Upholstery might be a slightly grand word for the bit of cotton canvas stretched over a 70 year-old wooden frame, but no matter. I’ve also used this same combination of simple dish soap and elbow grease to clean our upholstered bench and loveseat and each time the result was kind of miraculous. No fancy specialized upholstery cleaner or expensive cleaning bill in sight.
When we first got our new/old canvas cot in the mail, it came squished into an old heating duct box that had been rejiggered to fit the cot. As we wrestled the cot out of the box, a subtle scent of must wafted out. It wasn’t so overpowering that we were afraid we couldn’t get rid of it, but it definitely had to be handled.
My go-to in this scenario would typically be good old fashioned sunshine—I’m not sure there’s any odor that some good sun and a clean breeze can’t get rid of, but instead of toting my cot down to the nearest park and setting up camp, I decided to try to scrub the smell out. Here’s what I used:
Step 1: Whipped Upholstery Cleaner
1-2 tablespoons dish soap
1/2 cup water
I used our electric stand mixture turned up to high to whip the mixture into a stiff foam. If you don’t have an electric stand mixer a handheld mixer would also do the trick (or if you’re very patient, a whisk and some heavy duty arm work would also work). I’ve done this several times now without measuring the exact quanities of soap and water. When in doubt, start with the soap and add your water slowly until you’ve got a bowl full of foam.
Once I had a nice foam, I used a rag to scrub the surface of the couch with the soapy mixture. The foam allows the soap to do its work without utterly soaking the fabric that you’re working on. After scrubbing down the with foam, I went back over the couch with a clean rag, lifting up any remaining foam. Don’t worry about actually rinsing—you haven’t used enough soap to warrant it and the objective is to keep the upholstery as dry as possible.
Step 2: Vinegar Spray
After scubbing the cot down with the whipped detergent, I went a step further and sprayed it down with a thin spray of undiluted white vinegar. I literally screwed the plastic pump from another bottle onto the glass vinegar bottle and gently doused the cot with vinegar. More than masking an odor, the white vinegar (whose own pungent smell dissipates entirely after 20 minutes or so), actually kills the bacteria that might be causing the bad smell in the first place.
Step 3: Baking Soda
Just for good measure, once the cot was dry, I sprinkled the top of the cot with baking soda to pack a final deodorizing punch. I let it sit for awhile and then vacuumed it up. The result? A perfectly fresh clean cot without a hint of must.
Next step? Wax! The only thing better than a clean canvas cot is a clean and waterproofed canvas cot, right? I’m thinking about ordering a bar of Otter Wax fabric wax to give the new cot a once over (and protect it from wandering sticky fingers!). The bright sunlight in this photo hides some of the paint splatters and stains that I wasn’t able to remove from the canvas, but overall, the cot now feels just as well-loved but about a hundred times fresher than when I first pulled it out of its jury-rigged box.