What Does ‘Spot Clean Only’ Mean?

A lot of people don’t pay any attention to their cleaning labels. However, these labels serve a vital purpose in telling you about materials used and explaining how to look after your furniture or upholstery.

Paying attention to cleaning code tags can help you decide if you even want to purchase such an item – some codes require very unique cleaning and are very delicate. You have to be extra careful not to get a spot clean only item heavily soiled.

If you’ve found your couch, sofa or any other material is marked as ‘spot clean only’ then this guide will help you figure out how you need to clean it!

what does spot clean only mean

What Is Spot Cleaning?

Spot cleaning is, essentially, cleaning just one spot or small area. It’s as simple as getting a stain on your shirt or couch and just cleaning and treating that stain. To do this though, you need to be able to pick the right cleaning solution for the fabric so that you don’t ruin it.

You’ll generally only need to undertake spot cleaning on high ticket and more intricate pieces, such as anything with beadwork or that is hand-made. These aren’t the only pieces you’ll need to consider for spot cleaning – many delicate pillows, mattresses, sheets and covers will also require spot cleaning.

You can also spot clean furniture that isn’t explicitly special or high-priced but has heavily stained patches on them. Spot cleaning will help keep those stains confined to one place and will pre-treat them so that you can remove the stains before throwing them in the wash.

Of course, you cannot spot clean all types of fabric or upholstery either— this is where taking the time to identify your cleaning codes is essential.

What does “Spot Clean Only” Mean?

‘Spot Clean Only’ simply means that you can only clean any visible spots by hand without putting that fabric in the wash, giving it to dry cleaning, or doing any other cleaning methods.

Basically, you can only clean this by hand with a spotting agent because the fabric is delicate and will otherwise get destroyed.

If you have something this delicate, you may want to ask a professional to help, but you can still learn how to spot clean well on your own. Do not wash the material, whether it’s wet cleaning or dry cleaning.

The Best Spot Cleaning Tips:

The following tips only apply if you’ve identified your cleaning codes (e.g. S, W, WS etc.) and can verify that they are suitable. Some furniture can only be cleaned with a vacuum and nothing else (cleaning code x) – so be careful!

If ever in doubt we recommend handing it over to an insured professional, however, if you’re feeling confident and able – these tips will help.


You should pre-clean your fabric before you try and spot clean it. This means scraping off any excess food and blotting out any oily stains or liquid stains with a white towel or paper napkin first. This will help you remove as much moisture as possible.

Avoid rubbing the stained area as it could go further into the fabric fibers. Just use some plain water to dilute stains before you try and absorb the stains with a cloth.

Once you’re done, leave the garment out for air drying. Make sure that you avoid direct heat, though, which can make the stain even harder to remove.

Choose a Solvent

You need to choose the appropriate solvent for your fabric. Your cleaning code label should tell you, but if it doesn’t specify or you can’t find it, you’ll need to call the manufacturer to find out.

As an example, you’ll typically soak materials like cotton in warm water and avoid something like bleach, which is harsh on the fabric. Instead, you can use a little chlorine if you dilute it, or some light acids like vinegar.

Or there’s wool, which is heat sensitive. You’ll need to use warm water to soak it, and will need to keep the fabric laid out flat. No bleach or acids.

These are only a few examples, but the point is that you need to be aware of what you’re washing your upholstery with if you want to avoid damaging it further.

If you choose to use a ‘spot cleaning machine’ to complete your spot clean, this great video below from Bissell will quickly walk you through what you need to know:


Can I Machine Wash Spot Clean Only?

The answer is no: you cannot machine wash something that says spot clean only. Doing so will result in more damage to the fabric.

How Do You Spot Wash?

Spot washing fabric and upholstery isn’t extremely difficult. First, you need to know what type of cleaning agent you can use on that type of fabric, and from there—you can begin.

If it’s small enough, hold the item above the sink and rub just a little bit of the cleaner into the stain.

Using a toothbrush gently, you can work the cleaning agent into the stain using up and down motions that will prevent stretching the fabric.

Work the stain out before rinsing with cold water and laying it out to air dry. Never dry your fabric under direct heat.

spot clean only


We can’t stress this enough, but all of the advice in this article only applies if you’ve correctly identified what type of spot cleaning can be done on your furniture.

Spot cleaning is a great way to deal with small stains, marks and odours. If you’re ever unsure of what cleaner to use, call the manufacturer to find out – and failing that, call a professional dry cleaner if you’re worried about damaging your designer couch!

About Darcy O

Loves good coffee, good design and a good nap on a good couch!

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