How to Remove Old Stains from Upholstery

Even though we all know that the best way to deal with stains on the upholstery is to get it out immediately, we can’t avoid a few old stains that we can’t manage to remove in time. 

A chair or couch with stains here and there is annoying, but how to remove old stains from upholstery? 

Follow our guide, and you will know what exactly you need to do.

Check for upholstery cleaning codes

How to clean the stains correctly? You must check the tags on your chair or couch. If you use the wrong cleaner, it may cause unrecoverable damage to your loved furniture.

The typical cleaning codes include:

S – solvent-based cleaner

Upholsteries made of wool, denim, cotton, linen are often labeled with “S.”

W – water-based cleaner

The water-based cleaner can often clean chairs covered by polyester, nylon, and acetate.

S/W – solvent-based or water-based cleaner

You can use solvent-based cleaner to remove oil-based stains and water-based cleaner to remove the water-based cleaner. Upholsteries made of a blend of natural and artificial often come with this tag.

X –  vacuum or light brushing

The fabrics are not cleanable by solvent-based or water-based cleaner. 

If you have a piece of vintage furniture that doesn’t come with a cleaning code, you’d better do a simple spot test in a discreet place.



Vacuum the furniture is an essential step in a regular cleaning regimen. 

It sucks away the crumbs and debris so that these loose particles will not mix with the stains while applying the chemicals.

Sometimes, it also works wonders on fading the stains because you never know how hard it is to remove the stains at the beginning.



If the upholstery is cleanable by water, you could use a steamer or an iron to steam off the stain. It helps to loosen the old stains up and let it be more responsive to the cleaners. It is kind of “activate the stains.” 

Remove old stains from upholstery

how to get old stains out of the upholstery
How to get old stains out of the upholstery

There are different ways to get old stains out, and we will lay them out according to the type of stains.

Remove food stains

Most stains on the couch or recliner chair are food stains because we want to enjoy the food in the most comfortable places in our house. 

Use the mixture of cold water and dish soap and blot it to the stains using a sponge. To prevent spread, work from the edge of the stain to the center. Please don’t rub it as it will spill the stains into more spaces. Prepare another sponge or rinse the sponge with water to blot out the mixture.

To handle the protein stains, use a cleaner with enzymes, soak for half an hour, and rinse with water.

Once you find the stains are removed, the next step is to dry the fabric with a paper towel or cloth.  

To make the chair look better, you should vacuum the fabric.

Remove old grease stains

Removing grease stains could be a frustrating process. The first thing you can do is apply some cornstarch or baking soda and leave it on the stains for about 15 minutes to absorb the oil as much as possible.

If the upholstery is labeled with a “W” code, you can apply some laundry soap and rinse it off with water. If the stains remain, use a bit of white vinegar to fade the stain further.

If the upholstery needs to be cleaned by a solvent-based cleaner, apply some dry cleaning solvent into the sponge and let it dry.

Deal with old blood stains on the couch

Use a soft bristle brush to loosen the old blood stain and suck it out with a vacuum cleaner. The next step is dabbling a mixture of dish soap and cold water with a soft bristle brush or a white towel. As we mentioned above, work from the edge to the center to prevent spills.

Blot out the stains with a paper towel and then rinse the mixture with cool water. Let it dry naturally.

Get old fruit and wine stains out of a chair

We always think fruit and wine stains are hard to clean out, but it may be easier than you expect.

Prepare a solution composed of a tablespoon of vinegar, a quart of cold water,  and a teaspoon of laundry detergent. Apply it with a sponge, and then rinse it off with cool water.

If the upholstery is labeled with “S,” then you can use the rubbing alcohol. Use a sprayer to apply the rubbing alcohol on the spots and remove the stains with a sponge. 


We like to sit on an upholstered chair or couch, but the stains left on it unexpectedly are not pleasing.

We introduced a few methods to remove stains from upholstery so that you can rightly deal with them according to the types of stains.

It is crucial to check the cleaning codes before taking any action. Always start work from the edge to prevent spreading.

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Rachelle is the founder of Best Chair Finder. She is a fanatic of home improvement, and as an engineer, she knows well about each chair's mechanism. You can find her story on the About page.