How to Clean and Maintain Antique Upholstery Furniture

Some of the oldest and most luxurious upholstery furniture pieces are made using delicate fabrics which require extra care and special attention. This makes them relatively tricky to maintain and clean, but their sentimental value and beautiful look cannot be compared with any other type of furniture out there. Getting a comfortable antique sofa is still, and always will be, a great addition to your house interior.

Thing is, standard household fabric cleaners are not the best option when it comes to cleaning antique upholstery furniture. And, since these pieces are more often than not quite rare, just one simple cleaning mistake can ruin their appearance and decrease their worth.

In order to avoid this, we asked the professionals in upholstery cleaning at Go Cleaners London to share a piece of advice on how to properly clean and maintain vintage upholstery furniture.


Covering the basics

Create the right surrounding

Firstly, ultraviolet light is harmful to antique furniture and sunlight can easily cause damage to wood, finishes, and fabrics. It is advised to have your piece placed out of direct sunlight. Always use the curtains and shades if present. Following this tip will ensure the finishes won’t turn yellow or opaque from the direct exposure to sunlight.

Secondly, you shouldn’t locate your items near a heating source, such as ovens, radiators, fireplaces or air conditioning vents. If you skip this advice, the heat may cause shrinking which can loosen glue joints, veneers, inlays and marquetry. Pick a proper spot for your item, away from heat.

Thirdly, the level of moisture in the room is extremely important if you want to preserve your antique upholstered piece over time. Wood material is known to expand and contract when there are changes in the relative humidity. Again, this change can lead to loosen joints, thus weaken the whole furniture construction. Have in mind that when exposed to a high level of humidity over a long period, mold growth and even wood infestation may occur.


“Depending on the humidity at your place, choose between a humidifier or dehumidifier to help you control the moisture and prolong the life of your precious, and probably sentimental, antique upholstery furniture.” says Dean SIgnori from Homesdirect365.

Make sure there are no pests

To find if your piece is suffering from a pest infestation, look for exit holes and fine sawdust underneath it. If you find yourself a victim of an infestation, you should act right away and consult with professional pest exterminators. See how you can identify woodworm problems at your home.


Cleaning and Polishing

Cleaning and maintaining antique upholstery furniture requires a know-how, rational decisions, and smooth movements. Delicate upholstery should be dry cleaned in order to preserve fabric qualities. If you are wondering how can you perform the dry cleaning yourself, grab the following tools:

  • Vacuum cleaner;
  • Dry extraction foam;
  • Foam sponge;
  • Patience, lots of it.


Cleaning / vacuuming

Begin by carefully dry vacuuming your upholstery. In most cases, a simple vacuuming removes nearly 70% of the dirt and grime from your furniture.

Then apply the foam to a foam sponge, and gently test by gently rubbing a spot on an inconspicuous area of your fabric. In order to avoid any unpleasant surprises, always test first.

Important: Read and follow the instruction labels on the bottle of the dry foam extractor. Place a towel and press it thoroughly against your upholstery to suck up as much of the remaining residue as possible. Again, act gently or you risk to stretch or even break the fabric.

Then while the fabric is still wet, vacuum it once more. Place fans around the upholstery and let it dry — it will take 4-9 hours. It is not advised to use your furniture until it is fully dry.

Just as with carpets, annual deep cleaning of antique upholstery furniture will extend its lifespan.


Note: While some fabrics are more durable than others, when treating delicate upholstery it is vital to handle with care, and when in a doubt, to consult with a professional upholstery cleaner.


Dealing with stains

When there is an unpleasant accident, keep calm and don’t rush it. Instead, follow these steps:

  • Blot the stained area as fast as possible. Use kitchen paper to catch up as much of the excess liquid as possible. Repeat until needed.
  • Avoid using heat to speed up the drying as it may cause shrinking and set the stains permanently.
  • When in a doubt whether the stain can be removed, always consult with professional upholstery cleaners to avoid damaging the furniture even more.



Some people suggest that antique furniture should be fed with oil in order to keep from drying out. However, Go Cleaners say that wood does not dry out from the lack of oil but rather from the lack of moisture. So, to keep your furniture safe, avoid storing it in hot and dry premises at all times.

It is true that furniture oils can temporarily revive the finish and look. Yet, this will inevitably contribute to a quicker degradation of the finish over time, as oils tend to leave a residue which acts like a magnet for attracting dirt and dust.

You can protect your furniture’s finish by applying a thin coat of high-quality paste wax. While not permanent, it has a long lasting effect and will keep dust and moisture away. To avoid damaging the surface, make sure you are following the manufacturer’s recommendation for furniture’s proper maintenance.

While you can wax your furniture once per year, you should dust it much more frequently with a lint free cloth. All you have to do is to dampen the cloth slightly and turn regularly. Avoid using dry rags as they can scratch the surface.


Note: Wax is not always appropriate for applying on surfaces with a deteriorating finish. When in doubt, always call a professional restoration specialist for help. Also, polishing products that consist silicone should be avoided as silicone may penetrate the finish and cause further restoration problems.


Why should you look after your antique furniture?

Besides the obvious aesthetics that antique furniture carries along, it can also increase or decrease the value of your property. According to the property sellers at Accelerate Homes, houses furnished with antique furniture tend to perform better on the market and are sold faster compared to the ones with modern furniture or no furniture at all. “Antique furniture pieces give that extra pinch of magic which can brighten up a place”, says Mark Whitman, expert property seller.



While each item has its own specifics, you should always check for loose or damaged joinery before start moving them:

  • Chairs – carry by the seat rails as opposed to the back splat, arms, or top rail.
  • Tables – carry by the apron or legs. Carrying it by the top could cause disconnection from the base.
  • Other large pieces – lift them, do not drag them across the room.


Always remove the shelves, doors, and drawers. Glass doors should be protected with moving blankets or other suitable padding material. For larger objects, transport them on their back.


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