Can I Use a Wet Dry Vac to Clean Upholstery?

The Versatility of Wet Dry Vacuums

Wet dry vacuums, often referred to as shop vacuums, are incredibly versatile cleaning tools. These machines have been a staple in workshops and garages for years due to their ability to handle various types of messes. They are particularly known for their robust suction power, making them ideal for heavy-duty cleaning tasks. But can they be used for delicate upholstery cleaning? Let’s explore this question further.

Choosing the Right Wet Dry Vacuum

Before you start cleaning your upholstery, it’s essential to select the right wet dry vacuum for the job. Wet dry vacuums come in various sizes and power ratings. For cleaning upholstery, a smaller, more portable unit may be preferable. These smaller models are easier to maneuver and provide the precise control necessary for upholstery cleaning.

The Benefits of Using a Wet Dry Vac

  1. Deep Cleaning: Wet dry vacuums offer thorough cleaning that goes beyond the surface. Their strong suction can reach deep into the fabric to remove embedded dirt and dust.
  2. Efficiency: These machines can save you time and effort, thanks to their powerful suction capabilities. They can quickly remove dirt and stains, leaving your upholstery looking refreshed.
  3. Easy Maintenance: Maintaining a wet dry vacuum is relatively straightforward. Most models come with reusable filters that can be cleaned and reused, reducing ongoing maintenance costs.
  4. Versatile Attachments: Wet dry vacuums come with a variety of attachments that make them adaptable for different cleaning tasks. For upholstery cleaning, choose attachments designed for delicate surfaces.
  5. Cost-Effective: Investing in a wet dry vacuum for your home can be cost-effective in the long run. You won’t need to hire professional cleaners as often, and you can keep your upholstery looking its best.

Preparing Your Upholstery

Proper preparation is crucial for successful upholstery cleaning. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Remove Loose Dirt and Debris: Use a brush or your hand to remove any loose dirt, crumbs, or debris from the upholstery’s surface. This will prevent the wet dry vacuum from getting clogged.
  2. Check for Stains: Examine the upholstery closely to identify any stains or spills that require pre-treatment. Address these stains before you start using the wet dry vac.

The Cleaning Process

Now, let’s break down the actual steps for cleaning upholstery with a wet dry vacuum.

Choose the Right Attachment

Selecting the correct attachment is crucial to avoid damaging your upholstery. For most upholstery, the upholstery nozzle or brush attachment is suitable. Make sure it’s clean and in good condition before you start.

Vacuum Thoroughly

Start by using the vacuum function without any cleaning solution to remove loose dirt and dust. Move the nozzle or brush gently in a systematic pattern, covering the entire surface of the upholstery.

Addressing Stains

If you’ve identified stains on your upholstery, it’s essential to pre-treat them before moving on to the next step. Use an appropriate stain remover or cleaner, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Using a Fabric Cleaner

Switch to the upholstery attachment on your wet dry vac and apply a fabric cleaner suitable for your upholstery material. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding the cleaner’s application and dwell time.

Drying the Upholstery

After cleaning, it’s crucial to ensure that the upholstery dries thoroughly. You can use your wet dry vac’s blower function to speed up the drying process. Alternatively, allow it to air dry in a well-ventilated area. Avoid using the upholstery until it’s completely dry.

Upholstery Cleaning Tips

  1. Spot Test: Always start by testing the cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the upholstery to ensure it doesn’t cause any discoloration or damage.
  2. Work Systematically: Clean one section at a time, moving in straight, overlapping lines to avoid missing any spots.
  3. Gentle Strokes: Be gentle when using the wet dry vacuum on upholstery to prevent any damage to the fabric.

Safety Precautions

While using a wet dry vac for upholstery cleaning is generally safe, there are some precautions to keep in mind:

  1. Avoid Over-Wetting: Ensure that you don’t over-wet the upholstery. Too much moisture can lead to mold and mildew growth.
  2. Check Your Wet Dry Vac: Before use, inspect your wet dry vac to ensure it’s in proper working condition. This includes checking the filters, hoses, and attachments.
  3. Use Suitable Cleaning Products: Always use cleaning products that are safe and compatible with your specific upholstery material. Avoid harsh chemicals that can damage the fabric.

What Not to Clean with a Wet Dry Vac

While wet dry vacuums are versatile, there are some items you should avoid cleaning with them:

  1. Delicate Materials: Avoid using a wet dry vac on delicate materials like silk, velvet, or antique furniture, as they can be easily damaged by moisture and strong suction.
  2. Electronic Components: Never use a wet dry vac near or on items with electronic components, as moisture can damage them.

Alternatives to Wet Dry Vac Cleaning

If you’re hesitant about using a wet dry vacuum for upholstery cleaning, there are alternative methods to consider:

  1. Professional Cleaning: You can hire a professional upholstery cleaner who has the expertise and equipment to clean your upholstery safely.
  2. Steam Cleaning: Steam cleaning is another effective method for upholstery cleaning. It uses hot steam to loosen and remove dirt and stains.
  3. Spot Cleaning: For minor stains, you can perform spot cleaning using upholstery-specific cleaning products and a clean cloth.


Is it safe to use a wet dry vac on all types of upholstery?

Using a wet dry vac is generally safe for most upholstery materials. However, always test a small area first and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Can I use a wet dry vac on leather upholstery?

Yes, you can use a wet dry vac on leather upholstery. Ensure that you use a suitable attachment and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for leather care.

How often should I clean my upholstery with a wet dry vac?

The frequency of cleaning depends on usage and the level of dirt. In general, a deep clean every 6-12 months is a good practice.

Are there any specific maintenance requirements for wet dry vacuums?

Regularly empty the collection canister and clean or replace filters as recommended by the manufacturer.

Can a wet dry vac remove pet hair from upholstery?

Yes, a wet dry vac is excellent for removing pet hair from upholstery. Use an upholstery attachment for the best results.


Using a wet dry vac to clean upholstery can be an effective and efficient way to maintain the cleanliness and freshness of your furniture. By following the proper steps, taking precautions, and choosing the right equipment and cleaning products, you can achieve excellent results. Remember to test a small area first and always prioritize the well-being of your upholstery. With the right care, your upholstery can stay looking great for years to come.