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Cleaning upholstery may seem intimidating, but it's really not hard if you have a little bit of direction. The main thing you want to consider is how to not ruin your furniture. You may want to check for colorfastness with a wet, white cloth or pillowcase by rubbing it gently on an inconspicuous area. If you have a microfiber, suede or leather couch, you'll want to call the manufacturer and follow their cleaning instructions.

For most regular upholstery, you can clean it with a solvent based cleaner and a hot wash cloth. Solvent based cleaners are actually degreasers. A lot of what looks like dull or dirty spots on furniture is actually an accumulation of body oils or greasy hands that touched your couch or chair after someone ate. These oily spots attract dirt and dust, and may also grow some mold or simply oxidize after a while, leaving a black or dark discoloration.

Always test before you clean, but you can generally use fabric pre-treatment sprays designed for laundry to get out upholstery stains. Sometimes you don't have to use any chemical cleaners at all if you use a really hot wash cloth. You need heat and solvent to clean oil based stains. You may even be able to steam your upholstery through a towel and soak up some of the oils and dirt that way, depending on your fabric type.

I personally like to steam clean my couches and chairs. When I steam clean my carpets, I always pay the extra couple of bucks for the upholstery attachment. You simply run it over and over your cushions and upholstery with the detergent and hot water, and then go back over it to suck out the excess. I'm always surprised at how well this works, especially since I have two active little boys that are always getting grubby little hands all over everything! Just recently we decided to get a new couch, so I ignored the stains and didn't worry about it since the couch would be in the dumpster soon anyway. I even hid a really big stain by flipping the cushion! But then, life happened and the new couch was put off. I cleaned the stains that were months old and they came right out with a regular, rental steam cleaner.

If you're worried about damaging your furniture, you can always call a professional. It actually isn't a huge job for them and you might be surprised how cheap it can be.

About the Author: Jo Granville is on the staff of Only Hangers, a leading online resource for wood, plastic and metal clothing hangers. For more information, please visit