A Guide to Cleaning Church Chair Fabric

Upholstery is one of the most difficult items to clean because, just like any other fabric worn, it needs a good washing every so often. However, one cannot simply throw a chair into the washing machine in order to get the job done. First, most items are too large to fit in the center drum, and secondly, even if some furniture item could fit, it would probably break the machine during a cycle.

Doing some light washing is the easiest way to breathe new life into worn out upholstery, but without the machine, how are we to clean it?

Thankfully, this task isn’t as challenging as it sounds. This guide will walk you through the simple steps on how to clean furniture and fabric chairs, as well as how to remove those stubborn set in stains.

Light, Everyday Cleaning

The key to keeping chairs and other fabricated furniture looking nice is to keep it clean as long as possible. This requires some day-to-day cleaning or light maintenance to pick up regular dusts and airborne debris. The best items to use for these tasks are lint rollers and vacuums:

  • Lint Rollers: Lint rollers are a handy tool that can help pick up pesky hairs, dirt, and other fibers left behind daily. The advantage of using a lint roller, as compared to most fabric brushes, is that the sticky paper lifts up the nap fabric, rather than flattening it and rubbing dirt into the weaves of the fabric. Pushing dirt into the fabric fibers is eventually what dulls its color and leaves the furniture looking dull and worn.
  • Vacuum: Though it is not necessary to vacuum every day, doing a light run every week, using nozzle attachments, will help reduce built up grime.


Though it’s not possible to throw a chair into the washing machine, as mentioned above, it is still possible to give your furniture a routine rinse every so often. A light lather can reverse regular wear and uplift small, set-in debris from the woven fabric and give your upholstery a brighter color and better general aesthetic.


However, it is important to note that, even though washing entails water, using as little liquid as possible will help keep your fabric looking better for longer. Using too much water can soak the upholstery and cause the fabric to lose its integrity (it will either shrink or sag), or it will leave watermarks. Also, avoid water contact with the metal parts of the chair, particularly any zippers around the seat cushions, as they will rust.

Before ever washing, check the labels or fabric code on the back of furniture items, as some fabrics will be damaged by the presence of water. If your label says, “dry clean only”, it will probably need to be professionally cleaned instead. To ensure your chairs and furniture are water safe, test a small area on a single item and wait a few hours to see if the water has left any change in fabric.

Cleaning Instructions:

  1. Make a solution of ¼ cup dishwashing liquid with 1 cup of warm water.
  2. With an electric hand mixer, whisk the solution until a dense layer of thick, dry suds form across the top.
  3. Use a clean cloth to gently massage the suds into the fabric, being careful not to rub, as rubbing will work the dirt deeper into the woven fabric fibers.
  4. Pressing hard, use a rubber cooking spatula to scrape away the dirty suds.
  5. To rinse, dab the washed area with a warm, damp cloth.

Always allow the fabric or furniture to thoroughly dry before use, as moisture will cause more dirt to cling to the chair’s surface.

Deep Clean / Set-in Stains

Stains, immediate or set in, are always tricky, and we cross our fingers hoping the simple soap and water method (shown above) will do the trick. However, sometimes we need something a little more heavy duty. When this is the case, take these measures:

  • Steam: Steam, unlike straight water, has moisturizing properties to hydrate a stain without saturating it completely with liquid. Once a stain is moisturized, it may be loosen from the fibers and become easier to blot out. To do this, use a steam vacuum. However, putting a standard iron with a steam setting over the spot may do the trick as well.
  • Vinegar: Vinegar has natural solvent properties that may help to loosen and lift set-in stains. To apply, dampen a clean rag with the liquid and blot over the desired area. Then, take a second towel to blot up any remaining fluid and grime. Though vinegar may have an odor, the smell will evaporate after the chair is completely dry.
  • Cleansers: When all hope seems lost, the last self-help solution is to try a commercial grade fabric cleansing spray. Many of these products contain solvents that chemically attack set in stains. Some of our favorites are:

***Please take caution when using a commercial grade solvent, as most do use powerful chemicals that may ultimately damage your fabric. Before using, always check the upholstery label and test a new spray on a small area. Also, never rub in a solution, as rubbing can deepen the stain and fray the fabric fibers causing more damage to your furniture.

We all love the furniture we have in our homes and buildings, but sometimes they need a little tender loving care to get rid of that worn out look. A simple washing and daily dusting can do wonders for the integrity of your chairs, while some critical cleaning may be needed to get those pesky stains out. When it doubt, use a light amount of soap to brighten the color of your fabric. However, the best way to keep your chairs looking new is to take care of them, so always store your furniture in an environment that is safe and free of grime.