One of my major design struggles is balancing my love of upholstered
anything with my love of animals. Whether it’s Turk scratching up the side of our sofa or Hope tracking in dirt or carrying her food onto the chair, we’re always dealing with some sort of upholstery clean-up. Even if your home doesn’t include pets or children, regular use of any upholstered furniture will require cleaning and touch-ups at some point. I try to prevent anything major with semi-regular cleaning, but for today’s Home Ec post I wanted to share a guide to cleaning upholstered furniture and protecting it from pets. xo, grace
*Click here for even more in-depth pet-proofing ideas!
This post and the Home Ec section are brought to you by Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. Visit the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Home-Grown Inspiration section featuring 20 DIYs, including seven from Design*Sponge!
COTTON & LINEN: Let's start with materials before diving into pets. Cotton and linen are some of the most common upholstery fabrics and can be the toughest to protect (from animals, especially). If you have slipcovers, you can machine wash them on a gentle setting. Be sure to follow the tag instructions. Linen/cotton blends can often be machine washed, but pure linen slipcovers should be dry cleaned. I clean ours twice a year. In between I spot clean with a dry cloth first, followed by a damp towel. Regular dust-busting (every other week or so) can help prevent food or dirt particles from being embedded into the fabric. (Photo from
LEATHER: Leather can be more forgiving of pet hair and stains, but it still needs to be cared for properly. Vacuum first (with a brush attachment) and then dust leather furniture with a soft, damp cloth to remove easy surface stains. Be sure to keep your leather from being too close to heaters and fireplaces - the heat can dry out and crack the leather. You can use a mild soap and water mixture for tougher stains, but be sure to test on a noticeable patch first. (Photo from
VELVET: Velvet is one of the best fabrics for cats, because they CAN'T get their claws looped inside the fibers (velvet is a soft pile, not a looped structure like linen or cotton). For velvet, you'll want to use your vacuum's brush attachment to regularly keep it clean. Most velvets can be washed in cold water and air-dried, but be sure to consult your tag first. Never iron your velvet covers, though! The compression can crush the velvet fibers and make it appear discolored. (Photo from
WOOL: I find wool the trickiest fabric to clean, because it truly requires dry cleaning to get thoroughly clean (once a year, ideally). For stains that need to be immediately cleaned, you can dilute a wool-safe detergent (like Woolite) and apply in small amounts with a soft cloth. Be sure not to overly wet the fabric, because shrinking or discoloration can occur. (Photo from
LABELS: Understanding your furniture label is important. The basics you need to know for furniture are as follows:
X (Vacuum only)
(Spot-clean with a solvent cleaner only, no water) -
(Spot-clean with a water based cleaner or foam only) -
(Spot-clean with a mild soap, upholstery shampoo or detergent). (Photo by
CATS: Let's talk about protecting upholstery from cats. The biggest issue here is scratching. First and foremost - NEVER de-claw your cat. It is incredibly painful for them and can cause major behavioral issues down the line. You can, however, keep your cat's nails trimmed or try a temporary claw covering like
. I've tried them successfully but they don't work for every cat. To deter them further, provide a scratching alternative, like this sisal rope-covered pipe or a
Amy's former Brooklyn home
) . If you want to plan to deter scratching further, try velvet upholstery instead of cotton, linen or wool. The non-looped structure makes it nearly impossible for cats to pull.
CATS & DOGS: The easiest way to deter your pets from damaging upholstery is to provide an alternative. Most pets like things that smell like their owners, so provide them with a comfortable pet bed (you may need to test a few styles to discover what they like; Hope loves a bed that's too small with high sides) and place an item of your clothing in there to start. A dirty sweater, a (dry) used towel - anything that has your scent will encourage them to nest there.
In addition to soft pet beds, most cats like to get some height, too. Providing them with some sort of raised shelf, walkway or cat tree is the easiest way to give them their OWN space, so they won't be tempted to damage yours. (Image from the
Uhuru home tour
Another option is to cover or upholster the bottom seat of any furniture in a fabric that's easier to clean or toss in the washer. An old Hudson Bay blanket, a striped wool throw- anything that's sturdy enough to be cleaned and shaken-out regularly works well. Or, try upholstering the seat cushions in something you can easily un-zip and wash (more regularly than the arms and back). (Photo from
Tyler and Brendan's home
Last, but not least, try to remember when accidents happen that our pets are part of our family. We make mistakes, spill things and occasionally leave stains, too, so try to remember that furniture can be cleaned, covered or replaced- pets are living and loving parts of our household that will be with us for (hopefully) a very long time. (Photo from
Jason and Stephanie's home