How to Clean Your Cushions

Cushions can be some of the dirtiest items in your house. Everyone sits on them and props themselves up against them, and sometimes they even get thrown around. Especially if you have any pets or small children, your cushions are probably overdue for a cleaning.

Cleaning your cushions isn’t easy, though. Sometimes the only thing standing between cleaning your cushion and ruining it is your expertise. 

In this article, we’ll help even the odds by teaching you how to properly clean your cushions.

First Steps

Before you can clean your cushions, you have to know what category they fall under. What kind of fabric are your cushions? We’ll focus on cotton, leather, linen, and vinyl cushions individually later on. But first, we’ll provide a few basic tips that apply to all types of cushions

The first tip we’ll offer is that you need to be aware of your cushion’s cleaning instructions. Cushions come with tags which indicate how they should be cleaned under ideal circumstances. Learn to interpret the tags on your cushions, provided that they’re still intact.

how to clean your cushions

Some of the symbols on your tags might need explaining:

  • X: if you see an X, it means you’re not qualified to clean the cushion. This may sound inconvenient, but a professional cushion cleaner is guaranteed to get the job done right.
  • WS: WS is a bit of a catchall term which indicates that you can use either a water-based cleaner or a water-free cleaner. 
  • S: S means that cleaning the cushion with products containing water is prohibited. You’ll need a dry-cleaning solvent such as alcohol to effectively clean the cushion. 
  • W: W means that you can clean the cushion with a water-based detergent safely. Breathe a sigh of relief if you see only a W; you’ll have the easiest time of all the cushion cleaning options. 

If you do use a fabric cleaner of any kind, test it out on a small portion of the inside corner of the cushion to make sure nothing crazy happens. Be sure to let it soak for a few minutes before coming back to assess whether it has disfigured the cushion.  

If you use a solvent to clean your cushion, you need to make sure that you do so only in an area that is well aerated. Do not use solvents in closets or small rooms. Open windows, or simply go outside. Toxic fumes are no fun. 

Now that you’ve interpreted how you should clean your cushion, it’s time to get your cushion ready for cleaning.


Pick off any major pieces of debris or clumps of pet hair. Then, identify any stains or areas of the cushion that will need special attention during your cleaning. 

Run a small vacuum over the cushion. Make sure you’re using a soft brush with your vacuum, and make sure the brush itself is clean. 

If you don’t have a vacuum, you’ll have to do things the old fashion way. Bring your cushion outside into the sun and beat it aggressively. You’ll know that you’re done when no more particulates are visible in the air. 

Now, it’s time for our suggested protocol for cleaning each kind of cushion. Remember, trust the tag of the cushion over us—we didn’t make the cushion. 

Cotton, Linen, And Vinyl

Cotton is quite forgiving, but caustic cleaning mixtures can still cause it problems. You may be able to simply throw your cotton cushion covers into the washing machine on cold. If not, gentle detergents will do the trick.

Be sure to air dry your cotton cushions to avoid shrinkage. 

For linen and vinyl, follow the instructions on the tag carefully. Linen is very sensitive, so work slowly and carefully. Vinyl, on the other hand, is very durable. Brush your cushion covers gently with whichever liquids are suggested on the tag.

It’s okay to soak your cotton, linen, and vinyl cushion covers while you’re cleaning them. Just make sure that you brush each part that’s wet, and let them air dry.

Leather And Suede

suede cushions

Leather cushions shouldn’t accumulate much dust, but they may require brushing and nourishment after a chemical cleaning. For your chemical cleaning routine, buy a commercial leather cleaning solution and follow the instructions on the bottle very carefully. 

Check for discoloration with extreme prejudice when cleaning leather or suede. While most cleaning processes will change the colour of the leather temporarily, some will alter it permanently, which is probably not your plan. 

Don’t spray your leather cleaning solution directly onto your leather. Instead, spray a little bit onto a rag, and gently rub the leather cushion with it. Work your way through the entire cushion without applying too much liquid to any single area. Rub the liquid into the leather in each spot. 

Let your leather dry, then nourish it after cleaning. Leather dries out and becomes cracked if it isn’t nourished. Wax or other specialized products are the perfect way to make sure that your leather stays in tip-top shape after cleaning.

Or, call a professional. Professionals will know how to take care of your leather with an expert touch. You’ll pay for their expertise, of course, so be sure to ask as many questions as possible about their process so that you don’t have to pay them next time around.

Cleaning Up

That wraps up our guide to cleaning your cushions. As you can see, cushion cleaning is pretty simple, unless you’re dealing with leather or suede. 

You probably don’t have to clean your cushions very often—maybe once every few years will do. Remember: cleaning your cushions too frequently can damage them, which defeats the purpose of having them clean in the first place.