Upholstery Repair: The Most Common Causes of Damage and How to Protect Your Furniture

Upholstery Repair: The Most Common Causes of Damage and How to Protect Your Furniture

Accidents happen when we least expect them – and they always seem to have a knack for happening around our best furniture! You don’t only need to watch out for the person with a glass of red wine sitting on your white couch—some common causes of furniture upholstery damage aren’t even visible to the naked eye. Let’s walk through some of these common causes of damage and how to protect against each of them.


Sunrooms are often some of the most inviting and invigorating rooms of a house – but as any homeowner with a sunroom will tell you—these rooms may as well be cemeteries for furniture upholstery. Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is one of the biggest dangers to your furniture, regardless of the material. UV light accelerates discoloration of fabrics, leathers, and most other materials which can not only change the furniture’s look, but even its integrity. The easiest way to combat this problem is by either moving furniture where it doesn’t receive direct sunlight, or installing drapes to reduce sun exposure. You may be unwilling to compromise the look of the room by rearranging or adding more elements. In that case, grab some UV-resistant window film—this can block 99.9 percent of UV rays, even in direct sunlight. Simply place the film over the glass and voila! Your furniture upholstery is protected, you can still get sunlight in your house, and you may even notice the room doesn’t get as hot as it used to!

upholstery sunlight


Let’s revisit our red wine-loving guest who decided to sit on our new white cloth couch. Your first instinct may be worry—and that’d be fair. Almost universally, liquid and food spills are one of the biggest dangers to furniture upholstery; it makes sense. Everyone has to eat and drink, and accidents happen. Of course the easy tip here is to simply be more careful around your furniture when eating or drinking, but we all know that’s not sustainable. Luckily there are a few options. One is to purchase furniture with synthetic fabric that has stain resistance already built in. With these fabrics, even the most notorious drink and food stains are removed with ease. If you already have upholstery you want to protect, and reupholstering with a synthetic fabric isn’t an option, there are plenty of pretreatment formulas on the market. With these products one generally just has to spray the pretreatment on the upholstery and let it sit before using the furniture again. Although not as effective as synthetic fabrics, there is still a noticeable difference when an accident happens. Remember to always treat spills immediately for best results!

Extreme Temperatures

Although most of us keep our homes between 68 and 79 degrees, this next cause of damage may be of note to those with second homes or who store furniture for long periods of time. Exposing most furniture upholstery to extreme temperatures—either hot or cold—can have a drastic effect if left unchecked. Leather, in particular, is especially prone to extremes and can cause an array of problems. Extreme heat can cause brittleness or cracking, leaving your leather couch much more vulnerable even during normal use. Extreme cold can have a similar effect, so make sure not to leave any furniture in the attic during summer or winter! Fabrics can also experience brittleness in extreme temperatures, so double check that your storage unit is climate controlled and your second home’s temperature is monitored as well.

Upholstery protection
Incorrect Cleaning Products

The last common cause of damage is something not everyone considers—cleaning your furniture upholstery. That’s right, your disciplined cleaning may actually be doing more harm than good. Abrasive or strong chemical cleaners can sometimes degrade furniture upholstery over time by stripping away the natural coloring or material. It’s very important to consider what you’re using to clean your upholstery, and ask yourself if there’s something better. Before cleaning with anything, always check the care instructions provided with your furniture upholstery. You can often find this under the piece or sewn to the underside of a cushion. Be sure to avoid using common upholstery cleaners on anything other than fabrics; these may look like universal cleaners but can be extremely damaging to leather or wood. When in doubt, especially if it’s an important piece, consult a professional on the best way to clean.

Furniture upholstery, whether leather, fabric or some other material, is very susceptible to damage if you’re not careful. Using some of the tips above should help you retain new-looking, well-preserved furniture for years to come.

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