Discover How to Safely Dry Clean Upholstery at Home

9 May 2023
Est. Reading: 3 minutes
What's in This Guide?
Cleaning Items You'll Need.
Rubber gloves
A vacuum with a soft brush head
Stiff nail brush
Rubbing alcohol / IPA
White cotton towels
Spray bottle
Face mask


When it comes to dry cleaning upholstery, a common issue that many people run into is not knowing how to clean it without using water. This tutorial will teach you how to properly clean a “dry-cleanable” upholstered piece of furniture at home. We'll use an uphostered chair in our example.

This process isn’t limited to upholstery or fabric. It will also work to dry clean clothes, shoes, curtains, and anything else that is dry-cleanable.

Upholstery cleaning can be challenging, but ultimately rewarding. However, with the right tools and techniques, you can successfully clean your upholstery at home. Read on to find out how to clean your upholstery without using water or a water-based product.

If the label has the letter "S," use only solvent-based cleaners on it. Never introduce water to upholstery with this code on the label!

Dry Cleaning Upholstery: Super Simple Things That You Should Know

  • A good way to test how much soil is in a chair is to bang/slap it and see what comes out. On a side note, do this to your car seat, and it will shock you at the amount of dust that comes out. We do not advise you to do this if you suffer from asthma or allergies.
  • Be especially careful if you’re dry-cleaning curtains and working at height. Take precautions not to injure yourself.
  • There is an inherent danger when you work with solvents. They work on dry cleaning items; however, the toxic fumes are not good for your lungs. Open some windows to ventilate the area, and do not let children or pets in the room while you are doing this.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Five steps to dry clean your upholstery at home like a pro.

Step One: Safety First
Wear protective gloves. Ensure the area is well-ventilated. And its a good idea to wear a face mask, so you do not inhale the toxic fumes.

Step Two: Vacuum Out the Dust
Did you know that 95% of the soil in any fabric is dry? This means it can be removed in its dry form, leaving only 5% to deal with. The dust that comes out is super fine, which is why we recommend a HEPA filter vacuum. Not only will it capture these particles of dust, but it will also capture dust mites. The HEPA- filter vacuum traps the allergens inside, ensuring that you are not spreading them around your home.

  1. Start with a stiff nail brush, working the pile both clockwise and anti-clockwise.
  2. Vacuum out the loose dust with the soft brush attachment as you go along.

Note: If you want to know more about allergen reduction, we have done a tutorial on it. It is useful and informative if you have asthma, allergies, or are sensitive to dust mites. See “What You Need to Know About Dust Mites".

Step Three: Cleaning the Upholstery

  1. Put the rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle.
  2. Spray it onto a white cotton towel. You do not want to soak the towel. Just enough to solubilize and migrate the dirt from the upholstery onto the towel.

    Essentially, the aim is for the dirt to be absorbed into the towel. The rubbing alcohol is acting like a solvent that allows the dirt to migrate to the cotton.

    A good rule of thumb is to gently brush the towel in a north-to-south and east-to-west direction. You know it is working when you see a decent amount of transfer coming out of the upholstery and staining the white towel.

  3. Keep rubbing the towel across the chair until you are no longer getting any transfer onto your cotton towel.

Step Four: Allow to Dry/Evaporate
Every effort should be made to allow the solvent to evaporate out of the upholstery. We recommend leaving it for at least an hour.

Solvents are flammable and have the potential to ignite. The likelihood is very small, but we are not taking chances.

Step Five: Vacuum the Upholstery
Once the areas have completely dried, vacuum the upholstery to remove any remaining solvent and dirt.


We hope that this tutorial was helpful in learning how to dry clean upholstery at home, rather than hire a professional cleaner. This is for the people who enjoy saving money and cleaning their own homes.

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