Upholstered furniture is beautiful, comfy and necessary for your home. The problem with fabric and microfiber upholstery is that it can harbor dust, mold and other allergens. The good news is that armed with a few natural products and ingredients and a little know-how, you can learn to clean upholstery for mold.
The process I use and outline in my post will prevent mold growth and will kill existing mold and bacteria—two for the price of one! In addition, this post will prove especially helpful for those people trying to decide whether or not to bring upholstered furniture from an environment where their furniture was exposed to mold into a new, clean, mold-free environment. I think a good rule of thumb for keeping and cleaning or chucking mold-compromised furniture is, if you can use this technique on it successfully, and it doesn’t fall into the category I talk about next, keeping it should be okay. Hooray!
Before I start addressing the “how to” portion of this post, I want to be clear on items of upholstered furniture that this post does NOT apply to: A piece of upholstered furniture with visible mold or mildew, or with the obvious musty, strong smell of either. DO NOT bring those items into your home. The spores that can be released from mold-infested furniture, even during cleaning, can be released directly into your face and spread all over your home. This can create immediate health issues and a mold-contamination problem that must be treated on a higher, professional level. I would never advise you to try to clean a visible, ingrained mold problem with this method.
Also, I want to add the little caveat that if you choose to use the baking soda solution, I have had excellent results getting stains out of our upholstered furniture with that spray and my handheld steamer. Just sayin’….
With that said, here we go:
(NOTE: These directions are NOT for leather furniture. I will post a different article for leather furniture soon. If you want some good advice in the meantime for cleaning leather, click on my How To Clean Your Purse/Handbag for Mold post.)
- Handheld vacuum that is upholstery friendly, or that has a specific upholstery tool
- EC3 Mold Solution Spray (this is my preferred tool for mold and allergen removal), OR Distilled Water, CitriDrops and baking soda, OR distilled water, vinegar and baking soda (Note: As in all my posts, I will remind you to NEVER use tap water. Tap water can contain minerals, chlorine, and other elements that can compromise the additives that you are putting in it to kill mold. Also, the baking soda and vinegar solution is great for stains, but not as effective as the EC3 or CitiriDrops solutions for mold, because vinegar alone only kills about 85% of mold).
- Clean spray bottle, if not using the EC3 spray
- Clean, white cloth
- Handheld steamer—I use the Smart Home Steam Jr., with an upholstery attachment (my preferred method) or an iron with a high-steam setting. (Note: Not all irons are created equal in their steaming ability. The steam needs to be heated to close to 200 degrees Fahrenheit to sanitize and kill mold. Also, any mineral accumulation on your iron could potentially stain your upholstery, so proceed with caution.)
- First, use your vacuum to thoroughly vacuum your furniture or upholstery that you will be cleaning. Any debris should be removed before you steam.
- Decide which anti-fungal solution you are going to make. The EC3 spray is ready to go as it is. To make the CitriDrops solution, fill the spray bottle—most hold 20-24 oz.—halfway full with distilled water. Add 20 drops of CitriDrops and ½ tsp. baking soda. Screw top on and shake until the baking soda has fully dissolved. To make the baking soda solution, fill your spray bottle halfway full with distilled water. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda. Screw top back on and shake until mixed together.
- Spray a small, less visible section of your upholstered furniture with your solution of choice. Watch to make sure it doesn’t react with your fabric poorly. If all looks good after a few minutes, proceed to the next steps.
- Get your handheld steamer or iron ready per product instructions. I highly advise only using distilled water in either appliance.
- If you are using an iron, test on another fabric that they don’t need to make sure it shoots steam properly and does not leak or stain.
- When your steamer or iron is ready, begin to methodically mist a section with your solution, and then blast the upholstery or upholstered piece of furniture with the steam. Go section-by-section, so that you go over the entire piece, not missing a spot.
- If you acquire excess moisture on any one spot, use your clean, white towel to absorb it. (Be careful not to steam your hand while blotting as this could cause a very serious burn.)
- If you have a discolored or stained area, spend a little extra time shooting the steam there, and blotting behind each blast with the clean, white towel, until the stain is removed. The combination of the high-heat steam, which is anti-fungal and anti-microbial in and of itself with the proven anti-fungal properties of the solution that you choose will clean, deodorize, and kill any mold and bacteria in your upholstery.
- If your furniture has pillows that can be removed, clean each pillow separately, and don’t reassemble it, or put the pillows back on until they are completely dry.
- For added mold-killing, you can take your pillows, furniture or upholstery outside in the sunshine to dry. Sunshine kills mold with UV light naturally and efficiently.
This method works so well that my husband and I were able to save an oversize, white upholstered chair that we would otherwise have had to throw out. It is now so clean and fresh looking that many of our friends thought it was a new piece of furniture—it had been in our home for 4 years!
I hope this technique will help you de-mold and deodorize your furniture and upholstered items. I also hope you will continue to feel empowered by these simple cleaning methods—living a mold- and allergen-free life is within reach.