At times, it seems like there’s a magnetic reaction between children who have just eaten (and whose fingers are smeared with Yo Baby, apple juice and hot dog residue) and your living room furniture. Once children have outgrown the captive high chair, and yet before they have matured enough to know better, there are going to be years where keeping their sticky hands off the chenille sofa involves speed, flexibility, diplomacy and potentially a bribe…and then you still fail nine of out ten times. Add more than one child to the mix, and it may be a losing battle. But fear not, despite the occasional Crayola smear and sippy cup spill, you do not have give in to toddler upholstery vandalism. Here are our five top tips for keeping your upholstery clean so that you’ll still be able to entertain and not redecorate your whole house.


No, we’re not suggesting you turn on the John Travolta movie. Keep a bottle of hairspray handy in your kitchen and using it on pen and marker stains on your upholstery. Just spray and blot and it works like magic.

Arm Rest Covers and Slip Covers

If you really think that keeping on top of the stains and spills is a losing battle, you might want to protect your furniture by investing in inexpensive slip covers. These can be purchased in a range of sizes that stretch to fit a range of shaped chairs and sofas. They are worlds apart from the plastic couch covers of yesteryear. In fact they are quite stylish and give your house a makeover even while you’re trying to cover up your real furniture. You needn’t spend a fortune on them either. Here are some of our favorite sites for affordable slipcovers.

Maintain a Regular Cleaning Schedule

We’re not recommending a specific product here, but we do urge you to invest in an over the counter upholstery cleaning product. They really do work, but they work more easily if you use them when stains happen, and not when a million stains have happened and you need to bomb your couch. Staying on top of stains will help keep your furniture looking safe, and its also a sign to the opposition (your children!) that you haven’t given up.

Make Your Own Stain Remover

It’s actually quite simple to make your own upholstery shampoo. Just combine a ½ cup powdered or liquid detergent with 1 teaspoon ammonia, 1 teaspoon vinegar and a quart of warm water. Mix in a bowl using a hand mixer to create a good froth. Using the froth only, rub lightly with a sponge or cloth over the entire area, then wipe with a damp cloth and vacuum. Keep the kids away from the sofa or chairs until they are COMPLETELY dry, and then kick back and relax.

Scotchgard Fabric and Upholstery Protector

The best defense is a good offense, right? Well, in the world of upholstery there is no better offense then Scotchguard do-it-yourself spray. This product is the 21st century plastic slipcover – reduced to a fine spray thanks to high technology. It creates a spill and stain resistant barrier between your furniture and that hot fudge sundae residue running down your 3 year old’s arm. Seriously, if you have any doubts about your ability to stay on top of serious spills, you should be investing in a case.

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