Best Tips for Using Soft Water to Clean Upholstery

Best Tips for Using Soft Water to Clean Upholstery

Couches, loveseats, and other fabric-covered furniture are some of the most neglected pieces in anyone’s home. People will happily spend money to have carpets and tile cleaned, but all too often, forget that the upholstery needs cleaning too. 

Just think about it, living room furniture is where everyone gathers and that means it’s collecting everyone’s body soil. From sweat to dead skin cells and pet dander, all of that is embedded in the fabric of sofas and loveseats.

In this article, we’re going to go over how to clean upholstery. You will need a few tools, but they are relatively inexpensive. You should be able to get some great results with the tutorial below. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!


  1. Drill
  2. Spinning brush attachment
  3. Spray bottle (16oz or a 1-gallon garden sprayer)
  4. Favorite household cleaners like Simple Green or Fabuloso
  5. Wet/Dry vacuum

drill brush

The first step is to vacuum the furniture thoroughly. Get under the cushions, in between the folds, etc. Get every bit of dirt out. If you don’t, the moment you start spraying the cleaner, it will make mud on the surface, and we don’t want that. 

Once all the vacuuming is done, take the spray bottle, fill it up with a ratio of 25% cleaner and 75% of softened water from a whole house water softener. (Pro-Tip: fill the spray bottle with water first, then add the cleaning agent to avoid getting suds during fill up.) Why do we suggest using soft water? If you didn’t know, soft water is far more effective with cleaning than regular tap (hard) water. 

Here’s why: hard water has dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium. The naked eye cannot see these minerals, but when the water evaporates is when they appear. Hard water leaves spots on surfaces and over time, a thick limescale buildup occurs. But with soft water, all those minerals have been eliminated through a process called ion exchange. 

This is where the resin inside a soft water tank trades the salt it is holding onto for calcium and magnesium. The exchange happens immediately with millions of little resin beads. The result is water that comes out of the tank is free of any minerals. Not only is this better for bathing, laundry, washing cars, dishes, but it also makes a great base for upholstery cleaning because the absence of the minerals allow detergents to work better. Plus soft water doesn’t leave any type of scale or residue on fabrics. 

Let’s get back to cleaning upholstery; work one section at a time, spray a generous amount of the solution you’ve created onto the fabric surfaces. You’ll want to get the couch covered enough where it looks like dew on the grass in the morning. But make sure you don’t over saturate. 

Next, you’ll take your drill, attach the spinning brush to it, then with some light pressure, start scrubbing the surface. Do equal passes of the brush, then criss-cross the pattern. This will agitate the fabric, and the solution that you have presprayed will encapsulate the dirt and grime. 

The last step is to take a wet/dry vacuum and use it on the furniture to extract the solution that you had previously agitated. Again, do criss-cross patterns to ensure that you are getting all of it off. To speed up the drying time, place a fan directly on the piece of furniture that was just cleaned. 

That’s all there is to cleaning upholstery. It’s simple right? Here are the basic principles of the process; vacuum, pre-spray, agitate, then vacuum. Anyone can do this, but having the right water will determine the results you get. Keep in mind that there’s a reason why professional carpet cleaners and auto detailers highly recommend using soft water, it’s because they can get better results over regular tap water. 

This same process could be done on automotive upholstery, church pews, small area rugs, and office chairs. But before you start cleaning, it’s always best to check if the piece of furniture has any cleaning tag instructions/warnings. Some fabrics may not do so well with certain cleaners, so it’s best to follow the furniture manufacturer’s suggestions before performing any type of cleaning.

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