The best office chairs see a lot of use — up to 40 hours per week and beyond. No matter how careful you are, spills and accidents happen. There’s also the inevitable accumulation of dust and debris over time.
Keeping your office a fresh, hygienic space is essential for health and productivity. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to clean an office chair.
In this guide, I’ll walk you step-by-step through the process of cleaning an office chair. It doesn’t matter if it’s fabric or leather, plastic or metal. I’ll show you the top techniques for refreshing your seat and erasing stains, as well as some tips on how to maintain your chair over the long term.
What Office Chair Cleaner Should You Use?
Office chairs come in various finishes, including fabric and leather. The cleaning process is nearly identical for each, although different chairs require different types of cleaning solution.
If you’re curious about how to clean a fabric office chair or how to clean a mesh office chair, inspect your model to see if it comes with a cleaning label or set of instructions. Common places to look include on the backrest or underneath the seat. You may also find cleaning instructions on the manual or official brand website. When in doubt, email the manufacturer.
Your label should include a letter code denoting which cleaning agent to use. Here’s a look at the most prominent codes found on fabric office chairs, as well as what each one means.
|Label||Recommended Cleaner||Associated Materials|
|W||Water-based cleaner||Synthetic fibers|
|S||Solvent-based (water-free) cleaner||Natural fibers|
|S/W||Water-based or solvent cleaner||Varies|
|X||Professional cleaning service||Specialty materials|
For W codes, I recommend mixing water and a few drops of dishwashing soap like Dawn into a small bucket or container. For S codes, I recommend a water-free solvent like ForceField Dry Cleaning Fluid. For S/W codes, use whichever you have available.
If your chair features an X, you should only wipe it down with a soft dry cloth. If it needs more attention, consult a professional, high quality cleaning service.
Leather is different from other upholstery and requires specialized treatment. Here’s a look at recommended cleaners based on which type of leather your chair uses:
- Genuine leather. Genuine leather is all-natural and requires a specialty cleaner and conditioner like Chemical Guys.
- Bonded leather. Bonded leather is scrap leather that’s been blended together and reformed into a new material. Follow the same methodology as natural leather.
- Faux leather. Faux leather comprises PU and PVC variants. PU leather is polyurethane, an artificial material that looks and feels like the real deal. PVC leather — or vinyl — is a synthetic plastic polymer. You can clean both using a bowl of warm water with a few drops of liquid soap.
If you’re not sure which type of leather office chair you have, use a product like Leather Honey. It cleans and conditions genuine, bonded, and faux leather alike.
The Complete List of Supplies
No matter the upholstery, here’s a complete list of supplies for learning how to clean an office chair:
- Cleaner – Consult the section above for the correct type of cleaner.
- Handheld vacuum – A vacuum is important for removing small particles like lint and debris. I’ve found that models from Black + Decker work best.
- Several soft cloths – Microfiber cloths are ideal, though soft cotton cloths also work.
- Dish soap and a bowl of warm water – Water is required for every type of chair, as it’s necessary to clean the plastic and metal components. If you’re already using mild soap (like dish soap) and warm water as your cleaner, you don’t need this extra dish.
- Water-dampened cloth – You must be sure to remove any remaining soap residue.
Once you have your supplies ready and laid out, it’s time to begin the cleaning process.
How To Clean an Office Chair: A 3-Step Process
This 3-step process shows how to clean an office chair with different finishes. I’ve clearly marked instances where the process differs based on the cleaner used. Simply walk through the steps, and your chair will look new in no time.
Step 1: Remove Loose Debris
The first step in learning how to clean an office chair is easy. All you have to do is whip out your vacuum cleaner and begin sucking away debris.
The easiest way to do this is with a cordless hand vacuum, which makes it easy to get in between crevices. That said, you can also use the hose attachment on your regular standup model.
The important thing is that you’re careful as you vacuum, as too much suction can harm the upholstery.
You should also be wary of the brush attachment. I recommend using the plain sucker and hovering just over the top of your chair so as not to damage the fabric’s finish.
Once you’re done, go over everything with a soft cloth to remove any remaining particles.
Step 2: Apply the Cleaner
After your chair is free and clear of crumbs and the like, it’s time to apply the cleaner.
If you’re using soap and water…
Dip your cloth in the bowl of warm water and wring until slightly damp. Then, press the damp cloth against the upholstery, starting with a small section of the chair. Apply gentle pressure and use a “dab and twist” technique so there’s just enough friction to remove grime without disturbing the seams. Resubmerge the cloth in the soapy mixture as needed.
Once everything has received the “dab and twist” treatment, it’s time to rinse. Cover another clean cloth in warm water, and wring until damp. Use the same technique as before, going back over the entire chair.
If you’re using solvent… For learning how to clean an office chair with solvent-based cleaners, you’ll want to start by opening the windows and ensuring enough ventilation. Then, spray a bit of the cleaner onto a cloth and test on a small, inconspicuous area of the chair. If there’s no discoloration or warping after a minute or two, you’re safe to continue.
For this type of cleaner, there’s no twisting involved. Simply blot the chair, lifting the solvent-covered cloth up and down while applying minimal force. Repeat the process over the fabric surface of the chair.
If you’re using leather cleaner…
The last cleaner we’re talking about is leather cleaner. Leather is more durable than fabric or mesh and can take a bit more elbow grease. Spray the leather cleaner onto your cloth and wipe it across the entire chair, using a circular motion with a light-to-moderate amount of force. Spray more on the cloth as necessary. Once completely covered, wipe away the cleaner with another soft cloth.
You’ll want to repeat the entire process with your leather conditioner.
Step 3: Wipe Down Plastics and Metals
The last step in learning how to clean an office chair involves cleaning your chair’s hard plastic and metal parts. This includes the 5-star base, armrests, and solid accents. For this, you’ll want to bring out a small bowl of warm water with a few drops of soap mixed in (or use the same one from earlier). Dip your cloth in and wring until damp. Then, go over all the non-upholstered sections of the chair. Use a circular motion, applying a moderate amount of force.
Once you’ve wiped down all the solid sections, dampen a cloth with warm water. Then, use it to rinse all the components until free of the soapy solution.
Allow the entire chair to dry, and voila! As good as new.
How To Spot-Clean an Office Chair
If you spilled fluid in a specific area or encounter stubborn stains that don’t clear up with a regular clean, it may be time to spot clean your office chair.
Important: This method is for W-coded fabric upholstery only. For S-coded chairs and leather variants, you’ll need to try and repeat the same procedure listed above or contact a professional cleaning service.
To spot clean your chair, you’ll need:
- Rubbing alcohol (as a stain remover)
- Microfiber cloth
- Damp cloth
Pour a few drops of rubbing alcohol onto a soft cloth. Test the solution by applying the cloth to an inconspicuous area of your chair and letting it sit for two minutes. If no discoloration or warping occurs, you should be good to con
tinue. Take the cloth and dab the affected areas with light pressure. You can also rub in small circular motions followed by gentle dabbing.
Then, go over the same area with your water-dampened cloth, following the same motions. Let air dry.
Stains may not clear up immediately. You may need to repeat the process until they’re gone or sufficiently lightened. If the stains still don’t come up, it’s time to forego learning how to clean an office chair and contact a cleaning service.
Keeping Your Office Chair Clean
Now that your ergonomic office chair is clean, keep it that way! Here are a few hassle-free ways to avoid build up and ensure a clean office chair:
- Use protection. You can keep your chair in proper shape by using a cover like this one and a fabric spray like this one. These affordable solutions help mask and protect your chair from debris and liquid damage.
- Be extra careful when handling food and beverages. Everyone eats and drinks at their desks — you just need to be extra cautious when doing so. Consider keeping it to snacks and light-colored liquids, and eat full meals in the break room.
- Clean spills ASAP. Everyone makes mistakes. If you do spill, clean it up as soon as possible! This can prevent staining and makes the entire cleaning process much easier, taking only a few minutes of your time.
- Keep up with regular maintenance. You can avoid the hassle of the deep clean outlined above by doing regular upkeep of your office furniture. Vacuum and dust your chair weekly or monthly, and clean any messes as they occur. This will keep your office chair in spick-and-span shape for years to come.
If your chair gets too dirty, don’t worry. Now that you know how to clean an office chair, simply repeat the process above. Your chair will shine again in no time.
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