Chores can be extremely boring. Day in and day out of picking this up and dusting that down, you can get a little bit lost in the process and lose focus.

Thing is, when you’re cleaning valuable items, you can’t always have the luxury of doing mindless chores. After all, you don’t want to break down the fabric of that premium cushion.

Much like regular laundry, maintaining upholstery fabrics can be quite challenging. The instructions on the labels aren’t always straightforward. So, if you’ve ever had a hard time making sense of textile cleaning codes, this guide is just what you need!

Your Guide to Making Sense of Textile Cleaning Codes

You don’t really need someone to tell you how to clean every piece of fabric you own. In most cases, the fabric itself will tell you the ideal upholstery cleaning method.

Textile manufacturers use a coding system to let you know how to clean their products with minimal damage. So, flip your seat cushions around, find the cleaning code, and let’s start deciphering!

Folded fabric

Cleaning Code S = Pure Solvent

When textile has a cleaning code S, it means that it should only be cleaned with pure solvents. Try to remember it as code S for “solvent.” Avoid rinsing with water, or using any water-based product.

It’s advised to use pure solvents in well-ventilated conditions and to be vigilant about choosing non-toxic products.

This is very similar to code D, which stands for “dry cleaning only.” We recommend leaving code D fabrics to the professionals.

Cleaning Code W = Water-Based

Textiles with code W are simply the easiest to deal with! W stands for “wet” or “water-based” cleaning. This means that you can use water, foaming products, water-based detergents, and even a vacuum.

So, if you have kids, it might be a smart idea to go for textiles with cleaning code W.

Cleaning Code WS = Water and Solvent

Okay, so you can probably figure this one out now. For code WS, you can use water with either a water-based cleaning product or a pure solvent.

Keep in mind, the pure solvent health hazards still apply here.

Cleaning Code C = Machine Wash

You’ll most likely find this on smaller textiles like cushions and linens. Code C means that the item is machine-washable at around 65.5° Celsius. Then it can be tumble-dried at 43° Celsius for up to 5 minutes.

This can also be referred to as cleaning code MS.

Basket of Laundry

Cleaning Code X = Vacuum Only

Textile with a cleaning code X is the most stubborn to maintain. They can only be vacuumed or lightly brushed. So, what you want to do is regularly vacuum the textile. This helps you stay on top of any dust accumulation or stains before it’s too late.

This works well with rugs. See how RugDoctor recommends doing it.

Cleaning Code F = Foam Only

For code F fabrics, you need to avoid scrubbing. Usually, this kind of fabric has a low rub count.

Cleaning Code R = Upon Request

In some cases, manufacturers will give you the option to contact them for cleaning tips. Try to get specific advice on the needed products from the company.

Cleaning Code OP = Outdoor Performance

Products with a code OP are generally resilient and can take heavy cleaning. It’s recommended to try with the mildest detergent. If that doesn’t work, you can gradually make your way up to bleach.

It might be a good idea to clean the entire textile and not just do spot-treatments. This will help you avoid ring stains.

Cleaning Code P = Perchloroethylene

Code P means that you can use detergent with either water or perchloroethylene. However, perchloroethylene can be carcinogenic, so we wouldn’t recommend handling this type of solvents at all.

Cleaning Code L

This one’s more on the rare side, but if you come across any code L textile, wipe it with warm water and mild soap. Afterwards, try to pat it dry with a cloth quickly.


So, now that making sense of textile cleaning codes is a bit easier, let’s cover more ground with a few FAQs.

Here are some of the most common questions that pop up when talking about textile cleaning codes:

Q: Where can I find the textile cleaning code?

A: For larger items, like sofas, the first place to look is under the seat cushions. For smaller textiles, the label might be visible if you turn the item inside out.

If you seem to have lost the label, try contacting the manufacturer and ask for instructions.

drying clothes in the sun

Q: Do I really need to follow textile cleaning codes?

A: Yes! While you might get away with the wrong cleaning procedure every now and then, it doesn’t mean that’ll always work. It’s an unnecessary risk that we highly recommend you avoid.

For instance, if you use any water-based product on textile with code S, expect to see significant shrinkage or water-ring stains.

Heat can damage the textile bonding and reduce elasticity. So, you generally want to stay away from hot water. If it’s a code C, stick to the recommended water temperature.

Q: What’s a rub count?

A: Rub count is a measure of how resilient the textile is against scrubbing. It’s measured through the Martindale Abrasion test for textiles.

The higher the number, the more scrubs the fabric will endure. You don’t need to worry too much about rub counts, though. They’re only really significant in heavy-duty upholstery, like office furniture and waiting room seats.

Final Thoughts

Making sense of upholstery cleaning codes isn’t all that difficult. For the most part, you just need to remember the more common cleaning codes like S, W, F, and X.

Try to remember what the codes stand for to make things easier. S for Solvent, as in pure solvent and no water. W for water-based products. F for foam only. Hybrid codes like WS will be easy to figure out then.

Always patch test cleaning products on smaller, hidden areas. Better safe than sorry!