Westchester County Experts Explain How to Clean Expensive Home Furnishings

I have the most thoughtful children in the world. How else would you explain the fact that my teenage son decided to leave a fountain pen in his shorts pocket, ensuring that I’d have an ink-smeared mess in my dryer drum just as I began researching this story?

Dishes wash easily and clothes usually can be replaced—but stains on the expensive stuff can be a real headache. So here’s a short cleaning guide, culled from some pros who have seen it all.

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Say you’ve splashed Merlot on the sofa, or the dog has just messed on your rug. The first rule is—don’t panic! Going after the spot with heavy-handed scrubbing can drive it into the fibers, and even plain water can cause stains to set on certain fabrics. “Instead, use a white regular or paper towel, and blot,” says Ray Caggiano, owner of Raytone Cleaning and Restoration in Mount Vernon.

If you’re dealing with fine upholstered furniture, Nicole Pushkal of Nicole Interior Designs in Tuckahoe advises applying dry-cleaning fluid, which you can get at a hardware store.

Alternatively, with sturdy fabrics such as corduroy or synthetics, you can go for a “green” strategy, says Mary Findley, co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning (Penguin, 2009). She suggests a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water or hydrogen peroxide and water, which you can apply and then blot after about five minutes. Foaming shaving cream, which contains rubbing alcohol, also may work. Findley cautions, however, that you should test any “green” solution first on an inconspicuous area, just in case the fabric responds poorly.

For carpet stains, many experts suggest an enzyme-based cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle products (available at pet stores), which will eat away at bacteria. Spraying with diluted dishwashing liquid, followed by a vinegar rinse, also can help. If carpet stains are a recurring problem, Christine Frietchen, editor-in-chief of consumersearch.com, says you might want to invest in a spot-remover machine. The $120 Bissell SpotBot, she says, gets good owner reviews.

For scuff marks, crayon, or markers on your walls, experts swear by the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, although Robin Murphy, owner of the Valhalla-based cleaning company Maid Brigade, warns that it works best on semi-gloss or glossy paint, and could take off flat paint. She adds, however, that the Magic Eraser is great on porcelain fixtures, such as dirty tubs.

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Of course, if all else fails (or if you’re dealing with leather, which is easily ruined by home-cleaning attempts), call an expert. Local companies like Raytone and Ronny Reliables, in Ardsley, will make house calls—but it may take multiple visits and a few hundred dollars to get that good-as-new look.

  Getting it Clean Keeping it Clean And bear in mind…


1. Blot fresh stains with a white towel (paper or cloth).
2. For fine fabrics, use a dry-cleaning or other solvent-type fluid, such as Mohawk Finishing Products’ Upholstery/Fabric Cleaner.
3. For sturdy fabrics, try vinegar/water, hydrogen peroxide/water, and/or foaming shaving cream.
4. Call in a professional cleaning company.


1. Vacuum regularly.
2. Consider buying upholstered furniture with removable arm covers.
3. Cover with a plastic tablecloth and towel when kids or pets are around.
4. Protect from direct sunlight to keep it from fading or discoloring.
5. Consider using an upholstery-protecting spray, such as Scotchgard Fabric & Upholstery Protector.
Read manufacturer materials for specific instructions and warnings.

Always do a test run on a small, inconspicuous area on the back of the sofa to check for color-fastness before treating the main stain.



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1. Blot fresh stains with a white towel (paper or cloth).
2. Consult a professional cleaning company.


1. Use a leather conditioner, such as Leather Care Cleaner & Conditioner for Leather & Vinyl or Furniture Amore. Apply at least twice a year; three to four times a year is better.
2. Cover when kids or pets are around.
It is easy to permanently damage leather; read manufacturer materials for specific recommendations and warnings.

Condition more frequently if the leather is close to a window or a heating vent.



1. Blot fresh stains with a white towel (paper or cloth).
2. For fine fabrics, use a dry-cleaning or other solvent-type fluid.
3. For sturdy fabrics, try vinegar/water, hydrogen peroxide/water, and/or foaming shaving cream.
4. Have drapes professionally dry-cleaned.
5. Dab stains on pleated shades with a little shampoo on a cotton swab.


1. Vacuum drapes regularly.
2. Use a dry sponge (the kind you buy at a pet store to remove pet hair) on pleated shades.
3. Consider using a fabric-protecting spray, such as Scotchgard Fabric & Upholstery Protector. Follow directions exactly, and make sure the spray is recommended for your fabric type.


Dry-cleaned drapes never look as good as they do when you first hang them—so use the dry-cleaning option as a last resort.




1. Use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (mrclean.com)


1. Keep hands, crayons, markers, etc., away from the walls.
2. Use glossy or semi-gloss paint so cleaning will be easier.
Be gentle when you rub! Some people find that the Magic Eraser can remove flat paint or leave a mark on satin finishes.
and Rugs


1. Blot fresh stains with a white towel (paper or cloth).
2. Try an enzyme-based cleaner, such as Nature’s Miracle products found in pet-supply stores.
3. Use diluted dishwashing liquid and rinse with vinegar.
4. Buy or rent a spot cleaner or carpet cleaner; there are specific cleaning solutions available for pet stains.
5. Call in a professional cleaning company.
1. Remove shoes when you enter the house.
2. Keep pets away from delicate rugs.
3. Consider using a carpet-protecting spray, such as Scotchgard Carpet & Rug Protector.


Experts say you have a good shot at removing carpet stains if you work on them gently and patiently.


Call in the Experts

Here’s a rundown of some recommended local cleaning professionals, for those times when you need a pro to take charge:

Caravan Connection
Bedford Hills (914) 666-0227

Carlan Cleaners of Westchester
Ossining (914) 923-2184

Embassy Cleaners
Larchmont (914) 834-5955 and
Scarsdale (914) 725-4400

Elbee Cleaning
Peekskill (914) 736-7136

Raytone Cleaning and Restoration
Mount Vernon (914) 776-2269

Ronny Reliable’s Cleaning Company
Ardsley (914) 674-9000

USA Carpet Cleaning Inc
(914) 788-1824

Barbara Solomon Josselsohn is a Scarsdale-based freelance writer who, after researching this story, feels empowered to buy a light-colored sofa.

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