R.A.D. Guide To Fabric Cleaning & Cleaning Codes

Do you ever scratch your head when you are reviewing those tags in your clothing, on your bedding, or on your pillows? Wondering what language is this stuff in? Ever wonder what type of cleaning products you should or shouldn't use when it comes to cleaning various types of upholstered products? Ever wonder why some fabrics have a weird letter next to them? Well, you aren't the only one.

With our nifty guide here we have decided to compile all of this information into one salient document for your downloading pleasure. We give some overview and fundamentals here but head on over to our cleaning guide page and download the full version. The full version goes well into detail about how to treat almost any stain you can think of. 

 Let's get started with some knowledge shall we? Let's start with fabric cleaning codes. Each fabric has it's own cleaning code that helps you to establish the best way to care for it. 


Cleaning  Code



“W”—Code W stands for ‘Water based cleaner’ and these are the easiest fabrics to clean. This is not the same as being machine washable, however. This code means that you can spot clean your fabric with a water-based shampoo or foam upholstery cleaner. You can use a brush to agitate the cleaner or even an upholstery attachment on a carpet cleaner. Be careful to avoid over-wetting the stain.


“S”—Fabrics that are Code S must be cleaned with solvents (dry clean only). You can spot treat stains with a water-free solvent or dry-cleaning product. Use solvent cleaners in a well-ventilated room and keep away from open flames. Avoid using cleaning products containing carbon tetrachloride, as it is highly toxic.


“W/S”—A W/S code, as you might expect, means that a combination of dry-cleaning solvents and water-based cleaners may be used. These fabrics can be spot cleaned with upholstery shampoo, foam from a mild detergent, or a mild dry-cleaning solvent. This is a case where the pre-test is especially important. For overall dirt, call a professional to clean these fabrics.


“X”—If you have fabrics with Code X, they can only be cleaned by vacuuming or light brushing. A Code X means the fabric is not cleanable with water or solvent cleaners


Don;t apply cleaning agents until you have reviewed the fabric codes with image of cleaning products in center



Now that you understand the basic fabric codes, let’s discuss some basic cleaning fundamentals prior to diving into the more technical info that speaks on cleaning by fabric content. As well as how to make sure you do not affect the soil, stain, and water repellent treatments your upholstery has already.

Basic Upholstery Fabric Care Tips

  • For everyday cleaning of your upholstered pieces, use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner to vacuum the surface of the furniture to remove any loose dirt.  It’s also a good idea to vacuum underneath the cushions as well.
  • If you can, flip your cushions regularly to distribute the wear and to reduce soiling.
  • Clean spills immediately by gently blotting with a clean, absorbent cloth. If a stain remains, then you’ll have to do some deeper cleaning according to the fabric’s code.

Each fabric and the stain or soil resistant treatment used in it’s manufacturing process require a certain level of care. This guide will dive into those exacts. The one rule that will always remain constant prior to getting into those boring but necessary details that can be found by downloading the full guide here. 


Buster Poindexter & Hand with cleaning rag saying, If You Spill something, remember to always blot, blot, blot

Spots and Stains

Get to it quickly!

 If a spot, spill or stain occurs, it must be cleaned quickly. It may become difficult or impossible to remove if allowed to set.


Remove fluids immediately from the surface and do not let them penetrate the cushion or furniture construction.

Solids or Semi-Solids

Carefully break up solid or semi-solid substances (such as mustard) with a flat object—butter knife, spatula. Then vacuum to remove as much of the stain as possible before using a cleaning agent.

Large or unusual stains

See a reputable professional cleaning service. Note – Use a soft brush as needed for difficult stains unless prior test on inconspicuous place suggests brushing may result in permanent damage.


Stain Treatment

(water-based stains)

  • Sponge off water-based stains with clear water (use only cold water for blood). If you have spilled only water, then blot with alcohol only.
  • If stain persists, sponge or brush lightly with water and detergent and rinse.
  • When several alternative cleaning agents are suggested (e.g. 2,4,6) BEGIN WITH THE LOWEST NUMBERED AGENT. If this agent does not fully remove the stain, then wet extract and allow to air dry. Then try the next higher numbered agent. Again, if this agent does not fully remove the stain, then wet extract, allow to air dry, and try the next higher numbered agent.

The tables with actual stains to cleaning agents for water, oil, or both based stains can be found in the downloadable guide here


Curious about stain, soil, and water repellent treatments?

There are many finishes on the market that provide soil and stain repellents for fabrics.  Among the more well known are:

  • Teflon
  • Alta
  • NanoTex
  • GreenShield
  • Crypton Green

Let’s dive into these a bit further, shall we?


Whether it’s apparel, upholstery, awnings, or patio cushions, Teflon™ fabric protector:

  • Resists soil, stains, and spills
  • Keeps fabrics and textiles looking new longer
  • Facilitates easier cleanup.
  • Teflon™ fabric protector works on a variety of fabric types without interfering with weight, look, feel, color, or breathability.
  • Textiles treated with Teflon™ fabric protector require less frequent washing because they're better protected from stains.



Nanotex, powered by Crypton, elevates fabrics to stand up to everything. Offering superior spill and stain resistance coupled with remarkable performance and durability, Nanotex brings you more than just high performing technical fabrics, we give you the freedom of choice. Nanotex uses nanotechnology to transform and permanently bond to the structure of the fibers, creating permanent performance without compromising the hand. The results are fabrics that offer remarkable performance and comfort – permanently.

  • High oil, liquid and stain repellency
  • NSF 336 Compliant
  • High level of cleanability
  • GREENGUARD Gold Certified
  • Chemistry is engineered to the fiber type
  • No PFOA, PFOS, or PFCs » Flexibility – can add the features you need
  • Optional permanent moisture barrier (NanoGuard)
  • In-house lab & testing » Optional odor resistance



GreenShield and GreenShield ZERO are nanoparticle-based innovations that reduce the health and environmental impact of stain resistant fabric finishes. GreenShield dramatically lowers the amount of fluorochemicals needed to repel oil-based stains, and GreenShield ZERO is Fluorine Free for water-based stains. Both GreenShield and GreenShield ZERO have base components with clear and established safety records.




Alta is a comprehensive treatment solution providing a combination of repellency of liquids and cleanability of liquids and oil-based fabric stains. It uses less chemistry to create more performance. Applied Textile’s custom solutions utilize covalent bonding to create a permanent change at the molecular level of the fabric’s fibers. Due to the chemical bond, the treatment will not wear off or wash off. The change in chemistry creates repellency between the fibers and oil- or water-based spills and stains. Check out the ALTA brochure from Arc-Com fabrics here


Crypton Green

Crypton is has a great reputation for providing spill and stain protection. Crypton fabrics have stain protection built into the fabric when it is milled.  The advantage is that they don't need a secondary treatment - such as Alta, GreenGuard or Nanotex. Crypton Fabric is a specially engineered fabric system that delivers superior performance from stains and spills. Each fiber of Crypton Fabric is encapsulated with a patented technology through an immersion process, so it never breaks down its resistance to stains, moisture, mildew and odors. The impenetrable moisture barrier protects the fabric from spills, keeping stains from setting in the foam of the cushions.


Now that we know about cleaning codes and treatments, let's discuss maintenance by material. We will list a few but the downloadable guide has far more options. 


Beetled Linen -  "S" Cleaning code

Soiling and Cleaning

Due to the high percentage of natural fibres – viscose, cotton, linen – which absorb fluids easily, there is a stain repellent finish on this fabric. This improves the fabric’s resistance to water and oil based fluids.

In order to maintain this special appearance the following care and handling instructions should be observed: Whatever substance ends up on this fabric should be removed immediately by carefully blotting with a dry cloth. If necessary carefully wiped with a damp cloth. Subsequent ironing at medium temperature while applying pressure will restore some of the sheen. On light colors, some discoloring may persist after removal depending on the substance. Any type of rubbing or scratching with hard objects results in roughening the surface of the fabric. Do not wash this fabric. We recommend very gentle dry cleaning, but the fabric may still lose some of its luster.


Cotton & Rayon -“S” Cleaning Code

100% cotton fabrics & 50%-100% cotton and/or rayon fabrics Solvent-based cleaning systems only. Other cleaning systems may cause shrinkage as well as dye bleeding.


Mohair Plush -“WS” Cleaning Code


Faux Mohairs

Please follow cleaning instructions based on content. Note: a medium bristle brush can be used to restore pile.


Regular Maintenance

  • Brush regularly with a firm clothe brush in the direction of the nap and/or vacuum with an upholstery nozzle.
  • Wet a sponge with water. Squeeze it out. Apply a foam shampoo to the sponge or only the foam from a liquid shampoo.
  • Always treat the entire surface of the soiled furniture.
  • After each treatment, use a soft brush working in the direction of the nap.
  • Always allow the furniture to completely dry before using. Do Not over wet or remove cushion covers to dry clean or machine wash.


Reviving the Pile

By sitting you exert a pressure on the fabric forcing the nap in different directions and the pile lying down. This change of direction is noticeable through a change of color. It is a typical property of mohair and is neither a defect nor a sign of low quality. This affect can be removed by applying a damp (not Wet) cloth overnight or using a steamer. When using a steamer keep it 6 - 8 inches away from fabric. Be careful not to over wet or apply heat directly onto the fabric. Do not apply steam nozzle directly on fabric. If needed brush with firm brush. Allow upholstery to completely dry before using.


Polyester “WS Cleaning code

Regular and proper maintenance is key. Maintenance is routine, on-going care which reduces soil buildup on a fabric’s surface. Maintenance also includes promptly treating spots and stains. Polyesters can be cleaned with both water-based and solvent-based cleaning systems.

Vacuum regularly

With a proper upholstery attachment to thoroughly remove air-borne dust and lint.

Clean periodically

To remove accumulated grime and retain the fabric’s original appearance as much as possible. Remove any cleaner residue by rinsing or extraction to avoid future buildup. For further instructions please refer back “WS” Cleaning Code methods or spot cleaning instructions. When a green approach is requested for Recycled Polyesters they can be cleaned by our standard methods using green cleaners such as Green works, 7th generation (detergent) and Master blend Citrus spotter.


Solution Dyed Nylons – “WS” Cleaning Code

Fabrics containing 100% solution dyed fibers are very colorfast. 4 These fabrics carry a “WS” cleaning code and, when needed, can be cleaned with both water-based and solvent-based cleaning systems, including such strong cleaning agents such as diluted bleach.


Now that we understand cleaning codes, upholstery upkeep, and maintenance by fabric type or it's stain resistant properties let's move on to those hieroglyphs we find on the tags themselves. These are few, remember you can find the entire glossary here in our downloadable guide


Retro Attractive  Decurban Cleaning Guide Laundry Care Symbols Washing

Retro - Attractive - Decurban - Cleaning - Guide -Laundry - Care - Symbols- Bleaching



Retro - Attractive - Decurban - Cleaning - Guide -Laundry - Care - Ironing

Retro - Attractive - Decurban - Cleaning - Guide -Laundry - Care - Symbols - Dry - Cleaning


Remember, if you need more information you can view or download the full guide here.  (just kidding these links totally don't work yet, I will fix them soon) 

If you are in the learning mood we can teach you about how to understand color, color terminology, and color schemes in our blog post, Understanding Color | The "How To" Select Finishes That Work Well Together Guide For Dudes or Non-Designers. 



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