Kids with spoons in hands on upholstered kitchen chairs go together like rugby players in silk dresses and stilettos, but don’t let that disrupt family meals. The kitchen should be an easy-to-clean space where your family shares the day's events and where accidental spills happen without worry. Discover ways to zap daily spills, get tough on built-up grime and keep your chairs looking good.
1. Zeroing In
A nylon spatula or plastic spoon won't damage the seat fabric if you scrape off any food particles such as pasta or gravy globs. Tackle everyday spills, drips or splatter with a clean, damp, white rag. By using a white rag, color will not bleed or transfer from it to the upholstery. A mixture of warm water and a little dish soap or laundry soap can lift many types of food stains. Rinse the soapy area well but never soak the seats. Blot out as much of the dampness with a white towel or paper towel to avoid a water ring or mark. To keep young kids’ chairs cleaner, place bath towels over the seats before eating breakfast or diving into dinner.
2. Get Steamed
Carpet steam-cleaning machines aren't just for cleaning carpets; use an upholstery attachment for the upholstered seats. Pretreat stubborn stains with upholstery stain remover designed for steam-cleaning machines and for the chairs' type of fabric. Make a few passes over durable upholstery in different directions with the attachment. If you like, give your chairs a new look and keep the fabric clean with inexpensive, tie-on seat pads or slipcovers. You can toss them in the washing machine as needed or into the closet for an "adult night" -- with or without guests.
3. Washed Out
Use your washing machine to clean upholstery -- after removing it, of course. Turn over the chairs to see how the seats are attached; likely the seats have four bolts or screws securing them in place. Remove the fasteners, set them aside, then note the staples holding the upholstery fabric on the seats. Loosen the staples with an awl or slotted screwdriver, then pull them out of the wood and fabric using a pair of pliers. Spray any upholstery stains with laundry stain remover and wash the material in cool or warm water. Hang the fabric squares to dry or toss them in the drier on the cool, air-dry setting to avoid shrinkage. Put the fabric and seats back on the chairs in the reverse order you took them off, but only if the stains have lifted.
4. Send Stubborn Stains Packing
Don’t waste too much time fighting with stubborn stains, especially on worn upholstery; chair-seat fabric is relatively easy to replace. Use the old upholstery as a template to cut new, prewashed material to size. Choose stain-repellent upholstery fabric in colors that work with your space. A free-form pattern such as paisley or a floral print is better at camouflaging stains than checks or stripes, which are difficult to line up in chair frames. Vinyl can have the look of leather and is easy to wipe clean, if you prefer a solid color. If the seats' cotton batting or foam padding is worn or dirty, replace that, too.