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How to clean an office chair

How to clean an office chair: a clean, neutral office chair in front of a white desk
Your office chair is used regularly, so should be cleaned often (Image credit: Photo by Max Vakhtbovych from Pexels)

Do you know how to clean an office chair? You use your office chair everyday, but how often do you actually clean it? Spilled coffee, ink from dropped pens and lunchtime crumbs can all accumulate, leaving you with a grubby or even stained chair in need of a deep clean. 

It's important that your working environment, which includes your chair and desk, is clutter free and clean. Working in an untidy environment has been linked to reduced productivity, and you also risk damaging your chair if those little bits of debris, crumbs and dust are allowed to build up over time and get into the mechanisms. 

The best way to clean an office chair depends on the material your chair is made from, so in this guide we've broken down the main materials you'll find the best office chairs are made from, with instructions on how to clean each one. And for more home office advice, see our guide to the best desks around and.

What will you need to clean your office chair?

  • Vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment, or a dust pan and brush
  • Hot water
  • Dish soap or cleaning solution (depending on material)
  • Washing up bowl
  • Cloth or sponge
  • Dish towel
  • Table knife and tweezers to clean office chair wheels

Whatever type of office chair you have in whatever material, the first step is to remove any solid debris using a vacuum cleaner. Most vacuums come with a dust or upholstery attachment which you can use to hoover your office chair, including all the grooves and crevices where crumbs might settle.

If you don't have a vacuum cleaner, a dust pan and brush will do the trick; simply use the bristle brush to dislodge any lint and sweep it onto the floor before brushing it up. 

For a really deep clean, and if your chair is made up of assembled parts, you can take your chair apart and use a blunt knife to remove any debris around the wheels and joins; this will prevent any build up that could inhibit your chair's ability to roll. It's common for hair (yours and your pet's) to get caught up in the wheels of your chair: to remove this, use a pair of tweezers to tease the hair away from the wheel and dislodge it. 

01. How to clean a mesh chair

How to clean an office chair: mesh chair

Dish soap is perfect for cleaning mesh (Image credit: Office Furniture Online)

To clean a mesh chair like the one pictured above, you will need a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment, a bowl of hot, soapy water and a cloth. Dish soap is perfect for cleaning mesh because it's gentle enough not to harm the fabric.

How to clean a mesh chair in pictures:

Image 1 of 4

cleaning a mesh office chair

Use the brush attachment of a vacuum to remove debris (Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 4

cleaning a mesh office chair

The narrow nozzle allows you to clean right into grooves and ridges (Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 4

cleaning a mesh office chair

Use a damp cloth to wipe down plastic edges (Image credit: Future)
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cleaning a mesh office chair

Use a damp cloth to wipe down the legs and feet (Image credit: Future)
  • Vacuum the chair to remove any debris.
  • Dilute a small amount of washing up liquid in hot water and then soak your cloth in it.
  • Wring out the cloth until it is damp but not dripping and then wipe your cloth over your chair, using gentle pressure.
  • Start with the back of the chair and work down towards the cushion (take care not to get the cushion too wet because of the foam inner).
  • To clean the legs, once again dip your cloth into your soapy water and wring it out. Then wipe the legs and feet of the chair.
  • Allow your chair to air dry before you sit on it again: overnight would be ideal. 

02. How to clean a fabric office chair

How to clean an office chair: White fabric office chair

Fabric office chairs are the trickiest to clean (Image credit: Photo by Ksenia Chernaya from Pexels)

To clean a fabric office chair, you will need a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment, and a suitable cleaning solution. Which cleaning solution is best depends on exactly what fabric your chair is made from, and so it is best to consult the care instructions (sometimes found on a sticker on the underside of the chair, or available on the retailer's website). These instructions should tell you whether your chair can be cleaned with a water-based solution (usually denoted by a 'W'), or dry-cleaning solvents only (usually denoted by an 'S'). If you see 'SW' then you can use either of the two options, whilst 'X' means your chair can be dry-cleaned only. 

If your fabric office chair can be cleaned with a water-based cleaner, then you need look no further than simple dish soap and water, or you can opt for a shop-bought upholstery cleaner. Or, if you're looking to stay chemical-free, a homemade solution of lemon juice and baking soda will work.

How to clean an office chair with a water-based solution:

  • Vacuum the chair to remove any debris.
  • If you're making your own cleaner, mix six tablespoons of lemon juice and six of baking soda in a cup of warm water.
  • Otherwise, dilute your chosen upholstery cleaner or dish soap in hot water.
  • Soak your cloth and wring it out then gently dab your office chair. You might find it easier to use a sponge here.
  • To clean the legs you'll want to use soapy water and wipe over the legs and feet of your chair. If you're short on time, multi-surface wipes will also do the trick.
  • Allow your chair to air dry.

Some fabric office chairs can be damaged if you use a water-based solution and the water seeps under the fabric into the cushioning, so here you'll need to use a foam cleaner. Foam cleaners are sprayed on the chair and left for a few minutes. You can then use a sponge to rub the fabric to clean it, and vacuum it again once the chair has dried.

How to clean an office chair with a foam cleaner:

  • Vacuum the chair to remove any debris.
  • Spray your chosen foam cleaner over your chair until it is damp but not saturated, and leave for a few minutes (exact time depends on the product chosen).
  • Use a sponge to rub the foam cleaner into the fabric to clean it.
  • Once the chair has dried, vacuum it ensuring any foam cleaner residue is gone.

03. How to clean a leather office chair

How to clean an office chair: Woman sitting in a clean leather office chair

Leather chairs are easier to clean (Image credit: Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels)

Leather chairs are easier to clean because it's a simpler task to find the right cleaner. Most cleaners suitable for leather are called exactly that which makes them easy to spot, although you do want to avoid anything designed for car interior leather as that will likely be too strong for a leather office chair. 

The big difference with leather is that you want to apply the cleaner, most of which will be foam, to a dry cloth rather than directly to the chair. 

  • Vacuum the chair to remove any debris.
  • Spray your chosen leather cleaner onto a dry cloth and then work it into your chair to clean it.
  • Spray a small amount of warm water over the clean chair and use a clean cloth to wipe away any residue.
  • If this second cloth still looks dirty, repeat the process.
  • You can either allow the chair to air dry, or use a dishtowel to dry it yourself. 
  • For extra protection for your leather office chair, add a leather protectant.

03. How to clean a plastic office chair

How to clean an office chair: Boy sitting in a plastic chair

Plastic chairs are the quickest to clean (Image credit: Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels)

Plastic chairs are possibly the easiest type of chair to clean because you don't need to worry about whether the solution you're using could damage or stain the material, that you could over soak the material, and you don't need to wait for your chair to dry. Other than taking care not to over-soak the cushion of the chair, the method is the same of that used to clean a mesh office chair.

  • Vacuum the chair to remove any debris.
  • Dilute a small amount of washing up liquid in hot water and then soak your cloth in it.
  • Wipe your cloth all over your chair, including the legs and feet.
  • Dry your chair using an old towel or dish towel. 

04. How to keep your office chair clean

  • Avoid eating your lunch at your desk. We know it's tempting to eat lunch at your desk when you're busy or approaching a deadline, but this is asking to make a mess of your office chair. It also promotes wellbeing and productivity to step away from your screen and/or desk and have a proper break from concentrating on your work.
  • Clean spills as soon as they occur. The easiest way to prevent stains on your office chair is to clean up spills as soon as they occur. Dropped some soup or spilled your coffee? Dab (don't rub) the stain with a wet cloth as soon as you to prevent the spill from staining.
  • Protect your chair with a protector spray. To protect your chair from stains moving forward, once it is dry spray it with protector spray. There are different variants for fabric, suede and polished leathers.  

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