I'm ashamed to admit it, but there was a time in my life when I would have looked at a chair like this and thought, "Ew."
Vintage upholstered furniture can look really gross at first, since upholstery holds on to gross stuff better than materials like wood, fiberglass, or metal. But it only took one look at those legs, that tufting, that pink velvety fabric, and that midcentury hotness to convince me it was worth a try to get it clean.
Also, it was FREE.
A friend of my mom's thrifted this chair and gave it to her. My mom didn't need it, so she offered it to me. It was still in great shape, but the fabric had some stains, crumbs and crustiness.
Let's see what we can do.
Here are a couple of sick before shots I took to show you how dirty this guy was.
So this is how I recommend cleaning up a vintage upholstered piece of furniture like this one.
Step 1 // Vacuum like a crazy person. I throw the hose over my shoulder and run the end of it up and down the upholstery like a paint brush. Get down in all the tufting, details, and deep inside the cushions. Go over every surface a least twice, until you have all the loose stuff removed. Don't forget to turn it upside down and vacuum underneath as well. That's where cobwebs and critters like to hide.
Step 2 // Make repairs. I had to turn this chair over and tighten some things up. I still need to replace the things on the ends of the legs because they're scratching up my wood floors, but at least all the bolts and screws and whatever are tightened up.
Step 3 // Spray all the fabric surface with a light layer of upholstery/carpet cleaner. I know you're smart enough to find the carpet cleaner at the grocery store, but I took a photo of what I used. Bloggers are supposed to do that. Actually, seeing that logo with my living room makes me realize I want a sunburst clock.
This stuff says it can clean both upholstery/carpets, but be sure to check the label of whatever you buy. Let that sit for a few minutes, then scrub the whole thing with a clean cloth. Look closely for stains and be sure to get into the little cracks and crevices. Repeat this step as many times as you need to get the fabric looking good. When you're done, the piece may still feel a little damp, so let it dry.
Step 4 // Touch up any wooden parts, like legs, with a rubdown using Howard Feed 'n Wax. Rub it on, give it a few minutes, then wipe up the excess that didn't soak in.
Step 5 // Sit down, admire your piece of furniture and congratulate yourself for being eco-friendly and stylish.
So don't be grossed out by vintage upholstery! As long as the fabric's not falling apart, see if you can revive it. If it's too worn or torn, consider reupholstering it. I have a little green love seat that has sat in my classroom's reading nook for the last five years, and now I'm thinking I might get brave and try to recover it.
Maybe white vinyl?
I ended up throwing a sheepskin on this chair to hide all the cat hair that Max and Mitzi would get all over the seat anyway. Max never leaves this spot now.