How to clean an office chair – must know tips

Your office chair is probably one of the most used items in your office. For that reason, knowing how to clean an office chair is certainly a game-changer that will benefit you in the long run. I guarantee you that it’s a skill that you will use repeatedly, especially when you discover how much bacteria your office chair is harbouring.

It’s likely that over time dust, spills of tea or coffee, food stains from eating al desko, or even ink spills can occur and can cause the chair to look a bit dirty.

That’s not a look that you want to present in a professional environment, or any environment for that matter. If you’re anything like me, then that stain will probably catch your eye every single time that you go to sit down.

How to clean an office chair - Plastic seats stains

Hair, hair, everywhere…

From a functionality perspective, the wheels on the chair can become stiff or even stuck due to build-up of dirt, food and who knows what else. Let’s not forget the bane of everyone’s existence, yes entangled hairs! How they even get entwined in some areas, I’ll never know!

But what’s living on your office chair will most definitely disgust you…

Did you know? There have been reports revealing that a staggering 21,000 germs per square inch exist on chairs. Such bacteria include Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Norovirus; these can be attributed to causing serious sickness and workplace absenteeism.

Even from a hygiene perspective, it’s important to clean down an office chair on a regular basis so that germs and bacteria sitting on the surface can be removed. This is particularly pertinent if you share an office chair with others.

So, if we do live at our office for 8+ hours a day, and we even have adopted practices of eating at our desks, then surely we need to take the time to properly clean the area? I certainly wouldn’t like to eat in an office chair which harbours over 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat… I’m guessing you’re probably the same?

Fortunately for you, I’m going to share with you some simple, yet highly effective tips below to turn your office chair from a manky, bacteria-infested haven to a spotless seat that looks like new.

Read on and you will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to properly clean your chair without causing damage to the material or upholstery. Or worse yet, making the spill or stain bigger. After all, the last thing you want is to damage the material of your chair or have a nasty bleach stain if the cleaning agent reacts poorly with the material.

How to clean an office chair - Bacteria blue

Equipment for cleaning an office chair

By no means do you need to be a professional cleaner to make your office chair spotless. However, armouring yourself with some of the basic cleaning essentials can be the difference between making the stain disappear and causing it to spread all over the chair.

  • Dry cloths
  • Water based cleaning agent, e.g. washing up liquid/dish soap
  • Vacuum with brush attachment
  • Cleaning foam
How to clean an office chair - Person pouring soap onto sponge

Cleaning agents for cleaning an office chair

Before applying the first cleaning agent that you find in your cupboard, it’s important to firstly check the instructions on your chair for a description of the cleaning agents that are suited to the fabric. These are usually denoted by a letter or 2 letter cleaning codes; below is a breakdown of the different types that are typically used:

  • “C” crypton cleaning, such as a powdered enzyme detergent or crypton cleaner agent
  • “S” solvent or water free product, e.g. dry-cleaning solvent
  • “SW” or “WS” water based or dry-cleaning products should be used
  • “W” water-based cleaning agents, e.g. dish soap
  • “X” to be professionally cleaned

Tip: with any cleaning agent, always complete a patch test in an inconspicuous area to determine if it is suitable for the fabric. Nobody wants to have to deal with the nightmare of a good office chair which becomes completely destroyed by a chemical reacting with the chair material, especially if you don’t even own it!

How to clean an office chair - Variety of cleaning agents

Cleaning office chair debris and dust

The first step of cleaning any chair should involve removing any visible solids or pieces of dust or food that may be present on the chair. You can do this by using a paper towel and picking them up. Alternatively, you can vacuum them off with a brush attachment. Be careful not to rub the solids into the chair as this may cause further staining or even scratching. Continue doing this until all of the debris has been removed.

With the brush attachment on the vacuum, ensure that the suction isn’t too strong as this may damage the upholstery. Gently rub the brush over the chair, arms, backrest and legs until all the dust and debris has been removed. You may need to go over these areas with a damp cloth to effectively remove all of the dust.

How to clean an office chair - Person cleaning with cloth

Cleaning office chair stains

If a stain does occur, the best course of action is to act immediately to remove the stain and try to prevent it from seeping into the material or drying out. Acting quickly also makes it easier to clean up the stain; for this, you may only need a damp cloth to blot the area.

Dab at the stain to remove it and avoid rubbing motions as this may make the stain spread or may damage the material. This typically takes a number of attempts before the stain is completely removed, so you may need to be patient. You should see the stain gradually disappearing after a few minutes.

A good practice is to wash out the cloth a number of times and start fresh so that the cloth doesn’t hold any stains and transfer them back onto the chair.

Tip: rotate the cloth to different sides or even different sections so that a clean part of the cloth is constantly being used; this will save you having to wash the cloth as frequently too.

How to clean an office chair - Tea spilled on table

How to clean different office chair materials


Since fabric chairs can vary in terms of materials, it’s particularly important to check the manufacturer cleaning instructions to determine which types of cleaning agents are suitable for the chair.

With some fabrics, water-based cleaning agents are unsuitable. This should be denoted in the manufacturers cleaning instructions by the letter “S”. In these scenarios, a dry cleaner or a water free solvent is the best solution to apply. These are often available in both liquid and powder forms.

Apply a small amount of the dry cleaner to a dry cloth. To remove any stains, rub the area with the cloth gently but firmly. Once the stain has been removed, use a damp cloth to remove any residual stains. Avoid using a wet cloth as this will seep into the material.

If the chair allows for water-based cleaners to be used, e.g. 100% polyester chairs, there are a number of options available to you. The simplest solution is to use washing up liquid with water.

Mix a few drops of washing up liquid with a water and dab at the stain. Rinse any excess soap with a damp cloth and ensure that no residue is left.

Tip: never pour the cleaning agent directly onto the chair. Always apply it to the cloth first and then use the cloth on to the chair.

How to clean an office chair - Green fabric chair


In one way, leather chairs are an ideal fabric as they tend to repel water as opposed to absorbing it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t preclude it from needing to be cleaned. The type of leather that you have on your chair will determine the best way to clean it.

Use a cloth that won’t leave any lint or dirt behind. While gentle rubbing of the material is generally acceptable, avoid scrubbing as this may damage the leather. A good rule of thumb is to wipe the chair on a weekly basis.

If the leather needs a deeper clean, mix a few drops of soap with a cup of water (approximately 240 ml). Gently rub the stain until it is gone but do not scrub at it.

Use a clean, dump lint free cloth to give a final wipe down to the chair once the cleaning has been completed.

Tip: leather protectors and leather conditioners are products available which can help to revitalise the appearance and even extend the life of your leather office chair; they may also help to keep your leather looking fresher and newer for longer. Some leather protector creams even boast the ability to repel oil, water, ink and alcohol-based stains too.

How to clean an office chair - Brown leather office chair


Mesh components of a chair are typically located in the back rest, and as such generally don’t need as much cleaning as they tend to avoid stains compared to the seat base. That said, the mesh will occasionally need a touch of cleaning to brighten it up and remove any dust.

To clean mesh material, use warm soap and water and gently dab at the areas that needs to be cleaned. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing mesh as this can cause it to fray.

How to clean an office chair - Grey mesh office chair at desk


Plastic chairs are generally a robust and easy to clean option when it comes to sure materials. To clean plastic chairs, use a soft cloth or brush to remove any debris. Detergent (such as washing up liquid) mixed with water is typically effective at removing the majority of stains from plastic chairs.

When you are finished cleaning, wipe down the chair with a clean cloth and remove any remaining detergent or streaks.

Tip: be careful not to trap any debris in your cloth when you are cleaning plastic chairs as this may cause scratching. Also, avoid using abrasive cleaning materials, such as scouring pads, as this may also scratch the surface.

How to clean an office chair - Plastic white office chair at desk


Some chairs are fitted with wooden components, such as the arms which feature some beautiful accents to highlight the natural beauty of the wood. With wooden components, it is important to take measures to prevent scratching or staining of the wood.

Firstly, wipe down the wooden components with a soft cloth dampened with furniture polish. Avoid using soap on wood as it can cause the grain to rise, making it feel rough to touch.

If spills or stains do occur, clean them up as soon as possible to prevent staining; the best approach to this is to blot the area as opposed to rubbing or scrubbing it.

Tip: once you have chosen a furniture polish, avoid swapping between types and brands. This helps to eliminate the risk of chemicals reacting with each other on the wood surface.

How to clean an office chair - Wooden chair

How to clean office chair wheels

If your chair has wheels, and you are located in an area which generates dust or even hair (people with long hair – you know the struggle!), this can accumulate in the components of the wheels. If left too long unattended, it can affect the functioning of the castors, and in the worst case scenarios, it can even stop them from moving.

When cleaning office chair wheels, it’s often easier to turn the chair upside down and remove the wheels so that they can be thoroughly cleaned.

Some wheels can simply be removed by pulling them off, while in other chairs, you may need a screwdriver to unscrew them.

If there is a large amount of debris stuck to the wheels, this may need to be scraped off using a butter knife or instrument which will not cause damage to the wheels.

Hairs can commonly become intertwined in the wheels as well, particularly if you’re a person with long hair. Cut the hairs and pull them out with a tweezers, or even your fingers if you don’t have a tweezers available to hand.

Wipe down the wheels with a cloth once all the debris and hair has been removed. A damp cloth with some mild detergent may help to remove any outstanding stains; it also helps to remove any dust present on the surface.

If you need to clean inside the crevices of the wheel and the plastic, a cotton swab dampened could be used to get at those hard to reach areas.

Finally, dry off the wheels with a paper towel or with a dry cloth and ensure that any streaks are that present are removed. Reattach the wheels and repeat with the other casters. You should find that the wheels roll more smoothly now, especially if there was a significant degree of hair are dirt accumulation.

How to clean an office chair - Mesh office chair at desk

How to clean office chair arms and legs

These components are typically comprised of plastic or metal, so fortunately, they can easily be cleaned, typically with just a damp cloth. If a stain tends to persist, a small dab of a cloth with a few drops of washing up liquid on the stain may help to remove it.

How to clean an office chair - Person spraying cleaning solution on cloth


I hope you found this article useful and you learned some valuable tips and techniques along the way. I know I for one certainly didn’t realize that certain materials could not be cleaned by just simply using soap and water. I was also horrified by the amount of bacteria that live on a square inch of my office chair.

Now that you’ve become more familiar with the various components of your chair, why not take us a step further and learn how to adjust an office chair? You will probably be shocked by the amount of injuries search are attributed to office work and could be prevented by setting up your office chair correctly. I know by following these tips myself, I have definitely alleviated some back pain, which is something that absolutely nobody wants to suffer from.

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions. What do you use to clean your office chair? Do you have any tricks to keep it clean? Please post your thoughts and comments below.

How to clean an office chair - Pink rubber gloves

Sources’s a staggering 21,000 germs,than the average toilet seat.


With years of both professional and first-hand experience in office equipment and work settings, I now want to help you avoid making mistakes that countless others do. Whether you're studying or working from home, this site will help you create the ultimate haven for working safely, comfortably and productively in!

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