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Removing Unknown Stain From Upholstery

By Dr. Laundry April 8, 2015

Q: Please recommend best method for removing unknown stain from dining room chair upholstery

A: I wish I knew a little more about the stain. Is it older, or did it just appear this week?  Did it soak in or does it look like it’s on the surface of the fabric?  If the upholstery fabric has a stain repellent finish, the stain may come off just by gently rubbing across the stained area with no more than a little warm tap water applied to a wash cloth.  I hope you are that lucky!

However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more complicated than that.  Stains on dining room chairs are most likely food and beverage stains, although I wouldn’t rule out blood (which I know sounds gross but I try to focus on getting stains out, not pretending “feminine accidents” never happen!).  Cleaning badly stained upholstered chairs is best accomplished with a steam cleaner that can completely extract whatever cleaning solution is applied to the chairs, so it is worth renting the proper equipment.  This also means using whatever cleaning products are recommended for use in the machine; information and products should be available with the rental.  This includes pretreatment products—you can check ingredient lists on the products to try different chemistries for the best chance of getting out your “unknown” stain.  Look for the following:

–Enzymes—blood stains
–Surfactants—oily stains
–Oxygen bleach—red wine and other colored food stains
 
Whether you rent your own equipment or bring in a professional company is up to you.  Regardless, you should clean all the chairs in the set so they match in appearance when finished.  This is especially important if it takes multiple cleanings to get the stain all the way out—you could end up with one very clean chair compared to the others, especially if the chairs are older.  If a professional charges per chair, this may tip the scales in favor of renting the equipment and making this a DIY project.

I hope this is helpful.  Please let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for writing!