Linen Fabric for Upholstery

Linen Fabric BenefitsLinen is a very popular choice for upholstery for many reasons, but there are many downsides to this material that may not be immediately apparent to the average person. Today, I’ll be informing you of both the upsides and downsides of linen as a material and providing advice on how to get the best of both worlds and how to spot-treat linen when accidents do happen.

Hi, my name is Katie! I’m from Raleigh, North Carolina, with two dogs and two kids, so to say that I’m well-versed in messes and stains is a bit of an understatement. I’ve learned many tips and tricks that make cleaning everything from massive disasters to tiny spills incredibly easy, and my goal is to share this knowledge with you so you can handle these issues when they arise.

Without further adieu, let’s get into the pros and cons of linen upholstery and how to spot-treat it.


There are many advantages to line upholstery. For one, it looks beautiful. From the sometimes visible weave of the fivers to the wide array of colors and patterns available, it’s no wonder why people love it for their couches, chairs, and more.

Another upside to linen is its performance. It’s highly durable thanks to the flexible fibers and may become even softer when cleaned, which makes linen slipcovers incredibly appealing for some people.

Linen is also water-resistant, so it can come in contact with quite a bit of water before feeling damp or wet. This is because the fabric releases oil when it comes into contact with moisture. As a result, it will stay drier than other fabric types when accidents happen, giving you a bit more time to react. 

These are just a few of the benefits of linen. However, linen isn’t perfect and ultimately has many downsides that must also be considered.


One of the disadvantages of linen is the very same thing that I said was an advantage earlier: it’s water-resistant. The oil that is released when the fabric contacts moisture can create cellulosic browning. While this can be reversed sometimes, it can be difficult to do so on your own, especially if the linen on your furniture is built-in instead of a slipcover. 

Despite being water-resistant, linen isn’t stain-resistant. If pure water is spilled on this fabric, you have a bit more time to deal with it than other fabrics, such as cotton, but it will stain just as fast as if any other liquid is spilled. This then compounds another issue linen has: it can’t be bleached. Bleaching linen can discolor and weaken the fabric, making it less resistant to damage (and ruining its durability) and potentially ruining it. 

All of these factors combined lead me to my final con and personal recommendation: linen may not be the best fabric choice if you have children or pets. As mentioned earlier, I have two dogs and two kids, so I understand how messy children and pets can be. This natural chaos does not mix well with linen’s other cons. 

That being said, it isn’t impossible to spot-treat linen when accidents happen, but it may be more difficult if you’re unaware of its properties.

Linen Upholstery Spot Cleaning

Spot-treating linen upholstery isn’t impossible, though it can be difficult to do correctly if you’re unaware of linen’s properties.


Be sure to keep these materials on hand if you choose to have line furniture in your home:

  • Spray bottle filled with water
  • White towels and washcloths
  • Spot cleaner designed for linen

When something is spilled on linen, you must act quickly and lightly dampen the entire stain area. It doesn’t need to be soaking wet, just wet enough to bind and catch the stain before it absorbs into the fabric. The best way to achieve this is to fill a spray bottle with water and lightly mist the stained area.

Then, use a white towel or washcloth to soak up the water and the stain before they can settle into the fabric. Optionally, you can also gently work in a spot cleaner, though this must be done carefully. If the cleaner is too aggressive or has a high pH (meaning it is basic as opposed to acidic), it will discolor the spot and may even remove some of the color from it.


Watch the following video to hear me explain some of the pros and cons of linen and see an example of what to avoid during spot treatment:



When Professionals May Be Necessary

If the stain sets in too deeply, you accidentally use the wrong cleaner, or the cellulosic browning on your linen upholstery is starting to affect the furniture’s appearance negatively, it may be time to contact a professional. Professional cleaners can not only dry clean and stain treat your linen furniture to make it look as good as new, but they can also salvage your furniture if color loss has occurred. 

To do so, they will attempt to clean it and potentially lighten other areas of the furniture to make the damaged spots more inconspicuous. Linen can be difficult to properly take care of sometimes, especially when it is built into the furniture, so don’t be afraid to contact a professional cleaner when it starts to look too dirty, no matter how well you clean it.

While linen is pretty, it can be difficult to keep up this appearance if you have pets or children or when cleaning up spills. If you think you can handle the challenges that linen poses, then go for it. However, there are many alternative fabrics that can provide the same beauty and performance while being a bit easier to handle. 

Ultimately, the decision is up to you. One thing will always be true, however: if you need spot-cleaning advice, you can always count on Katie on the Spot to deliver.


Happy Spotting!