Guide to Commercial Upholstery Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting

September 9, 2020
September 9, 2020 QA Group
Image via Unsplash

Routinely cleaning around the house isn’t anyone’s picnic — but we all know it needs to be done to keep things looking nice and feeling healthy. So it makes sense that your workplace should need the same sort of attention — especially since you’re opening the doors to more than just your immediate family. 

From curtains and carpet to leather chairs and microfiber couches, the following is a helpful guide to cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting commercial upholstery.

Why Should You Routinely Clean?

Frequently deep cleaning and sanitizing your office, shop, school, or restaurant will not only create a healthier environment, but will also protect your investment and keep these areas looking as professional as they should be. Since an increasing number of individuals are headed back to work after an extended period at home because of the coronavirus, assessing your work environment using CDC guidelines is an essential component to keeping everyone safe.

Eliminating dirt and dust from upholstered fabrics gets rid of the pollutants and allergens that negatively impact your air quality, allowing individuals to breathe easier while they’re working, learning, or shopping. Properly sanitizing and disinfecting common areas helps stop the spread of germs and viruses between individuals who come into contact with the same surfaces.

Choosing the right methods of cleaning and sanitizing can also reduce the amount of times you have to deep clean in the future, and will decrease the amount of money you or your business spends on things such as reupholstering or buying new furniture altogether.

[Related: Materials Used in Commercial Furniture]

The Difference Between Cleaning and Sanitizing

Although you may feel inclined to group them all together, the terms “cleaning,” “sanitizing,” and “disinfecting” actually have different meanings, and in best practice should be done in a specific order. 


Cleaning involves the removal of dirt, dust, and debris from a surface, through methods such as dusting, sweeping, and washing. Cleaning is always the first step. 

Cleaning solutions are typically made from some sort of soap and water, and while cleaning doesn’t kill germs and bacteria, it helps to remove them and therefore remove some of the risk of transmission. Cleaning is also the most “visible” of the three cleaning methods, since it involves the physical action of removing obvious debris and impurities.


Sanitizing should be done after cleaning, and can be interchanged with disinfecting. 

The goal of sanitizing is to decrease the amount of germs and bacteria down to a safe level as judged by public health standards. Most of the time when we clean with a store-bought cleaning solution, we are sanitizing.


Disinfecting can be seen as the most “heavy-duty” method of cleaning, and actively destroys bacteria and germs through the use of specific chemicals. Instead of removing bacteria on the surface, it kills it, lowering the risk of spreading infection between people coming into contact with the same surface. 

In order to know if your cleaning solution is also a disinfectant, see if your product says “EPA-approved” anywhere on the packaging material. It should include a registered number, which you can look up and find out more information and instructions for best use. 

If a solution is EPA-approved or registered, it has been proven in a lab to be able to kill viruses, and is an effective disinfectant. 

According to the EPA, no disinfectant can claim to disinfect soft, porous surfaces, like upholstered furniture, carpets, or curtains. However, soft surfaces don’t transmit pathogens as easily as hard surfaces, so careful cleaning and sanitizing of upholstered materials should be enough to create a safe, healthy environment.

[Related: Making Sustainable Furniture Choices For Your Business]

Methods of Cleaning and Sanitizing Upholstery

Cleaning the upholstery in your office, shop, or workspace can be done using a variety of methods. Finding a safe and effective method to clean materials effectively without ruining them is important, especially since you’re dealing with soft, porous surfaces that are more prone to damage via cleaning than nonporous furniture.


Even if you can’t see visible dirt and grime on your curtains, in your carpet, or between your couch cushions, you can guarantee it’s there. Vacuuming reduces the level of allergens and assists with the general upkeep of your upholstered furniture — helping them look good for  longer.

In order to keep high-traffic areas as clean as possible, such as the rug by your work’s main entrance, the carpet in your conference room, or the curtains in your classroom, frequently vacuum, and also make sure to utilize the attachments on your vacuum

Upholstery attachments are wide, sometimes come with a lint trapping material strip, and are perfect for getting rid of dust on couches, sofas, and smaller area rugs. Vacuums can also come with a dusting brush, featuring bristles perfect for dusting blinds, curtains, and windowsills. Crevice attachments, which are small and angled, are great for sucking up dirt and debris from between couch and chair cushions.

Spot and Stain Cleaning

If your furniture is being frequently used, it will eventually need a spot or stain treatment. This means instead of deep cleaning the entire upholstery, you’ll focus on only the area that is stained. 

After vacuuming the stain, read any care labels or cleaning tags that may be attached. These care labels will let you know which cleaning solvents are safe to use, or if you need to clean only through dry methods such as vacuuming. 

W: Distilled water-based cleaning agents may be used

S: Mild, water-free cleaning solvents may be used, but no water

S/W: Either of the above may be used

X: Clean only by vacuuming or light brushing; no water, foam, or liquid cleaning agents

When treating the stain with a cleaning solution, be sure to blot and not rub to avoid weakening and pilling the fabric.

Steam Heat Extraction Cleaning

Sometimes the only answer when it comes to deep cleaning rugs, couches, and carpets is to use a steam and hot water extraction technique: 

  • First, the area to be treated is thoroughly vacuumed.
  • Then, water is heated up and mixed with a cleaning solution.
  • The mixture is then injected onto the upholstered fabric with a special hot water extraction cleaning machine or steam machine.
  • The machine then extracts the water and solution out of the porous material, much like a vacuum, so it can dry quickly.

[Related: Upholstered Essentials Checklists and Tips for Your Industry]

How to Clean and Sanitize Specific Materials

The steps for cleaning commercial upholstered surfaces aren’t the same for every piece of furniture. Different materials require different considerations — the leather sofa in your lobby can’t be cleaned the exact same way you cleaned the linen curtains in the front window. 

Here’s what to know about cleaning a few of these materials.


Leather is a tricky material and involves a lot of care and attention when it comes to getting it clean and keeping it looking high-quality. 

Although leather isn’t as absorbent as other porous materials, it can still gather dust, dirt, pollutants, and allergies just like the rest of your furniture. Leather can also show wear and tear more easily, whether through fading or cracking. 

  • Use a leather-safe cleaner on a damp cloth to wipe down your piece of furniture and remove any residue and grime.
  • Before the leather has completely dried, apply a leather conditioner onto the surface. This step will help the material replenish its natural oils and avoid cracking.


Microfiber and polyester attract oils easily, which make them quick to get dirty. 

After thoroughly vacuuming, read the care tag instructions to determine what is the safest cleaning solution for your piece of furniture. Most microfiber materials can be spot-cleaned using a spray bottle full of warm water, rubbing alcohol, and a mild, clear dish soap.


You can spot treat most stains on linen with a cloth dampened with water or a bit of rubbing alcohol — just be sure to blot and not rub. Read the care label on your linen upholstered material, which may permit you to place it in the washing machine and dryer.

The upholstered furniture in your place of business should represent you in a professional and welcoming way. Keep your chairs and couches looking clean and new and smelling fresh by routinely deep cleaning and sanitizing them. Taking care of the upholstered material around your office will also save you money in the long-run by protecting your investment. 

If you have any questions about the best methods of cleaning commercial upholstered furniture, or if you decide you need to purchase some new pieces or get your existing pieces reupholstered or refinished, Queen Anne Group can help. Contact us today for a consultation!