How to Clean a Headboard

June 26, 2023 | Casper Editorial Team

Although headboards come in many styles, few of them strike quite the same balance of style, comfort, and practicality as an upholstered headboard. This tasteful variety serves as an eye-catching centerpiece that elevates the interior design of any bedroom without sacrificing support or softness during your before-bed TV watching or reading.

Regular dusting, spot cleaning, and stain removal are important if you want to keep your headboard looking as good as new. Keep reading for everything you need to know about getting the job done.

Fabric Headboards: What To Know Before You Clean

Before we dive into our step-by-step guide on how to clean fabric headboard styles, there are a few details we should go over. In most cases, giving your fabric headboard a thorough clean isn’t rocket science—far from it. 

That said, going in with a comprehensive understanding of the project can make it as easy as getting a good night’s sleep on a comfortable, supportive Casper mattress. Here’s what you should know before you clean an upholstered headboard (trust us, it’ll save you the headache of explaining those unsightly splotches to your partner later on).

Why Should You Clean Fabric Headboards?

An upholstered headboard is a statement-making feature of your bedroom decor. And by keeping it clean, you ensure that it always makes the right statement—more of a “look how I tie the room together” than a “please, look away, I don’t want you to see me like this.”

But how do headboards get dirty in the first place?

  • Contact with skin and hair – While you’re reading or watching TV before bed and while you’re sleeping through the night, you make regular contact with your headboard (more so if you’re a chronic tosser and turner). This leaves behind sweat, skin and hair oils, and residue from cosmetics, moisturizers, and hair products. 
  • Dust and detritus – Just like any other piece of furniture, your headboard is likely to accumulate dust that circulates through your room. It’s also the likely haven of loose strands of your own hair as well as pet fur and dander if you share your cozy bed with furry friends.
  • Germs and bacteria – Basically everything mentioned above also contributes to the growth of germs, bacteria, and other microorganisms that need to be dealt with during regular cleaning.

How Often Do Fabric Headboards Need to Be Cleaned?

While there are no hard and fast guidelines for how often you should clean fabric headboards, there are some conventional “rules” floating around. Many will tell you to give your headboard a seriously thorough cleaning using a fabric-safe cleaning agent at least once a month.

On the other hand, you should remove dust from your headboard more frequently—about once per week—using a vacuum with an upholstery attachment. This helps prevent serious buildup that will more likely leave you sneezing rather than ZZZing.

It’s also recommended that you steam clean your fabric headboard once or twice a year. In addition to monthly deep cleaning, this can help eliminate odors and bacteria, and mold growth. 

What Should You Use to Clean Fabric Headboards?

Determining the best fabric cleaner to use on your upholstered headboard mostly depends on the fabric it’s made of. Headboards come in a range of textiles, including:

  • Wool
  • Linen
  • Suede
  • Velvet
  • Leather

But even among fabric types, individual brands may have their own suggestions and stipulations. For that reason, you should always check the manufacturer’s instructions for the most accurate information on how to clean a fabric headboard for the first time.

The good news is that most manufacturers make that information easily accessible on the product tag. In most cases, they use a simple code system to indicate the proper way to clean the headboard.

Here’s how to decipher those seemingly perplexing letters:

  • A “W” indicates that water-based cleaners are safe to use
  • An “S” indicates that the headboard should only be dry-cleaned
  • A “W/S” indicates that either water-based or water-free cleaners are safe
  • An “X” means cleaning should be limited to regular vacuuming

If the tag on your headboard is labeled “W,” you have a few options for cleaning agents. The most popular are fabric cleaners, mild dish soaps, and detergents, or baking soda. You’ll need a few other supplies as well, so be sure to grab the following items before you begin:

  • Vacuum cleaner with upholstery attachment
  • Two clean cloths or sponges
  • A bowl or bucket of warm water 

Once you’ve figured out how to clean an upholstered headboard safely and gathered the necessary supplies, you’re ready to begin. Just follow these five simple steps for how to clean an upholstered headboard so that it smells fresh, looks great, and lasts for years. 

#1 Clear Away Dust & Debris

First things first, remove any dust, hair, or other matter that may be stuck on or in the fabric. The easiest way to do this is to use a vacuum cleaner with a brush or upholstery attachment.

It’s important to vacuum thoroughly, especially with more porous fabric types. At the same time, take care to vacuum gently and without too much pressure so you can avoid damaging the fabric.

#2 Tackle Tough Stains

After vacuuming, closely examine the headboard to see if there are any distinct, visible stains—if so, you’ll want to spot-clean those areas before performing the full cleaning process.

To spot-clean noticeable stubborn stains, dip a clean cloth or sponge into your cleaner of choice, then wring it out so that it’s wet but not dripping. Blot the stain gently to remove it, then, using a clean sponge with clean water only, blot the area again to remove the excess liquid. 

#3 Clean the Headboard Upholstery

With dusting done and all stubborn stains struck from the record, it’s time to clean the rest of the headboard. For this step, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • Cleaning solution
  • Sponge
  • A tiny bit of elbow grease 

Begin by submerging the entire soft cloth or sponge in the cleaning solution. Just like in step two, be sure to wring it out so that it isn’t dripping. Then, beginning at the top of the headboard and working toward the bottom, rub the upholstery fabric, applying minimal pressure. 

For Leather Headboards 

If your headboard is upholstered in leather, you’ll want to leave the laundry detergent and other harsh cleaning agents in the closet.

Instead, you have a few options:

  • Use saddle soap, made especially for leather products, to give your headboard a deeper clean. If this isn’t a household product for you, that’s perfectly okay. The other options will still do the trick.
  • Create a simple water-and-soap mixture. Look for a relatively mild dish soap or hand soap that includes a moisturizing agent to prevent the leather from drying out. 
  • Make a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water, then apply it to the piece with a microfiber cloth.

#4 Clear Away Excess Soap

After cleaning the upholstery, you may notice that you’ve left behind residual cleaner. Go ahead and clear this away using a clean sponge or soft cloth, lightly dampened with clean water. Once the suds are gone, you can start to sop up any remaining water with a dry cloth. Your headboard will still need time to dry, but you can cut down the waiting time but absorbing as much of the excess water as possible.

#5 Let It Dry 

Drying times are likely to vary depending on the amount of leftover moisture and the specific fabric type. For example, dense, thick fabrics like wool or suede may take up to a day to dry thoroughly, while linen dries much more quickly. The humidity of your room can even play a role, so consider running a dehumidifier or AC unit if you have one.

Letting your headboard air dry is one option, but if you’re eager to jump back into your cozy bed as soon as humanly possible, you can also run a fan on low to medium to speed up the drying process. 

Although it might be tempting to bust out a hairdryer and go inch-by-inch across your upholstered headboard, we advise against it. By sticking to air-drying or fan-drying, you won’t risk shrinking the fabric and distorting the beauty of your headboard.

For Leather Headboards

After you’ve cleaned and dried your leather headboard, use a clean, dry cloth to buff it thoroughly before applying any polishes. 

Give Your Bedroom A Makeover With Casper  

Keeping a headboard clean is a relatively easy task. For most, the style and comfort that comes with an upholstered piece are well worth the occasional half-hour spent with a washcloth and spot-cleaner in hand. If you’re looking to attach a headboard to your bedframe, you have several quality options to choose from. 

Whether you want a modern attachable headboard to improve your aesthetic without replacing your furniture or a fully upholstered bed frame that comes complete with a cushioned headboard, you can switch up your style with ease and enjoy the results for years to come.

Now that you know how to clean upholstered headboard types, you have nothing to worry about—except which color suits your bedroom best.


Fantastic Services. Expert Tips: How to Properly Clean Your Upholstered Headboard. 

Apartment Therapy. How To Read Upholstery Cleaning Codes.