As an office worker, you probably know the importance of using a comfortable and ergonomic office chair. It will allow you to work at your desk or cubicle for long periods of time without stressing your spine. Statistics show that up to 38% of office workers will experience back pain in any given year. Using a high-quality office chair, however, you’ll minimize stress on your spine and, therefore, protect yourself from back pain. But if you’re going to invest in a high-quality office chair, you’ll need to clean and maintain it.
Vacuum Dust and Debris
Once every few weeks, clean your office chair using the wand attachment of a vacuum cleaner. Assuming the wand attachment has a smooth surface, it should suction up most particulate matter without harming your office chair. Just turn the vacuum cleaner to a “low suction” setting, after which you can run the wand attachment across the seat, backrest and armrests.
Regardless of what type of office chair you own, vacuuming it on a regular basis will help extend its useful life. The wand attachment will suction stubborn dust and debris that could otherwise degrade your office chair and send it to an early grave.
Look for an Upholstery Tag
If you haven’t done so already, look for an upholstery tag on your office chair. Although there are exceptions, most office chairs have an upholstery tag. Also known as a care tag or care label, it features instructions from the manufacturer on how to clean the office chair. Different office chairs are made of different fabrics, so you’ll need to check the upholstery tag to determine the safest, most effective way to clean them.
You can usually find the upholstery tag underneath the seat of an office chair. Once you’ve located it, check to see whether it contains a cleaning code. Cleaning codes consist of one or two letters that reflect the best way to clean the office chair’s fabric.
Here’s a breakdown of the different cleaning codes used in upholstery tags and their corresponding definition:
- W: The most common cleaning code used in upholstery tags, W means the office chair should be cleaned with water or a water-based product.
- S: If the upholstery tag has the S cleaning code, you’ll need to clean your office chair with a water-free solvent. Office chairs made of organic fabrics like cotton, wool or rayon may damage when exposed to water, which is why manufacturers generally recommend the use of a water-free solvent.
- W/S: As you may have guessed, the W/S cleaning code indicates that the office chair can be cleaned using either a water-based product or a solvent.
- X: Finally, the X cleaning code means the office chair should be cleaned by vacuuming or brushing only. Using a water-based cleaning product or a solvent may damage your office chair if it features this cleaning code.
In the event your office chair doesn’t have an upholstery tag, you can check the owner’s manual for instructions on how to clean your office chair. If an office chair doesn’t have an upholstery tag, it should come with an owner’s manual featuring similar cleaning and maintenance instructions.
Spot Clean Using Soap and Warm Water
Unless otherwise stated on the upholstery tag – or in the owner’s manual – you can spot clean your office chair using soap and warm water. If you discover a superficial smudge or blemish on your office chair, blot the stained area with a damp washcloth, along with a small amount of liquid soap, until it comes clean.
You don’t need to use any special type of soap to clean your office chair. Just use a gentle-formula dish soap. After running a clean washcloth under running water, place a few drops of dish soap on it. Next, blot – don’t scrub – the stained area or areas of your office chair. Blotting is important because it will pull the stain-causing compounds out of the fabric. If you scrub the stain, you’ll inadvertently work the stain-causing compounds deeper into the fabric. So, remember to blot your office chair when spot cleaning it.
Test Stain-Removing Products in a Discreet Area
While soap and warm water should make quick work of superficial stains on an office chair, you’ll need a stronger cleaning solution for stubborn stains. There are a variety of stain-removing products available on the market, many of which contain powerful cleaning chemicals. But if you’re thinking about using one of these products, you should test it in a discreet area of your office chair.
Don’t just apply the stain-removing product to your entire office chair. Rather, test it in a discreet area that’s difficult to see. Doing so allows you to see how the product affects your office chair. You can test a stain-removing product underneath the seat of your office chair, for example. Hopefully this doesn’t happen, but if the product leaves a permanent stain, it won’t be visible.
Whether you’re planning to use a store-bought stain-removing product on your office chair or a natural stain-removing product, such as vinegar, you should test in a discreet area. As long as the product doesn’t damage or permanently alter the fabric, you can proceed to it elsewhere on your office chair.
Apply Conditioner to Leather
If you have a leather office chair, you should condition it once every few months to prevent it from drying out. There are different types of leather, some of which includes full grain, corrected grain and split. Full-grain leather is the highest quality, whereas corrected grain is the second-highest quality. All types of natural leather, however, have a porous surface that’s able to absorb and hold moisture.
If you inspect natural leather under a microscope, you’ll see countless holes on the surface. Also known as pores, these holes are responsible for keeping the leather moist. As moisture settles on the surface of a leather office chair, it will sink into its pores, thereby preventing the leather from drying out. Over time, however, moisture will evaporate from the pores. If left unaddressed, the leather will then peel or even crack open.
You can protect your leather office chair from such damage by applying a conditioner to it. Leather conditioners like mink oil and saddle soap are designed to hydrate leather. They contain water, as well as other ingredients, that hydrate and protect leather from dryness-related damage. When you apply a conditioner to your leather office chair, you’ll hydrate it so that it doesn’t dry out.
Here are some other tips on how to maintain a leather office chair:
- Use caution to ensure that you don’t spill any beverages or other liquids on your leather office chair.
- Maintain a relative humidity of 40% to 55% in your office. If the humidity is lower than 40%, your leather office chair may dry out. If it’s higher than 55%, on the other hand, it may become saturated with an excess amount of moisture.
- Don’t condition your leather office chair more than once every few months. Over-conditioning leather will saturate it with too much moisture.
- Consider using a leather protectant product. Not to be confused with conditioners, protectants are designed to add a protective layer over the surface of leather.
- Don’t place your leather office chair directly in front of a heater or air vent.
Clean and Lubricate Casters
If your office chair has casters, you’ll need to clean and lubricate them to keep the chair rolling smoothly. Casters are the housing units in which an office chair’s wheels are mounted. The wheels themselves are made of a variety of materials, some of which include plastic, rubber, steel, aluminum, cast iron and polyurethane. In comparison, the housing units are almost always made of some type of metal.
New office chairs typically roll smoothly and with little or no resistance. But if you’ve been using the same office chair for a year or longer, you may struggle to roll it across the floor because of debris buildup inside the casters.
To clean the casters, flip your office chair upside down and pull out any lint, hair or debris from inside the wheel housing units. You can also use a vacuum cleaner to suction excess debris out of the casters, or you can use canned air to blast debris out of the casters.
After thoroughly cleaning the casters on your office chair, apply a lubricant like WD-40. Just spray a small amount of lubricant into each housing unit, at which point your office chair should roll more smoothly. Try to get into the habit of cleaning and lubricate the casters on your office chair at least once every six months.
Of course, you should also inspect and tighten the fasteners on your office chair as well. Whether your office chair features screws or bolts (or both), they may come loose if you don’t tighten them on a regular basis. And if a fastener is loose, your office chair won’t be stable.
Refer to the owner’s manual to identify the location of all fasteners. Some office chairs only have a few fasteners, whereas others have dozens of fasteners. After identifying the location of your office chair’s fasteners, use a screwdriver to tighten them.
To tighten a fastener, turn the screwdriver to the right. You can loosen a fastener, on the other hand, by turning it to the left. An easy way to remember which direction to turn a fastener is “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.”
Replace Gas Cylinder
Does your office chair sink back down to the floor immediately after you raise it? If so, you may need to replace the gas cylinder. Adjustable-height office chairs typically feature a gas cylinder that’s responsible for creating pneumatic lift. Inside this cylinder is pressurized nitrogen gas that’s able to lift and hold the office chair at an elevated height.
If the gas cylinder on your office chair is leaking or otherwise faulty, you won’t be able to raise it. The good news is that you can easily replace most gas cylinders. Just flip your office chair upside down, use a screwdriver to remove the current gas cylinder and replace it with a new gas cylinder of the same size and type. Once installed, try raising your office chair to see if the new gas cylinder works.
Keep Away From Direct Sunlight
It’s a good idea to keep your office chair away from direct sunlight. Ultraviolet (UV) sunlight can degrade most fabrics and materials, including those used in the construction of office chairs. It doesn’t happen overnight. But if an office chair is exposed to direct sunlight for a prolonged period, it may fade and dry out.
You don’t have to work in a pitch-black office to protect your office chair from sun-related damage. Instead, consider placing your office chair in an area that’s mostly shaded during the day. You can also adjust the blinds or curtains so that they are only partially closed, thereby restricting the amount of sunlight to which your office chair is exposed. By taking these simple precautions, you can rest assured knowing that your office chair won’t fade or dry out due to sun exposure.
Replace When Necessary
Even with regular cleaning and maintenance, you may still need to replace your office chair. According to one report, the average life expectancy of an office chair is between seven to 15 years. If your office chair is damaged or degraded beyond the point of repair, you should go ahead and replace it.
A high-quality office chair made by a reputable brand should come with a warranty. If any of the components break during the warranty period, the manufacturer will pay to repair or replace it. Always look for a warranty when purchasing an office chair, as this indicates the manufacturer is confident in its product.
After investing in a new office chair, though, remember to follow these cleaning and maintenance tips. Doing so will help protect it from premature failure. At the same time, a well-maintained office chair will provide you with a superior level of comfort when working.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.