Spill something on your couch? Don't panic — start fighting...

Spill something on your couch? Don't panic — start fighting stains like an expert. Credit: iStockphoto

You know how much it hurts the first time a glass of wine tips all over your favorite couch. First, don't panic. A stain doesn't mean the end for your couch. Just learn how to combat tough stains, and while you're at it, get in the habit of regularly cleaning your furniture to keep it looking its best.

Vacuum your furniture

Our number one DIY upholstery cleaning tip? Vacuum your upholstered furniture often, since dirt not only affects the appearance but can also wear away upholstery fibers. Use a clean, dry upholstery attachment, or any stiff-bristle brush, to loosen dried dirt and debris. Use the crevice tool for hard-to-reach nooks and crannies.

Baby your furniture with wipes

Baby wipes are surprisingly effective for quick DIY upholstery cleaning. They offer a nice mixture of water and soap, use very little moisture and are gentle. Keep a travel-pack stashed in the living room for instant spot removal.

Know your upholstery codes

Your piece probably came with a DIY upholstery cleaning code. "W" means it's OK to use water. "S" means use a nonwater-based solvent, such as alcohol, instead. "S/W" mean suse either solvents or water, and "X" means use neither — vacuum only.

Treat stains frequently

If your furniture doesn't come pretreated with a fabric protector to repel stains, apply one yourself (or have an expert do it for you). If it does, ask how long it will last, since many treatments must be reapplied every few years. Also, the sooner you treat a spot, the better the chances of removing it.

Don't scrub stains

Don't scrub, even when you're dealing with tough, set-in stains. Scrubbing could actually grind the stain further into the fibers or damage the fabric. Better to let the stain remover sink in and do its thing, then gently blot away.

Try a DIY spot remover

If water is safe to use on your upholstery, there are many DIY upholstery cleaning tactics you can try. Vacuum before attempting removal to reduce the risk of spreading the stain. (Always test in an inconspicuous spot first.)

General stain removal: Start with club soda. Dab it on gently with a clean, white cloth. Two more easy options: A little vinegar, left to sit for about 15 minutes before blotting with clear water, or plain old soap and water.

Grease/oil stains: Sprinkle with salt, let sit, then dab with soap and water. Alternatively, try using rubbing alcohol instead of salt.

Coffee stains: Blot with a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar with a little dish detergent.

Crayon stains: Work in a dab of non-gel toothpaste, then rinse with clear water.

Bloodstains: Blot with hydrogen peroxide, then water.

Red wine stains: Sprinkle with salt. Blot with hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice. Blot with water to rinse.

Pet hair: Put on a pair of rubber gloves and run them over your furniture. The static from the gloves will pull the hair to the edge of the piece where it can be easily vacuumed.

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