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How to Clean Your Dirty Office Chairs

March 24, 2020

It's strange how most of us don't really pay attention to our office chairs, and objects that we use on the daily. With the wear and tear of everyday use, office chairs tend to gather dirt and dust, becoming the perfect breeding ground for germs. Not to mention the inevitable coffee spills or the crumbs that gather on the seat when you eat at your desk. We often don't notice the damage until our office chairs are worn out or close to breaking. Ask yourself, when was the last time you gave your office chair a good, hard clean?

By cleaning out your chair, not only will you feel better sitting in it, but you might prevent yourself from getting sick, too! But before you go searching for "how to clean office chair" on the internet, here's our comprehensive guide on office chair cleaning:

How to Clean All Types of Office Chairs

A few rules before we get started!

Regardless of what type of office furniture you have, or the type of cleaning method you'll be using, if you spot a stain on your chair you'll want to make sure that you clean it up immediately. If you wait too long to remove a stain on your office chair, the stain could become permanent. The general rule is that, the longer a stain has to set in, the harder it will be to remove.

Also, before you proceed with any of the following cleaning methods, make sure to spot test a small area of the chair before cleaning the entire seat. And if you're using abrasive products, always default to the instructions on the box or label.

1. Standard Upholstery Cleaning

Your furniture may have tags that will have cleaning instructions on them. Usually, these are labeled with a lettered cleaning code, making it useful for you to surmise which cleaning method to use. A brief overview of the possible tags that could be on your office chair:

  • "W" for spot cleaning using water-based cleaning products
  • "S" for cleaning using a dry-cleaning solvent or a water-free product
  • "SW" or "WS" means you can use either of the two methods listed above
  • "X" means that you'll need to have your chair cleaned by a professional
  • "C" stands for Crypton cleaning, which utilizes a powdered enzyme detergent and water, or a commercial Crypton upholstery cleaner

2. "W" — Water-Based Cleaning

Water-based cleaning is usually reserved for 100% polyester furniture with acrylic or latex backing. If your office chair falls under this label, then here's what you'll need to do to clean it:

  1. Vacuum the chair on low suction to remove any debris without ruining the upholstery
  2. Mix a few drops of mild liquid soap such as dish detergent with a cup of water
  3. Spot test on an inconspicuous part of the chair to ensure that the solution doesn't erode the color or texture of the seat
  4. If all is well, apply the solution to the rest of the stained area. Do this by dampening a clean cloth with the solution and then blotting at the stain. To avoid damaging the upholstery, do not pour the solution directly onto it.
  5. Repeat process until stain is removed.

3. “S” — Water-free Solvent Cleaning

Some office chairs will require that you use a water-free solvent or a dry cleaning solvent for cleaning out the chair. You can purchase these cleaners at furniture stores, hardware stores, or online. Make sure that the one you purchase does not have tetrachloride listed in the ingredients, as this is toxic. Do NOT use a water-based product on these types of furniture, as they may fade the upholstery or leave spots. To clean the chair, follow these steps:

  1. Vacuum the chair on low suction to remove any debris without ruining the upholstery
  2. Follow the instructions on the water-free solvent to remove any stains and clean the chair
  3. Spot test on an inconspicuous part of the chair to ensure that the solution doesn't erode the color or texture of the seat
  4. If all is well, apply the solution to the rest of the stained area. Do this by dampening a clean cloth with the water-free solvent and then blotting at the stain. To avoid damaging the upholstery, do not pour the solution directly onto it.
  5. Repeat process until stain is removed.

4. “SW/”WS” — Water-Based / Water-Free Cleaning

If your office chair has "SW/WS" on the tag, then good for you! Your cleaning method options have just doubled. Usually used on furniture made from 100% recycled polyester or on polyester mixes, this tag means that you can use either of the methods we've just listed above.

Make sure to follow the instructions on whatever water-free solvent you decide to use, and to vacuum the chair thoroughly before proceeding with your chosen cleaning method. If you want to go the extra mile, you can also sprinkle baking soda onto your chair before vacuuming, to let the powder soak up any foul odours embedded in your chair.

5. Crypton Fabric Cleaning

Crypton fabric is special as it offers permanent protection from stains, moisture, bacteria, and a host of other office-chair horrors. Because of its hardiness, Crypton fabric needs a different cleaning process compared to other types of upholstery.

For this type of fabric, you'll need to remove stains using a powdered enzyme detergent and water. Other options are water-based cleaning products, germicidal detergents, commercial Crypton upholstery cleaners, and foam shampoo in a pinch. You'll want to avoid solvent-based cleaners or dry-cleaning products, though. Once again, before cleaning, remove any loose dirt and debris—this time with a clean towel rather than a vacuum cleaner. If you're only dealing with mild dirt and stains, you can follow this process:

  1. Mix 1/4 cup mild liquid dish detergent with a gallon of lukewarm or warm water
  2. Place this cleaning solution in a spray bottle
  3. Work the solution into the stained area by spraying the solution onto the spot and then scrubbing with a soft bristle brush or a slightly abrasive sponge. You'll want to work from the outer edges of the stain inwards so as not to spread the stain further. Make sure to rinse your sponge or brush frequently as well.
  4. Let the solution soak into the fabric for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Ensure that all soap residue is gone.
  5. Blot out excess moisture with a towel.
  6. Repeat the process until stain is gone, and then air dry.

6. Standard Vinyl Cleaning

Vinyl is a cost-effective option for office chairs, as the look and texture is comparable to leather—but with less maintenance required. Vinyl is especially great as they're typically resistant to common stains. However, they're particularly susceptible to dyes and ink stains. If your office chair is made from vinyl, you'll want to start by removing any excess dirt and moisture with a clean, damp cloth. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Mix a few drops of mild liquid dish detergent with a cup of water and dampen a soft-bristle brush or a clean cloth with the cleaning solution.
  2. Rinse your vinyl chair with this and then pat it dry with an old towel.
  3. If there are some persistent stains, you'll need to use a commercial concentrated cleaner specific for vinyl to remove it. You can find these in hardware or furniture stores, as well as online. Follow the instructions on the bottle for application, then rinse with water and wipe clean.
  4. If there are some really, really difficult stains, you can use a 6% mixture of oxygen-based bleach mixed with water. NEVER use full-strength bleach or an alcohol-based agent on this type of cloth.
  5. Wipe clean with a damp cloth and air dry.

7. Healthcare Grade Vinyl Cleaning

Healthcare grade vinyl is made of sturdier stuff, and is resistant to not just common stains, but also to sulfide, urine, and most bacteria. It's also extremely easy to clean. Similar to standard vinyl, you'll want to start by removing any excess moisture and debris by wiping down your chair with a damp cloth. If the vinyl doesn't have a PERMABLOK3® finish, then follow these steps:

  1. Mix a few drops of mild liquid dish detergent with a cup of water and dampen a soft-bristle brush or a clean cloth with the cleaning solution.
  2. Rinse your vinyl chair with this and then pat it dry with an old towel.
  3. If there are some persistent stains, use a commercial concentrated cleaner specific for vinyl to remove it. You can find these in hardware or furniture stores, as well as online. Follow the instructions on the bottle for application, then rinse with water and wipe clean.
  4. If there are some really, really difficult stains, you can use a 6% mixture of oxygen-based bleach mixed with water. Again, NEVER use full-strength bleach or an alcohol-based agent on this type of cloth.
  5. Wipe clean with a damp cloth and air dry.

8. PERMABLOK3® Process Cleaning

If the vinyl chair you're using has a PERMABLOK3® finish, that means it has a extra protective coating that protects the chair from germs, stains, and abrasions. Depending on the type of stain, do the following:

  1. If you're removing any inky substances such as grease, marker ink, or mascara, first remove the excess liquid with a damp cloth. Then dampen the area with a 1:1 ratio of liquid dish detergent and water. Rinse and then pat dry. This solution works well on food spills as well as crayon, too.
  2. If you're dealing with tougher stains such as blood, oil based paint, urine, feces, or the like, use a 1:1 ratio of ammonia and water or a 1:4 ratio of bleach and water. Rinse and then pat dry.
  3. If you're trying to remove thick liquids that contain heavy dyes such as lipstick, use a straight application of a commercial cleaner specific for these types of chairs. Follow the instructions on the bottle and then wipe it out with a cloth.
  4. For anything else, you can attempt to use a 1:1 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water to remove the stain. If the stain persists, then forego the water and use straight alcohol. Rinse and then pat dry.

9. Leather Cleaning

Leather office chairs are fairly common, being the arguably the most comfortable chair as well as the classiest and most professional-looking. If you decided to invest in such a high-quality chair, then rest assured we're certain that you want it to stay that way. Check the tag on your chair to see what the cleaning instructions are and then go from there. You can also keep it in tip-top shape by following these steps:

  1. Vacuum frequently. You'll want to use the soft brush attachment and use a low suction setting to get all the debris out without ruining your chair.
  2. Once a week, wipe down your office chair with a damp cloth. Use a cloth that won't leave behind any trace of dye or lint, and make sure to wipe gently—do NOT rub vigorously.
  3. If you've neglected the leather for a while and it needs a bit of a deeper clean, then mix a few drops of liquid soap with a quart of distilled water. Dampen a rag with the solution and wipe gently at the surface of your office chair. Use another cloth to get rid of the soap and residue before air-drying.
  4. To go the extra mile, consider purchasing a leather conditioner or a leather protector. Follow the directions on the product to apply it to your leather furniture.

10. Mesh Upholstery Cleaning

Mesh is great for the ventilation benefits they offer. The back of a mesh chair allows airflow onto your back, helping you stay cool while sitting at your desk. With the additional airflow, you also sweat less in your chair, cutting down on the need to clean it. Don't be fooled though–mesh office chairs still need to be cleaned! To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Vacuum the chair on low suction to remove any debris without ruining the upholstery
  2. Mix a few drops of mild liquid soap such as dish detergent with a cup of water
  3. Repeat process until stain is removed.

Why Should You Hire Professional Services to Clean Your Office?

Office chair cleaning can be a troublesome process. To keep your office chair, and of course, your other furniture in tip-top shape, you'll have to clean them frequently. You'll also have to tackle any spills or spots of dirt as soon as you notice them, referring to this guide as needed. 

If you find that cleaning is taking up too much time, or if you're cleaning the same things over and over again, then perhaps you should hire a professional cleaning service to not only save your time, but save you money in the long run. 

Hiring a professional cleaning company such as Luce Maintenance Group will ensure that your office furniture is cleaned to perfection. Our highly-trained cleaning staff can completely clean your office—including your office chairs!—at an affordable price. Keep your furniture looking brand new for longer and call us today!