How to save these chairs?
February 14, 2020 3:23 AM   Subscribe

I bought a dining set online using IKEA delivery. It was a table I had seen in person and the chairs looked fine. But they are impossible to clean! Help me save these from the donation pile.

So not until the chairs were delivered and used did we realize they cannot be cleaned. The instructions on the IKEA website literally say "Do not wash. Do not bleach. Do not tumble dry. Do not iron. Do not dry clean."

Here's the rub. We have a 1-year old. After a month of use, these chairs are a MESS. I think the solution is to buy chair covers, but I'm striking out finding any made for that Ikea product or an option that would work for their round shape.

Is there anything I can do to salvage these chairs?
posted by neematoad to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would try car upholstery cleaner - the sort that's a foam that comes in an aerosol. That stuff is great at removing food from car seats, so might do the trick here. Test on an inconspicuous spot first, obviously.
posted by pipeski at 3:47 AM on February 14 [4 favorites]

Ok, I would test this on a small area on one chair, since it goes against the instructions. Spray a bit of Resolve carpet cleaner on a dirty spot. Let it penetrate for a few minutes. Have a bucket of clean warm water nearby, with a supply of clean rags. Wet the rags, wring them out to be just damp, not drippy and start dabbing the spot, working from the edges inward. Keep rinsing, replacing the rags as the dirt comes off. I would avoid scrubbing as this might mar the material, but the dabbing/blotting shouldn't do any damage. If this is going to work, you'll know right away.
If it does work, rinse and repeat...a lot!
Depending on your level of casual, you might be able to find round tablecloths for small tables and use them as covers on the chairs until your little one is past the food dropping stage.
posted by LaBellaStella at 3:59 AM on February 14

Would a green machine work? I mean it sounds like the chairs are already stained, what's the harm in trying a few ideas. Either they get clean, remain stained, or remain stained but in a new way. Just don't do anything that would shrink them.
posted by postel's law at 4:26 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

If you can get them clean, a fabric sealant might be in order. Not ScotchGuard, but something better. I use a product that I get from a local furniture chain that is oil-based and lasts longer than SG.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 4:52 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

If you don't know how to sew, you could get a local tailor (or someone on Etsy, etc) to make a cover fit to shape. Something in this slipper chair cover style might also fit closely enough to work.
posted by pinochiette at 4:54 AM on February 14

There are also covers that just partially drape over chairs (something like this or this) which might help with fit.
posted by pinochiette at 4:57 AM on February 14

After you, hopefully, get them clean, just do a tarp under the kiddo at mealtimes to save yourself from this going forward. Shower curtain under the booster seat would work...

Good luck, I'm betting you can get it clean with some of the normal methods for cleaning furniture (like those mentioned above) but it's just a matter of if the chair looks decent afterwards.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:46 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

Folex. Test in an inconspicous spot.

You can get stretchy spandex type material covers on amazon in a range of shapes & sizes. I'd buy one close enough & stretch it over.
posted by wwax at 6:39 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

Grab the Bissell that Wirecutter recommends. Every one of our friends who are parents has one and loves it: it's saved us so many times from toddler messes over the past 18 months that it's already more than paid for itself. We use it on our carpets and our upholstered furniture, including some nice upholstered dining room chairs that are similar to yours. It works great.
posted by kdar at 6:51 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]

I notice there is just one review on the website and it is 5 stars. I'd add your own review about how these are impossible to clean.
posted by soelo at 7:37 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]

I mean it sounds like the chairs are already stained, what's the harm in trying a few ideas.

Indeed. I mean, if IKEA gave instructions on the subject, I bet they'd also say "don't let 1 year olds grind food into these chairs," but that ship has sailed. You should certainly take some sort of measure to clean them up, instructions be damned.

I read the "Materials" section on that same website. The cushion padding is polyurethane foam and the fabric cover is a cotton / poly blend. Obviously you can wash the cover, it's basically like a cheap dress shirt. So if the cover comes off, toss it in the wash. Moreover, polyurethane foam is basically what synthetic sponges are made of, so that can certainly get soapy and wet, too. So if the cover doesn't come off, Google "how to clean polyurethane foam" and go nuts on the whole chairs and just set them off in a corner to dry for a couple days after.

The main thing to avoid is shrinking the cover which, in my understanding, means avoiding heat. If you use cold water and let them dry slowly at room temperature, you should be fine. Good luck!

(Also, having read the instructions a few times, they seem ambiguous to me. So many of the rules are not even applicable - tumble drying? Ironing? Dry cleaning? A chair? - that I wonder if the whole set is just kind of... a misunderstanding. Like, maybe it's telling you not to machine-wash the chair, which you weren't going to anyway. I wouldn't take that as a ban on any sort of washing whatsoever. Especially since the individual materials all seem amenable to washing.)
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 8:22 AM on February 14 [4 favorites]

On another note, i don't know how long it's been with your purchase, but you could try and see if returning them is still an option or see what customer service can do for you.
Here in Europe i have IKEA Family and they're VERY generous on their return policies. I have always brought stuff back in person though, no experience with online purchases.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 8:33 AM on February 14

Mr. BlahLaLa has converted me to the cult of Folex. I'd try that first (with the caveat that you've already stained the chairs so what do you have to lose).
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:17 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]

I'd give a go at cleaning the least-dirty of them, and then get some kind of cover for what will now be the kid's chair.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:51 AM on February 14

I agree that the instructions seem cut and pasted from some other product. I would look for an enzymatic cleaner. I like this one from Puracy. There are instructions for using it on "fabrics you cannot put in the washing machine". Test in an inconspicuous area first of course.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:29 PM on February 14

Folex is pretty amazing and worth a try for sure.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:55 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]

Thanks everyone. The Folex worked GREAT. The chairs don't look new, but close enough and now I have an ongoing cleaning solution that makes sense.
posted by neematoad at 6:32 AM on March 3 [3 favorites]

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