How to Clean & Disinfect Church Pews: A Complete Guide

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: June 30, 2020

Your church’s pews regularly fill with members attending worship services. The central church seating welcomes guests to special events and celebrations. Taking care of the pews in your church is one of the most important jobs involved in keeping your religious facility looking its best.

Concerns for sanctuary benches are two-fold. In addition to regular maintenance, you need to know how to clean church pews and how to disinfect the benches and cushions.

Based on our years of professional experience cleaning religious facilities in Chicago, IL and the suburbs, we’ve developed this guide for ensuring the cleanliness and good health of the pews in your church.

Best Church Pew Cleaning Routines

vacuuming church pews

Most facility directors schedule deep cleaning for church pews once a month. It’s also a good idea to routinely clean and polish church pews before and after each service or special event. Follow these best practices for routine pew cleaning.

  • Develop a church cleaning checklist that includes regular pew maintenance.
  • Keep pews wiped down with wood cleaners and soft cloths.
  • Freshen up cushions with lint rollers, and check for signs of wear.
  • Use nozzle vacuum attachments to clean behind, between and under cushions.

How to Deep Clean Church Pews

Deep cleaning church furniture involves two steps: cleaning dirt from surfaces, and then disinfecting surfaces. Bleach isn’t a good agent for the job because it’s only meant for use on nonporous materials.

This guide offers safe cleaning and disinfecting options for wooden pews and fabric cushions. Be sure to wear disposable gloves during the sanitizing process, and wash hands immediately after finishing.

Cleaning Wooden Church Pews

wooden church pews in chicago il
Image: Michael Coghlan via Flickr / CC by SA 2.0

1. Identify Wood Finish Type

Dab a small amount of boiled linseed oil on a hidden portion of the wood. If it beads up, you’re dealing with a hard finish. If the surface absorbs the oil, the pew has an oil finish.

2. Use Mild Detergent on Hard Finishes

Mix 1 tablespoon of mild household detergent with 3 gallons of water. Use the solution to wipe down hard-finished wood. You can also use spray cleaners formulated for hard finishes.

3. Triple-Clean Oil Finishes

Using the same detergent mix, scrub oil finished surfaces with a soft cloth. Rinse with a second cloth as you continue to scrub. Carefully dry with a third soft cloth. Repeat the procedure, and overlap previously washed areas.

Disinfecting Wooden Church Pews

1. Mix a Sanitizing Solution

Mix 1 cup of white vinegar with 1 cup of water. Add 5 drops of mild dish soap, and blend thoroughly. White vinegar acts as an effective disinfecting agent.

2. Wipe Wood Surfaces

Dampen a clean cloth with the sanitizing solution, and wipe down all wood pew surfaces. Be careful not to saturate the wood. Don’t allow drips to accumulate in crevices.

3. Dry With a Clean Cloth

Use fresh cloths to remove excess moisture as you give pews a last polish. Repeat as needed to ensure proper drying. Dispose of cleaning and sanitizing cloths when done.

Cleaning Church Pew Cushions

church pew fabric

1. Check Fabric Type

Check labels on pew cushions for fabric type and special cleaning instructions. You can also visit the church seating manufacturer’s website for upholstery information specific to your cushions.

2. Vacuum Cushion Fabric

Vacuum pew cushions with an upholstery attachment. Finish up with a crevice attachment. Use HEPA or ULPA filters to trap microscopic contaminants.

3. Spray, Agitate and Dry

Dampen cushions with a water-based upholstery cleaning spray, and gently rub. This agitation loosens dirt and suspends it in the cleaning solution. Wait 5 minutes, and then wipe with a fresh cloth.

Disinfecting Church Pew Cushions

1. Use Fabric Sanitizer

Using a fabric disinfectant spray product, evenly wet cushion surfaces. Let the spray set undisturbed for at least 5 minutes. Note that this type of disinfectant doesn’t sanitize internal cushion materials.

2. Disinfect Cushions with Oxygen Bleach

Mix oxygen bleach and warm water according to package directions. Lightly mist pew cushions, and allow surfaces to air dry. Never substitute chlorine bleach for oxygen bleach when disinfecting fabrics.

3. Opt for Professional Steam Cleaning

Bring in a professional cleaning service that offers upholstery steam cleaning. Their process disinfects fabric and cushions by eliminating bacteria and germs with hot water vapor.

Extra Pew Cleaning Do’s and Don’ts

damaged church pews
If your church pews are damaged due to water or fire damage, don’t attempt cleanup yourself – call a professional restoration company like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba.
  • Do test pew and fabric cleaning solutions on small, unobtrusive areas before use.
  • Do keep several stain removal products on hand for taking care of fabric stains as soon as possible.
  • Don’t try to clean or disinfect damaged wood pews. Instead, let a restoration specialist address the work.
  • Don’t use excessive water or pressurized equipment to clean church pews or cushions.

Do Your Chicago Church Pews Need Professional Cleaning? We Can Help

servicemaster church cleaning van chicago
Look for the yellow vans around town – that’s us!

Asking in-house staff to clean and disinfect church pews isn’t always time- or cost-effective. Whether you need routine cleaning or you’re getting the church ready for a special occasion, we can help.

ServiceMaster by Zaba offers a full line of cleaning services for religious facilities in Chicago and the suburbs.

Give us a call, and learn more about how we can keep your place of worship clean and safe. We’re always at your service: 773-647-1985

Does disinfecting church pews prevent COVID-19?

Done properly, disinfecting church pew surfaces can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. This is especially important after large functions in the sanctuary.

Do church pew cushions have to be cleaned off-site?

In most cases, no. Professional cleaning and disinfecting are done on location. Even water- and fire-damaged pew cushions can often be cleaned on-site.

How much does it cost to have church pews professionally cleaned?

Cost depends on pew number and size as well as the current condition of wood and fabric. An experienced church cleaning service can give you an estimate.