Environmental awareness starts at home. Keep your house or apartment a hazardous-chemical-free zone; replace commercial upholstery cleaning products with eco-friendly versions based on easily obtainable, pure, non-toxic ingredients. This will improve your indoor air quality and reduce allergic symptoms in your family members. If you'd like to save pennies as well as the planet, mix up your own frugal, effective natural household cleansers to green clean upholstered furniture.
Clean your upholstery regularly even if it doesn't look dirty. Thorough cleaning will minimize the amount of two major allergens in your home -- dust mites and animal dander, if you own a cat, dog, bird, or other pet. In addition, unless they are promptly removed, microscopic particles of dirt may penetrate upholstery fabric and damage the fiber. This is especially prevalent when you live in a town or city with high levels of dust or pollution in the air (LA is a prime example).
Use a soft brush to remove surface dust, dirt, and crumbs from upholstered furniture. Alternatively, go over the fabric with your vacuum cleaner every time you clean your Los Angeles floor. For more in depth dust removal, remove the cushions and vacuum the base of your sofa or armchair. Use a special vacuum attachment such as a crevice tool to reach into nooks and crannies. Don't forget the underside, which may harbor spider webs in addition to dust and grime. Then vacuum all sides of the cushions before replacing.
How to Clean with Homemade Green Solutions
Before you apply any cleaning solution to your upholstered furniture, check the instructions provided by the furniture manufacturer and determine what type of fabric the upholstery is made from. Different materials have varying amounts of tolerance for specific cleaning techniques, especially high pile and non-synthetic fabrics like cotton velvet or hemp. Once you have mixed up a batch of natural cleaning solution (recipes below), be sure to start by testing a small, inconspicuous spot. If that works out well, go ahead and spray the furniture piece -- lightly does it! Rub the cleanser in gently. Then spray with clean water to rinse. Pat dry with a soft absorbent cloth, white or well washed so that it will not leach color onto the upholstery (holey old undershirts are perfect for this). Weather permitting, leave the windows open for a few hours to speed up drying. Do not, however, place your furniture or cushions in direct sunlight, as this may cause them to fade.
CAUTION: Unless you are removing grease, make up the solution with cold water so you do not set stains. Avoid soaking the fabric or spraying any wooden trim.
3 Recipes for DIY Green Upholstery Cleaners
All-Purpose Upholstery Cleaner I
1 cup water
¼ cup biodegradable liquid dish soap, castile soap, or shampoo (shampoo is best for removing grease splotches)
Mix by shaking in a jar or whipping with an eggbeater or electric mixer. It will form a frothy foam that is easy to apply to your upholstery.
All-Purpose Upholstery Cleaner II
1 cup water
¼ cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons biodegradable liquid dish soap or shampoo
Mix following the instructions for All-Purpose Upholstery Cleaner I. This is excellent when you need to remove odors as well as dirt from your upholstery.
If the spot is fresh, blot as much as you can with a color-stable cloth. Then apply:
OR hydrogen peroxide (spot-test first).
Rinse with cool water and dry.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.