Coffee, food, ink and, if you work from home, elderly pets can all leave their mark on fabric office chairs. Even if there isn’t a spill, the fabric may accumulate dirt over time.
If multiple chairs in your office need a completely new lease on life, you can use our chair repair service, including deep cleaning of the fabric or re-upholstery.
In between, you can keep your fabric office chair in the best possible condition by dealing with any spills as soon as possible after they happen (old stains are much harder to remove than new ones), and by giving it a proper clean every few months.
Before you get started
Before using any cleaning method, it’s important to test it on a small, hidden area of the fabric. For example, test the method on a tiny patch of fabric on the underside of the chair seat, to check it doesn’t cause the fabric to fade or wrinkle.
Next vacuum the upholstered parts of the chair, including the seat and back panel, or brush the fabric thoroughly to remove loose dirt and dust.
This helps ensure that once you apply a cleaning solution, it can penetrate the fabric properly.
Choosing a cleaning method
A wide range of fabrics is available for covering office chairs. The type of fabric you’ve got will determine what you can use to clean it safely.
Generally it’s safest to use a water-free cleaning method on chair fabric. Water may cause the fabric to discolour or shrink – not to mention leaving you with a soaking wet chair, which is inconvenient and could encourage mildew.
One exception is pure polyester with acrylic or latex backing, which you can typically clean using water mixed with a mild liquid detergent, such as a few drops of dishwashing liquid.
In some cases, a label on the underside of an office chair may alert you to how the fabric can be safely cleaned. On the label, letters indicate different cleaning approaches, as follows:
- “W” indicates that it’s fine to use water-based solutions on the chair
- “S” means you need to use a solvent or other water-free cleaning agent
- “X” indicates you should have the chair professionally cleaned only
- “C” means that the fabric is Crypton treated to resist stains; it must not be cleaned using a solvent or dry-cleaning product (ideally use water with a powdered enzyme detergent).
Cleaning standard office chair fabric
In most cases, the safest bet is to use a dry-cleaning product, like the upholstery cleaner sold for cleaning car seats, on office chair fabric. Aim to avoid products that contain tetrachloride, however, because this is toxic.
Whatever product you use, make sure a window is open for proper ventilation.
Test the upholstery cleaner on a small, hidden patch of fabric. Then, provided it doesn’t damage the fabric or cause any discolouration, follow the instructions on the product.
Typically you’ll need to:
- apply an even coating of the product to the chair fabric – often it’s a foam you can spray on
- leave the cleaning product to penetrate the fabric and dry for the time specified in the directions
- if staining is still apparent, you can try blotting, applying more cleaner, and blotting again with a clean microfibre cloth; it’s best to avoid harsh scrubbing, which may damage the fibres of the chair fabric
- vacuum the fabric to remove the cleaning product, along with dirt it has lifted out of the fibres.
After cleaning the fabric
To complete the process of cleaning a fabric office chair, don’t forget to wipe down the chair arms and legs. To do this, use a damp microfibre cloth or a dry-cleaning sponge, which won’t leave lint or water marks behind.
It’s also a good idea to spray compressed air into the joints of the chair’s moving mechanisms. This will help remove dust that otherwise might interfere with their smooth movement.
Finally, use a brush or vacuum to remove dust from the caster wheels and give them a wipe down with a clean cloth.