Clean, Phase 1: This is the phase where you cross your fingers and hope that a simple solution is all that's needed. If your furniture can be cleaned with water, mix a little dish soap with cool water, and using a wrung out sponge blot the stain with the soap mixture. Take care not to rub at the stain, at this point it's unlikely that the stain will set in deeper, but rubbing can weaken and pill your fabric. Rinse the sponge and use just water to blot out some of the soap mixture. Press dry with a cloth or paper towels. If your furniture cannot be cleaned with water, use vinegar or vodka on a cloth to blot the stains. The smell of both vinegar and vodka will disappear when the area is dry.
Clean, Phase 2: Time to go heavy duty and break out the cleaners. Any cleaner you choose to use should be spot tested in a discrete place on the piece of furniture. Some people swear by Resolve, or Tuff Stuff, and Jenny Komenda of Little Green Notebook has had some truly remarkable results with Folex. I'm fortunate that my stains came out without having to venture into this territory, but on several separate occasions when an entire glass of red wine or a mug of hot coffee has spilled Wine Away has been a real life saver. It managed to entirely remove red wine stains (caused by an unfortunately placed glass being flung across the room by an exuberant hand gesture) from the two brand-new cream side chairs in my living room.
Repeat: If your stain has survived this entire cleaning process, you are dealing with one stubborn stain. As exhausting—and possibly irritating—as the process can be, doing it all over again can give you the result you're looking for. The previously mentioned wine on white chairs situation took two full passes before the stains came out. I really thought when I entered Phase 2 for the second time that there was no way these stains were going anywhere, but perseverance paid off and the stains disappeared!
Celebrate: The seemingly impossible to remove set-in stain has been conquered! Hooray! Feel free to share your accomplishments with friends, so long as you offer to help out if they ever have need of your stain removing powers.
Prepare: Just in case a spill happens in the future that you can take care of immediately, here are some tips and tricks for how to spot clean upholsterystains that have just happened.