Upholstery Cleaning Codes – Quick List

If you need to clean your sofa and you are unsure of the steps required, you need to locate the tag that states the cleaning code. If you fail to do so, you may ruin the upholstery by trying methods that will compromise the colors and the fabric itself.

What are the upholstery cleaning codes? The upholstery cleaning codes are W, S, WS, and X. W requires cleaning with water-based agents. S means that you must clean with mild, water-free solvents and cleaning agents. WS requires cleaning with water-based or non-water-based agents. X requires professional cleaning, but vacuuming is OK.

Rowe Furniture, a Virginia based upholstery manufacturer, states that codes need to be followed. If the upholstery is heavily soiled, it is best to contact a professional that can provide advice or to perform the cleaning for you.

Here are the details for each of the codes:

W – Water-Based-Solvents

You can spot clean areas of your upholstery when the item is coded W. The use of water-based shampoo or an upholstery cleaner that foams is fine. Nevertheless, you need to spot test an area to ensure that your solvent is not going to change the fabric color or the structure of the fabric.

Make sure that you do not add too much water. If you have a large area to clean, it is best to contact a professional since your solvents might not be strong enough.

Here is a video that explains the different cleaning codes for upholstery:

S – Water-Free Solvents

This code means that you need to use water free solvents that are designed for dry cleaning. Water will cause the fabric to swell up and after drying, they will remain in that state. After cleaning the upholstery with the solvent, you may have to use a stiff bristle non-metallic brush to restore the appearance of the fabric.

Woman cleaning couch with duster at home

In the future, you should be vacuuming this type of fabric to prevent grime and dust from accumulating. When there is too much dust and grime, you will need to contact a professional upholstery cleaner.

If you spill something on the furniture, you need to dab it up right away.

Make sure that you clean spots and stains from the outside to the middle. This will prevent the spreading of the spots or stains.

WS – Water Based or Water Free Solvents

This upholstery cleaning code provides you with the most options. You have three choices:

  1. mild detergent that foams
  2. dry cleaning solvent
  3. upholstery shampoo

You can spot clean your upholstery of this code. Start with a hidden area so that you can test the solvent that you plan to use. Make sure that you do not totally saturate the area in case a reaction occurs.

If your fabric has piles, use a non-metallic bristle brush to straighten out the fibers.

Also, you should vacuum your furniture on a regular basis to prevent the buildup of dust and dirt. If you notice that your furniture has a stubborn stain or spot, contact a professional upholstery cleaner even if you have noticed the WS code.

X – Need to use a professional upholstery cleaning service

To maintain the cleanliness of your upholstery that has the X cleaning code, you should vacuum and brush it regularly. You must use a non-metallic brush that has stiff bristles. Never add any solvent or water to this furniture.

Male worker removing dirt from sofa with professional vacuum cleaner indoors

If you cannot locate the cleaning code of your furniture, it is best to contact a professional cleaner to have it evaluated. Nevertheless, inspect every inch of your furniture before assuming that the code is not present.

Here is a video that illustrates the steps that a professional upholstery cleaning service uses to clean the dirtiest couch ever:

What Cleaning Code is My Couch?

Your cleaning code for your couch is located under the chair cushions. If your cushions are not removeable, the tag will be underneath the couch.

Plumbs, a Reupholstery Family Company based in England, states that sometimes the cleaning code for a couch is located on the inner side of the couch where the cushions sit. This area is next to the armrest. If the tag is not there, you should check the area underneath the cushions. Sometimes it is placed on the platform that holds the cushions.

If your cushions are attached to the back of the couch, you will need to run your hand underneath the cushions to feel the cleaning code tag. You may have to pull the tag towards you to see the cleaning code.

Comfortable sofa with pillows and table with books near it in the room, close up

If you have checked every inch of your couch and you still cannot find the cleaning code, it is possible that it was lost or that the company that had reupholstered your furniture did not attach a tag that indicates the cleaning code. You should call the reupholstering company or check the furniture manufacturer’s website for the instructions on how to clean your couch.

Here is a table that shows the most common couch materials along with their probable cleaning code:

Material for CouchProbable Cleaning Code
Nylon W
Polyester W
Acetate W
Cotton S
Linen S
Wool S
Silk S

As you have noticed in the above table, the cleaning code occurs for a lot of types of upholstery material. You may be wondering how to safely clean these items yourself before resorting to hiring a professional upholstery cleaner. I will explain the steps that are involved.

How to Clean Code S Upholstery

According to Jon-Don LLC, a distributor for Upholstery Cleaning Equipment in Roselle, Illinois, the delicate fabrics that have the upholstery cleaning code S, can be damaged if you were to use solvents that are water-based. They must be dry cleaned.

Even though dry-cleaning upholstery is the safest method of cleaning, there are still risks. If the furniture material has a backing that contains adhesives or latex, you should hire a professional to clean this piece of furniture for you. Nevertheless, for regular synthetic materials that do not have heavy backing, you can perform that cleaning on your own.

Here are the benefits of dry-cleaning code S pieces of furniture:

  1. low chance of bleeding the dyes
  2. low chance of browning the material
  3. shrinkage is rare with dry cleaning
  4. oily soils will be dissolved

However, even though the furniture is labeled with code S, if the furniture is heavily soiled, I would advise you to contact a professional cleaner. You need an expert that can ensure that stains and spots are not just simply stretched out.

How to apply the dry-cleaning solvent

  1. Use a towel to rub in the solvent onto areas that contain body oils and hair. For instance, on the headrests or the armrests. Work on each area for 5 minutes.
  2. Use a bristled brush that is non-metallic to clean soiled areas. Brush the area in question for 5 minutes.

Avoid using dry cleaning solvents on your own that require heating

Some people feel that they could heat dry-cleaning solvent correctly that must be heated. You need to have special equipment that is dry solvent compatible. If you accidentally bypass the flash point of your solvent, it could ignite.

Since dry cleaning solvents have chemical substances that can be dangerous, you need to take some precautions when handling them. Here is a table that outlines some safety tips:

Safety Tips when using Dry Cleaning Solvent
Do not smoke around dry-cleaning solvents.
Use drop cloths around your piece of furniture to protect the floor.
Dispose left-over dry-cleaning solvent according to government rules.
Do not use the solvents around a pilot light

Examples of Fabrics that have the Upholstery Cleaning Code X

It is extremely rare to find furniture that has been coded x for the cleaning code. I searched high and low for actual examples. Most people would avoid buying furniture made from fabrics that cannot be cleaned. If stained can be removed only by professionals, the future cleaning costs would not be worth it. Nevertheless, I did find a few examples.

cleaning leather sofa with towel at home

Upholstered Furniture Italsofa

Natuzzi designs this. It has a reasonable price since it is targeting a more budget conscious clientele. Italsofa is made from Italian leather that is soft in texture. The leather cannot be rubbed with solvent or water. However, if you are willing to take the risk, use a light leather conditioner with a soft cloth to polish out stains.

Steps to use Leather Conditioner
1. use soapy water and a washcloth to wash off mild stains
2. dry the leather completely with a dry cloth
3. add on the leather conditioner
4. allow an hour for the cream solution to soak into leather
5. buff the areas conditioned

With Italian leather, it can be damaged if you try to clean it with a solvent that contain wax, alcohol, or wax.

Here is a video that shows you how to clean a couch that is leather like a pro:

Suede Couch Should Have the Cleaning Code X

If you have a couch that is real suede, there is a chance that it is tagged as cleaning code x. You cannot clean it with water or with a solvent. All that you can do is brush it and vacuum it to keep it clean. If you manage to find a professional upholstery cleaner that is willing to clean it for you, just be aware there is a chance that it may come back in worse condition.

What items are best for cleaning code x safely?

  1. Upholstery Brush – this brush is ok for brushing off your suede sofa that is coded x or any other furniture with the same cleaning code. I recommend the Hand Broom that is available on Amazon. Click here to have yours delivered.
  2. Vacuum for Upholstery – many vacuums have an attachment that is ok to use on upholstery. Nevertheless, buying a vacuum that is handheld will ensure that your furniture never has an accumulation of dust and grime.
  3. I would advise against buying a vacuum that is specialized in Upholstery cleaning because they tend to use detergents and sprays that will harm your x coded furniture. I recommend the Vaslon Handheld Vacuum that is available on Amazon. Click here to have yours delivered.

If you are an upholstery cleaner, make sure that you have your client sign a waiver before you agree to clean a sofa made of suede. Speak to a lawyer first to find out the best way to word such a waiver.

Cost of Having Your Upholstered Furniture Professionally Cleaned

Upholstery Furniture PieceAverage Cost
Sofa $200

Best Cleaner for Upholstery in Cars

Here is an analysis of the top brands of cleaners that are on the market for auto upholstery. This data was derived from various automobile forums online.

Brands of Upholstery Cleaners for Cars
Chemical Guys Fabric Clean
303 Upholstery Cleaner
Armor All

Cleaning your car upholstery by yourself will save you a lot of hard-earned cash. The average cost of car upholstery cleaning is $160 (source),

hand in blue rubber glove, apply the product, foam on the car seat to clean the surface

Here are the steps to follow to remove your car upholstery stains yourself:

Items Required to Clean Car Upholstery
One cup of vinegar
1/4 cup of baking soda
1/4 cup of vinegar
dish detergent
spray bottle
  1. Mix 3/4 cup of baking soda with one cup of warm water.
  2. Use a toothbrush to apply this mixture to the stains.
  3. Leave the pasty solution on the stains for 30 minutes.
  4. Use a dry cloth to blot off the solution from the targeted areas.
  5. Mix a cup of warm water with a few squirts of dish detergent.
  6. Add in 1/4 cup of vinegar.
  7. Add this solution to a spray bottle.
  8. Spray your car seats.
  9. Leave the solution on your upholstery for 15 minutes.
  10. Use dry towels to dry off the seats.
  11. Leave your car windows open long enough to get rid of the cleaning solution smell.


How to clean your cloth car seats without spending a cent:

Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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