and Rubbing

Always remember to blot, not rub, and avoid over-wetting the fabric. Steam cleaning can be an effective option for certain materials.

Rubbing can push the stain deeper into the fabric fibers and cause it to spread while over-wetting might damage the material.

When to Call a Professional Upholstery Cleaner

There are situations where hiring a professional upholstery cleaner is the best option. For example, you may need to call in the pros if you’re dealing with deep set-in stains or heavy fabrics.

Remember, hiring professional cleaning services isn’t just about removing stains, it’s also about extending the lifespan of your fabric.

Upholstery Maintenance Tips

upholstery maintenance tipsUpholstery maintenance extends beyond stain cleaning; it also involves regular upkeep.

This means vacuuming your upholstered furniture monthly to eliminate particles like dust, dirt, hair, food particles, dander, and dead skin.

Regular cleaning, including the use of upholstery shampoo, will also keep your furniture in tip-top shape.

Here are some more tips:

  • Rotate cushions regularly
  • Keep furniture away from direct sunlight to prevent fading
  • Apply a fabric protectant to guard against spills and stains

Remember, a little effort can go a long way in maintaining the charm of your furniture.

Understanding Cleaning Codes – FAQs

What are the cleaning codes for upholstery fabric?

Cleaning codes for upholstery fabric are represented by letters like W, S, or X. They tell you how you should clean the fabric and what type of cleaner you should use.

What is the SW code for fabric cleaning?

The SW code means you can use either water-based or solvent-based cleaning methods.

What is the best cleaner for Code S fabric?

The best cleaner for Code S fabric, which includes fabrics like cotton, rayon, linen, wool, silk, and denim, is a solvent-based cleaner such as Cleanup Solvent-22.

What is the right method to clean Code X fabrics?

Avoid water and cleaners with code x fabrics. Vacuum or use a light brush instead.

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Ava Thompson

Ava Thompson is a cleaning specialist and home organization guru. Her profound knowledge, honed through years of experience, is thoughtfully shared in her thorough walkthroughs here on our blog. Ava’s pragmatic tips and innovative strategies empower individuals to transform their living spaces into models of cleanliness and order. She’s a go-to source for those seeking to enhance their home environment efficiently and effectively. She has become a key contributor on the ACTIVE blog.

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