What to Do If Your Child Bites on the Couch

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist, and New York Times bestselling author of My Boyfriend Is Boiling In My Purse … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha About . Her flagship column, Ask a Pure Man, debuted in 2011. Here at Offspring we’ve launched a new iteration dedicated to parenting and all the mess it brings.

I have a question about cleaning upholstery fabric – how can I do it without leaving water stains? I had a few small spots on the couch before giving birth, now I have a lot of spots after 3 months with my beautiful, prickly daughter!

I once professionally cleaned my sofa, and although it looked better right after cleaning, water stains are still there … in wet weather they become really noticeable, and in dry air they are less noticeable. Any advice? Or do I need to throw a plastic cover over the sofa, like grandma? Thanks in advance!

This question made my Pure Spiderman go ping ping ping ! I have some thoughts about what left behind these stains, and in the course of explaining those thoughts, I can also help you figure out what to do with vomit and other similar protein stains on sofas and other upholstered furniture. So let’s get down to business!

Problem 1. You leave cleaning solution.

The first Spidey sense I received was this: I suspect that the discoloration of the fabric was not caused by water, but rather by the remnants of the cleaning solution used to treat vomit stains. I’m going to totally agree with you and say that this could damage the fabric, especially because professional cleaning didn’t fix the problem. BUT! On the other hand, professional cleaning did help, which suggests that the sofa may need one or two more passes with the upholstery cleaner to repair the damage.

With that in mind, and given that your child is likely to make a few more of these kinds of mess in their life, it might make sense to buy a portable upholstery and carpet cleaner like the Little Green Machine instead of hiring a professional again.

If you are going to use foam or spray upholstery cleaners such as Bissell or Resolve , instead of using the machine, simply sweep the surface a few times with clean water and a rag to make sure any cleaning residue is removed from the upholstery.

Problem 2: you are using the wrong stain remover

The next Spidey sense ping I got was this: a strip that is acidic and can have a bleaching effect on the fabric caused a discoloration because you used the wrong kind of stain remover and vomited. When it comes to treating vomit stains, always look to enzyme-based stain treatments, because vomit is protein stains and enzyme stain removers are what you need for protein stains. The Zout is very good, as is the Krud Kutter sports stain remover . For particularly stubborn stains, you can use an upholstery brush in conjunction with a stain remover to really rub it into the fibers (a nail brush or old toothbrush will also work – I use a nail brush like this when I need to to energize my play for stain removal).

Problem 3: your sofa has needs and wants

Here’s a fun fact about sofas: they come with a secret code. (Actually, this is not the whole secret.) This is where the third ping of the spider’s senses came in – it is possible, though unlikely in the script of the letter writer, that the cleaning agent used did not match the couch itself.

The secret (“secret”) code is meant to tell you how you would like to clean the sofa; the care tag, which is usually sewn on the underside of the seat, will contain code information in the form of a letter or letters:

  • W = wet / water cleaning only
  • S = solvent dry only
  • SW = solvent dry and / or wet cleaning
  • X = professional cleaning or vacuum cleaning only

Couches with codes W and SW are the easiest to operate in terms of cleaning – you can use any kind of water-based or solvent-based stain remover on them.

S-code sofas need to be cleaned with solvents, which can be a little tricky to find, but you can find them in hardware and home improvement stores. They are often unbranded, so be sure to ask your dealer for help if you can’t find the type of product you’re looking for; One brand I can point to is Blue Coral upholstery cleaner . When working with dry solvents, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure you are working in a well-ventilated area. An upholstery brush is also a good tool for working with solvents, and you should also know that they work best with moderate use.

If you are a parent or pet owner with an X-code couch, I admire your dedication to interior design, but heck you would spend a fortune on professional cleaning my friend!

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