Removing Water Stains From Upholstery

how to remove water stains from upholstery

Over the last 7 or 8 years in which we’ve been slowing making over our house, I have switched out most of our dark color upholstered furniture in favor of light upholstery.

Now if you live with kids or pets, or husbands (lol) this can be a risk. Messes are gonna happen.

And happened they have over here. Thanks mostly to my cats with sensitive stomachs, my upholstery has had its share of accidents.

Unfortunately, when I attempted to clean one such accident on the upholstered ottoman in my living room I ended up making the damage worse. After dabbing it with water, not only did it not remove the original stain, but left a big round water stain. I was horrified.

water stains on upholstery

As it turns out you can’t use regular water on light upholstery. Tap water has minerals in it that stain. Oops. After asking around and internet searching I found something I thought might work on removing water stains. At this point, I really didn’t have anything to lose.

First I used vinegar. I applied the vinegar to a paper towel and blotted the entire area well. I waited for about 5-10 minutes and then repeated the same process. But for the second round, I used distilled water. After it dried, I was surprised to see the stain had lightened a lot. how to clean furniture


It wasn’t gone (the stain had been there at least a week at this point) so I repeated the process. It further lightened. This was after two treatments with the vinegar and distilled water. You can still see it although it’s very faint.

removing stains from furniture


The third time was a charm. It’s now cleaned up, you would only be able to tell if you knew it was there and was looking very closely for it.



I was concerned about trying the vinegar due to the smell, but it dissipates pretty quickly. Now I’ll keep the distilled water and vinegar on hand at all times so if (when) this happens again I’ll be able to take care of it right away.

time saving cleaning hacks


Do you have any problem-solving cleaning hacks? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!





  1. What a beautiful welcoming room! Thank you so much for posting this, i have had tHis happen more than once!

    1. Thank you, Jill. I hope it helps!

  2. Thank you for tHe great tip:; tried it on a stain i have on my white couch a d it is noticeable ligHter

  3. Will this work on my car seats.

  4. I had no idea it was the minerals in the water that were leaving those stains behind! I always just assumed it was hidden dirt and particles on the fabric that were mixing with the water to create a stain. I’m definitely going to try distilled water next time! We had one really big stain on our couch and after trying literally everything I called a professional upholstery cleaner and they did a fantastic job getting rid of the massive stain and cleaning the rest of the couch. A great option for bigger stains or full-furniture cleanings.

  5. When you say the second time you repeated the same process after 5-10 min but used distilled water, do you mean that the first time you only used vinegar to blot, and then on the second round, you just used distilled water? or did you mean the second time you applied vinegar again and then followed up by blotting with the distilled water?
    sorry for all the caps…I can’t seem to change the cap option. so helpful…i have so many big water stains left behind from cleaning up small stains, and it’s been frustrating. THANK YOU FOR THE POST.

    1. I did it the exact same way twice! Hope that helps!

  6. Thanks So Much Roxanne, your technique worked amazingly well!!! at the end of the summer after our first lockdown here in athens, greece and before our second lockdown, I decided to splurge and upgrade my previous 15 year old white ikea sofas which i was always able to keep perfectly clean in the washing machine with bleach despite whatever stains. I went to a higher end Store and chose their more expensive fabric, a white, linen and cotton blend which is gorgeous. Despite my fear, i made this decision because The upholstery covers are removable for cleaning in the washing machine although they do recommend dry cleaning to maintain the fabric better. inevitably, a few days ago i saw a smudge of some kind of dirt that was not so noticeable but it was bothering me so I tried spot cleaning it which ultimately left a much larger water stain after drying. i’m so lucky to have found your blog!!! Thanks so much again!!! Best Regards, Ron

    1. hi Did you add water to vinegar before you blot it or vinegar only?

  7. I’m so sorry, but I’m confused. Did you do vinegar, then blot 2 times with distilled water? Or did you do vinegar, distilled water, vinegar, distilled water? Sometimes I’m a little too literal and miss things.

  8. I’m wondering the same thing. I need to work on a chair with this problem. Do I use vinegar, let dry, then blot with distilled water? Then repeat?

    1. Yes Leigha, exactly like that!

  9. Alan Gaul says:

    I work for a staging company and I was looking on how to clean water mark off upholstery sounds good I will give it a shot.

  10. Is it normal malt vinegar or cleaning white vinegar

  11. Thanks! This worked well. I found that I did not need to use the distilled water. Just used the distilled white vinegar. The vinegar smell eventually dissipates on its own (which I guess is why you suggest applying the distilled water, to more rapidly weaken the vinegar smell.)

  12. Thank goodness for all the comments! I now feel confident in trying this on my white sofa.🙂

  13. I used this on a bunch of home staging furniture in our inventory I was about to take to the landfill. It worked wonders and saved a bunch of room at the dump and save a bunch of money buying new furniture. Thank you!!!

    1. That’s wonderful!

  14. Great tip. I have a dark brown silk fabric couch that has a water stain from ceiling leak. My question do you think it will work on dark color?

    1. I would think so, but I would try it in an inconspicuous area first.

  15. Guess I really need to give this a shot. Thank you for the help!

  16. Can you use this method on Code S fabric?

  17. This method worked amazing on one half of my linen headboard unfortunately though I assume I didn’t dilute some of the tufted portions and it seems the vinegar made a worse brown stain that I’m now tackling….

  18. Going try this in my new car door upholstery. Seems like it works. Can a soft cloth replace the paper towel?

    1. Yes, I would think so! Good luck!

  19. Can I just pour the vinegar on the fabric?

  20. Wow i cant believe it works. I just repeated it twice coz the couch had stain for almost 2 years but beside of this solution i added a spray dishwashing liquid to rid off the smell of vinegar and to remove also the remaining stain.

  21. misspennyfeather says:

    My grand-dog left a stain on my slipper chair. I am using this hack knowing that it is going to work. Thank you. I thought I would have to reupholster two chairs!

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