Cleaning Codes- What do all those letters mean?!?!?

Upholstery should be marked with a code that allows the buyer to know in advance, what type of cleaning is suggested. This is an important thing to keep in mind when purchasing new pieces for your home, or dragging something old back from an auction or estate sale. 

Cleaning codes on your favorite couch or chair are typically found under the seat cushions (assuming they are detachable) on the platform (the part the cushions sit on). If you do not find the cleaning code on the platform, check all tags that might be attached to the piece. If you removed them upon purchase, typically, this information is available on the companies website/product page. If it's vintage, you might try calling around to those who make their living reupholstering and they should be able to lend a hand. 

Upholstery Cleaning Codes


If you find a "W" on your furniture you are in luck, as it means your piece can be cleaned with water. This would mean you will be safe if you use an upholstery/carpet cleaner (by using the attachments) on your spill or stain. This is the most durable type of fabric you can buy and is ideal for furniture that will see a high volume of use or spills ( dining room chairs, living room couches and chairs).


If you find an "S" on your furniture it means that it MUST be cleaned with cleaning solvents (dry clean only) and will not react well if water is applied to it. Spot cleaning is only advised if the product is meant for home dry cleaning use. Most employee owned grocery stores will typically carry one product of this nature as your local carpet cleaner often sells their product to them. (Make sure that after using a product of this nature to use a blow dryer to dry the spot so it doesn't leave a ring!) Do not allow your piece to become outlandishly dirty if you plan on being happy with the professional cleaning results you will get. Stains, spills or dirt in general should be cleaned as soon as possible to retain the longevity of the colors and the fabric.


This code means a combination of dry cleaning solvents and water can be used. It's not often seen and is often times best left to the professionals to clean something with this type of code. If that isn't in the budget, use furniture with the S/W code in low traffic areas and clean spots ASAP before they have a chance to set in. It is best to use a solvent based cleaner if you have it on hand.


This code isn't often seen anymore, but it does appear frequently on fabric blinds and shades. It means the item is NOT cleanable and is vacuum-only!! Check with a local furniture restoration shop on the best method to clean a piece of this nature.

from Apartment Therapy blog, circa 2008

    Learn about Lightfastness with Greenhouse Fabric's Melissa Wolck

    What is Lightfastness?

    by Greenhouse Fabrics on March 1, 2017

    Written by Melissa Wolck

    You may have heard the terms “lightfastness” or “colorfastness to light” when shopping for the perfect fabric. Maybe you have seen a lightfastness rating or a particular number of light hours listed on a fabric's specs, but maybe you didn't know what they meant or fully understood their significance. Let’s discuss!

    Lightfastness or Colorfastness to light is, “the degree to which a dye resists fading due to constant light exposure.” Although this may be particularly important when shopping for fabric that will be used in a sunroom or outdoors, it is important to note that all dyes have some susceptibility to light damage. Problems with fading tend to occur when the fabric chosen was not produced to meet the end use, like using a basic multipurpose cotton print on patio furniture.


    Most fabric manufacturers complete UV tests that provide consumers with a rating that directly correlates with the fabric’s ability to resist fading or it’s lightfastness. The most commonly used method in the United States is the American Standard AATCC 169.3. With this test the fabric is exposed under specific conditions to a controlled light source which simulates the sun spectrum of Albuquerque, New Mexico. At timed intervals, the test swatch is compared visually to a gray scale and the degree of fading is rated on a scale from 1 to 5.

    1 = Very Poor, High Degree of Fading

    5 = Very Good, No Fading


    AATCC 169.3 American Standard Test

    Manufacturers may also provide a lightfastness in number of sunlight hours. Any number of hours could be given, but outdoor fabrics usually rate anywhere from 500-2000+. The exact number of hours or years a fabric will last without fading is impossible to determine as there are many factors that come into play, such as the type of dye used, fiber content of the fabric, sun intensity and geographical location.

    Let’s take a moment to consider the difference of the sun’s intensity in New York compared to that of New Mexico.

    Other factors that may affect lightfastness include temperature, humidity, and airflow.


    Global Solar Intensity Potential

    Keep in mind that we are affected by the sun’s UV rays all year round and even on overcast days. The sunlight that shines into our rooms in both summer and winter can cause color fading. Line draperies with protective lining, consider the harshness of the sun’s light through your windows, the number of hours of direct sunlight, and whether or not your fabric will be protected by the shade when selecting your fabric.

    Genuine Leather: NOT what you think it is

    Let's hit pause on reupholstery and refinishing and talk about the big furniture menace of the moment: "bicast leather." While you're all going out and shopping for sofa and lounge chair replacements, you should have this information in your back pocket. If I can keep even ten people from getting conned by new furniture sellers trying to peddle fake leather, I'll have a good day. So read on:

    I replace what people call "genuine leather" ALL DAY. EVERYDAY. And I'm not talking about ten year old sofas. I'm talking about furniture people bought from companies less than two years ago that cost thousands of dollars. Bicast leather, or recycled leather, while some are responsibly made, is a farce. It doesn't hold up, and it's costing people lots of money.

    Why furniture manufacturers aren't being held accountable? Well, that's easy. The manufacturer punts it to the dealer who then sells it with a limited warranty. Who has to deal with it? The customer who is buying what he/she can afford which is a cheaply made piece of furniture. After all, that same person can't afford to reupholster a sofa he/she just bought less than five years ago. So, it ends up in a landfill years before it had to be there, and guess what bicast leather is made of? Polyurethane. That's right. (that's another rant for another day, though)

    Let me tell you something, everyone. If it's real leather, look for two things:

    1. A higher price.

    2. No cotton or non-leather backing on the material. In other words, it should be leather from front to back.

    A cow does not come in 54" wide rolls. It's curvy; therefore, furniture made with real leather hides will always have seams. If you're looking at a piece of furniture, and it has no seams, it IS NOT LEATHER.

    How to know if a prospective piece of furniture has real leather or not? Ask the representative helping you for a sample of the fabric. Trust me, you'll know immediately if you're dealing with genuine leather or not. If the representative can't give you a sample, I wouldn't buy it. You need to know what you're getting.

    Now, what if you already have bicast leather, and you're concerned it may have started breaking down. Here's some warning signs: peeling, bubbling, or cracking. The top layer, which is usually polyurethane, begins to pull apart from the cotton or recycled leather backing behind it exposing the two layers of the fabric. There's nothing you can do to stop this from happening. It can only be replaced panel by panel. The areas that have the most wear and tear will show these signs first, and maybe they're the only areas that do, maybe not. If I were you, I'd call up the company I bought it from and raise some hell. 

    There you have it. The long and short on the fake leather game. 

    It needs to be said that there are thousands of faux leathers and vinyls out there marketed responsibly and made to last for a very long time. But, there is a key difference. They are marketed for being exactly what they are and not as something they are not. I am a HUGE fan of faux leather and vinyl, and when they are made responsibly and correctly, they are an excellent choice for furniture. However, any material both manufactured to deteriorate and marketed in a deceitful manner is being sold outside of an acceptable commercial ethos.