How to clean arm covers on an upholstered recliner

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I have an expensive recliner that has arm protectors in the same fabric as the chair. My husband sits in this chair every day, and after 5-1/2 years, the covers are very dirty. What's the best way to clean them without ruining the fabric (which was custom, and on the high end of fabric quality). I don't want to dry clean them!
q how to clean arm covers on an upholstered recliner, cleaning tips, painted furniture
  21 answers
  • Eileen Kuzak Knapp Eileen Kuzak Knapp on Feb 08, 2014
    I'd say try washing one in cold water with Woolite, rinse with cold water. Stretch the one you washed to the shape of the unwashed one. Watch as it dries in case it needs more stretching. After dry, iron with a low to medium iron, and stretch again if needed.

  • Shari Shari on Feb 08, 2014
    I, too, think a hand wash (and maybe a short soak) in cold water would work. I would say swish or gently scrub without scrunching or wadding them up to help minimize wrinkling. Once you have cleaned them, place them between a folded towel and blot the excess water out of them, rather than wringing them out. Then, drip dry until damp and place back on the chair to reshape and let completely dry. As Eileen suggested, touch up with iron, if needed. Even if they shrink a little, it won't be that critical because they basically just drape over the arms of the chair with little or no precise fit.

  • Jo Ann Colton Jo Ann Colton on Feb 08, 2014
    Jo Ann Jackson, MI I do upholstery work and have the opportunity to work on lots of different fabrics. Dry Cleaning is definitely the way to go because the fabric holds its shape. I do not recommend washing the fabric.

  • Charlotte Annas Charlotte Annas on Feb 08, 2014
    I have successfully washed mine on the hand wash cycle. First I sprayed them with OxiClean. I let them air dry. They were really bad...even though it faded them a little they are at least clean and not dirty anymore. Have done it twice.

  • Opal Opal on Feb 08, 2014
    Short of dry cleaning, I would use a "foam" cleaner first. Foam does not soak the fabric and is likely better than outright soaking which is one reason for dry cleaning. I would spray them with fabric protector when dry. If all fails you might consider making covers. The manufacturer may be able to supply the same fabric or a complimentary fabric, then use your existing covers as a pattern. Or just by a couple of oversize napkins.

    • Gay Storm Gay Storm on Feb 10, 2014
      @Opal Unfortunately, I cannot afford to buy replacement fabric from the furniture store. It was very expensive in the first place, and we are very short on funds now. I will look into making some from less expensive fabric. Thanks for the ideas.

  • Barbara R Barbara R on Feb 09, 2014
    I have washed many an arm cover in cold water in my washer on gentle cycle, then air dried. Place a towel over the arm of the chair, replace the cover over the towel and allow to dry on the chair. Remove towel when dry, no worries about the fit.

    • Gay Storm Gay Storm on Feb 09, 2014
      @Barbara Rodgers Thanks - I thought of doing that, but was afraid I would ruin them, and then not have anything to cover the arms. I'll try it!

  • Adriana Maranto Adriana Maranto on Feb 10, 2014
    Mix peroxide and dawn in a spray bottle, shake, get you covers on top of flat surface, (maybe back of a cookie sheet), start spraying from the top of your fabric, and watch the dirt run down, like magic, hope it helps, I didn't rinse mine, because it was a fabric little chair, looking new now

  • Jan Jan on Feb 10, 2014
    I have no idea how to clean it, but I avoided that problem from the start by buying placemats that matched a color in the fabric or in the room.......I bought fake sued mushroom color ones to put on the arms and over the head of our recliners since my hubby reads the papers in it and wears stuff in his hair. when they start looking dirty, I just throw them in the washer and the recliners stay looking like new!

  • Bev Dyche Aldrich Bev Dyche Aldrich on Feb 10, 2014
    I sprayed mine with Spray & Wash and then washed in Woolite, hung to dry then pressed on wrong side. They came out looking almost new!

  • Jodi Jodi on Feb 10, 2014
    I use my carpet shampooer's upholstery attachment on my furniture. If you don't have one get a bottle of resolve or something similar. That and a soft sponge should work well.

  • Mari Mari on Feb 10, 2014
    I too have used the washer on a gentle cycle to wash arm covers - high end ones as well.The fabric look sturdy enough to handle it. I pre-treat them with the same cleaner that I use on the couch. I don't uses any chemicals though. I have a product that I've been using over 25 yrs - and before that my mom used it. (And we have no connection to the company, we just love their 100% environmentally safe products) Shaklee Cleaner H2 - It comes in a concentrate form. You simply put some in a spray bottle filled with water. (several Tablespoons - 2 or 3) Its amazing! And very cost effective. It even takes out wine & red sauce stains if you can get to them soon after. Just spray the area &l let it go to work for a while. No need to get it right into the washer. You can find their products on line too. I've scrubbed/spot cleaned many things with this product. :-)

  • Gay Storm Gay Storm on Feb 10, 2014
    @@Mari thanks - I don't have access to Shaklee products right now, but I'll keep it in mind for future reference.

    • See 1 previous
    • Gay Storm Gay Storm on Feb 10, 2014
      @Mari thanks - right now on a very tight budget, but will keep it in mind for the future. I appreciate the info.

  • Gay Storm Gay Storm on Feb 10, 2014
    @Jan - great idea - thanks for the tip.

  • Barbara Ahern Barbara Ahern on Feb 10, 2014
    I wash mine in the washer too.

  • MaryAnn B MaryAnn B on Feb 10, 2014
    I successful washed arm rests, and seat cushions covers with out damage to them. I would spay them first with Oxy Cllean and put them in the washer.

  • Z Z on Feb 10, 2014
    Gay, many "dry clean only" fabrics are machine washable. The manufacturers use that label because of the cost of testing their fabrics for other ways to be washed. One of my Aunts and Uncles had a dry cleaning business back in the 60's and 70's having to sell because of my Aunt's health. My Uncle told me that even my fake chinchilla coat could be washed in the machine using the delicate cycle. My Mom removed the cushions from her sofa and machine washed them that way too. The rest of the sofa she used a mixture of Ivory Snow and Snowy Bleach. Snow Bleach is all but impossible to find unless you look online.

  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Feb 10, 2014
    I wash the armrests in the washer. I keep a doily-like ornamental cover on the back, where the head would normally rests. For the rest of the chair or sofa, I have used spray foam; but test an inconspicous spot before you do this. Good luck.

  • Eleanor P Eleanor P on Feb 10, 2014
    I, also, wash mine in cold water in my washer. Have done this to numerous covers and have never ruined any. Just don't put in the dryer. I line dry mine.

  • Comet Comet on May 10, 2015
    Most of this is probably body oils---think "Ring around the collar"--and you will need something that will break down that oil--Orig Blue Dawn might work but plain shampoo will work on most stains/dirt like this---I have used this on lots of things including arm protectors. Hand wash and dry away from sun light and if you smooth them over the arms when they are just a bit damp==or over something similarly shaped---they should not need to be ironed. If you use this daily you might want to consider using a different fabric for "every day" and saving these for when you have guests; use them as a pattern to make some out of a similar color or even a contrasting color! They should only need a small amount of fabric--even tea towels could do in a pinch!

  • Ellen Forbes-Hoy Ellen Forbes-Hoy on Jul 14, 2016
    I cannot promise the best or professional advice. Pure logic is my army of info. I world place paper towel or an absorbs fabric over the stains and try to iron then out. They are probably just from skin oil so should be pulled out by the heat. Do not use a high temp , just persist and change the towel,or fabric to different positions as you work. G ood luck ! A steamer may also work if you keep moving the absorbance fabric

  • Carey Carey on Nov 11, 2016
    I would advise NOT ironing your arm protectors after washing them. Smooth them with your hands while they are wet and let them air dry. If you have a vinyl chair or couch, let them dry over the arm of that to keep their form. When I reupholstered my couch one of the things that I learned was that you can pull the fabric as tight as you can, tack it and then iron it and it will shrink to fit the project. If you iron them, there is a real danger that they will shrink!!! Even the pillows that I made with a fabric that water stained badly when on the chair, once washed came out very nicely!! So I would say the best way to deal with them is to machine wash them in warm water but NOT hot!