Rooms To Go

    Cleaning Methods for Various Upholstery Types

    Knowing how to maintain your chosen outdoor furniture materials is just as important as understanding which fabrics, frames and finishes work best for your climate and decor style. Furniture cleaning codes let you know which cleaning methods to use when trying to remove spills and stains from upholstered furnishings.


    Before you buy your patio furniture, use the information in this post to learn:

    Close up shot of patio furniture fabric

    Learn how to clean your upholstered couches, cushions and outdoor fabrics based on their cleaning codes.

    What Are Furniture Cleaning Codes?

    Since the late 1960s, upholstery cleaning codes have been an important part of many people's indoor and outdoor furniture maintenance routines. Essentially, the furniture cleaning code is a system of guidelines that can help you tackle any tough stains and messy spills that happen during backyard barbecues, patio parties and other outdoor events.

    You can typically find cleaning codes on the furniture tag beneath the detachable cushions or on the bottom of the item's frame. If you're buying new patio furniture online, you might be able to find the code on the product page of the company website. You may have to contact an artisan who reupholsters furniture for help if you need the cleaning code for used, retro and vintage products.

    Yellow upholstered patio seating set

    If cleaning codes are unavailable at your local furniture store, consider asking the retailer to obtain the codes so you can feel confident about your purchase.

    Furniture Cleaning Codes: How to Clean Your Patio Furniture

    Below, you'll find a list of furniture cleaning codes for different upholstery types. Use it to clean up spills when they occur on your patio or check them before buying furniture so you can purchase the necessary cleaning agents and prepare for future messes. assumes no responsibility for any damages or problems resulting from the following information.

    Cleaning Code W.: Water-Based Cleaners

    Upholstered patio sofas and sectionals usually fall under furniture cleaning code W when they have synthetic materials like faux leather, vinyl, nylon or polyester. Water or a water-based cleaning agent tends to be the best choice for getting stains out of these fabrics. However, you'll need to avoid saturating your furniture to prevent moisture from soaking into the wood, wicker or metal frames.

    Instead, apply warm water to a clean cloth and scrub stains and spills using a gentle circular motion. For bigger messes, try adding a mild detergent, non-solvent upholstery shampoo or a water-based foam as well. Allow the damp spots on the fabric to air dry, then vacuum the upholstery to remove any leftover crumbs or dirt particles.

    Wood platform sectional sofa with beige cushions next to a wall

    Upholstered Outdoor Sectional

    Cleaning Code S.: Solvent or Dry Cleaning Products

    Outdoor lounge chair and loveseat cushions in your nature-inspired layout might have furniture cleaning code S, meaning the upholstery features organic materials like cotton, linen, wool or silk. Water-based upholstery cleaners can leave brown marks on these fabrics or make the blues, reds, greens, and yellows in the pattern bleed together, so solvents are the best option for stain removal.

    When shopping for patio furniture cleaners, choose a non-water-based solvent intended for home dry cleaning. Dirt and food or drink spills can set into these materials quickly, so it's important to remove stains as quickly as possible. Use the solvent to spot clean spills as soon as they occur, then blow-dry the area to prevent rings from forming on the upholstery.

    White and red outdoor rug with medallion pattern

    Patio Seating Set With Upholstered Lounge Chairs

    Cleaning Code W-S.: Solvent and Water-Based Cleaners

    Upholstered outdoor seating sets featuring a blend of different materials usually have code W-S or S-W on their tags. While frequent vacuuming and light brushing can help remove dirt and grime from these couch, chair and chaise surfaces, professionals recommend using a water-based cleaning agent or solvent to remove larger stains. In some cases, you may need to use a combination of the two.

    Spot clean these fabrics by dampening a white cloth with distilled water and gently blotting at the spill. If necessary, you can use a mild detergent, solvent or upholstery shampoo to try and scrub out a deeper stain. Be sure to carefully follow the cleaning product instructions and to work in a well-ventilated area.

    White patio umbrella next to a chaise lounge

    Chaise Lounge With a Fabric Cushion and Throw Pillow

    Cleaning Code X.: Vacuum or Brush Only

    If your patio furniture upholstery has tightly-woven performance fabrics like canvas, mesh or microfiber, water-based cleaners, foams and dry cleaning products can cause shrinking, distortion, discoloration or more extensive staining on the surface pile. As such, you'll want to avoid using any water or solvents during the cleaning process.

    To clean patio furniture and decor items with code X on the tag, run a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment over and under the cushions. You can also use a brush with non-metallic bristles to remove crumbs and dirt from these furnishings. Some tougher stains and liquid spills may require the help of a professional furniture cleaning service.

    4 piece wicker seating set with yellow decor

    Cushioned Outdoor Seating Arrangement

    Other Cleaning Codes

    Some furniture cleaning codes might only appear on certain fabrics and products. Take a look at the following cleaning codes to learn which stain removal methods to use on these upholstered items:

    • Furniture cleaning codes E and N are for leather upholstery only. Remove stains using a leather kit with a sponge, cloth, leather cleaner and protector cream.
    • Code N FBR usually appears on rugs with eco-friendly materials like jute, seagrass and sisal. Immediately blot spills with a paper towel or clean white cloth to remove excess liquid, then blot with warm water, white vinegar and a mild detergent
    • Cleaning code C is for machine-washable items, so you'll typically see it on patio furniture covers, detachable umbrella canopies, throw pillows with removable covers and the occasional outdoor welcome mat.
    • Some higher-end patio furniture may have code D or DC on the tag, which means professional dry cleaning is the recommended method for removing stains.
    Curved wicker sectional

    Always pretest a small, inconspicuous patch of upholstery to see how the material reacts to the cleaning agent you're using before applying it to the rest of the item.

    Scroll to top