By Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
Got a white sofa or another piece of furniture with light-hued upholstery? Murphy’s Law dictates that darkness is inevitably drawn to these pale surfaces in the form of stains, spills, blemishes, and discolorations that will likely become permanent if not addressed quickly.
“If you have light or white-colored furniture, it’s important to take extra precautions to prevent stains. White furniture is more prone to staining because it shows dirt and spills more easily,” says Beatrice Flores with Living Pristine, a website with cleaning tips based in Miami.
The risks are heightened if you have kids, pets, frequently host guests or eat and drink while using these furnishings.
“Often, the most common culprits are morning coffee, a glass of wine, or food like pasta sauce,” says Grace Baena, an interior designer with New York City-based Kaiyo.
But even in households with strict rules against these hazards, chances are that you’ll eventually be faced with a serious soiling event.
Ana Andres, the co-founder of TidyChoice in New York City, recommends fast action following a tarnishing incident – whether it be a Coke spill, chocolate smear, or dirty paws.
“Try adding baking soda to cold water and mixing it until it becomes paste-like. With a white cloth, apply the paste to the stain and leave it on for a few minutes. With a new separate white cloth, blot out the stain and then let it dry completely,” she recommends. “Alternatively, you can use undiluted white vinegar to blot out the stain. Remember: Always blot, never wipe or scrub. And do not use colored cloth when blotting out stains to avoid color transfer between the two cloths.”
Andre Kazimierski, CEO of Improovy in Chicago, follows a slightly different cleaning protocol.
“In a spray bottle, mix 1 cup of white vinegar and 2 cups of warm water. Then, spray a light layer over the surface of the furniture and let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes. Finally, wipe off the excess with a damp cloth,” he suggests.
If you opt to use a different cleaning solution – such as a product that came with the furniture – make sure to first test the cleaner on a hidden portion of the material to ensure it won’t discolor the fabric.
Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure they say. That’s why it pays to carefully shield your furnishings from dirt, food, beverages, markers, and animal waste before they have a chance to work their dirty magic.
“Using slipcovers is a fantastic solution. Select a white or light-colored slipcover for your furniture and take it off anytime it needs to be washed,” advises Maria Ivanova, founder of Master Made, a cleaning company in Toronto.
Alternatively, “it might be prudent to move a light-colored couch or chair into a different area, like a home office or guest room, where kids, food, and drink don’t often go,” Baena notes.
If your vulnerable piece is, say, a table sporting light-colored wood, protect the surface with a runner and/or coasters.
“This will help prevent water rings and stains from forming,” Flores adds.
Additionally, it’s crucial to dust your light furniture regularly with a soft cloth.
“This will help keep dirt and grime from building up and making the furniture look dirty,” says Flores.
If the worst-case scenario happens and a stubborn stain form that you can’t eradicate, it may be time for camouflage.
“If you can’t remove a stain, think about putting a strategic throw pillow or blanket atop that area,” suggests Baena.
If your soiled furniture is a beloved piece, like an antique family heirloom, explore the costs of having it reupholstered with new fabric.