A Rash of Complaints?

You Cleaned My Couch Yesterday. Now I Have A Rash!!
by Jim Pemberton - Fabric Pro Specialist

How would you feel if you received that message?
My guess is you would be concerned at the very least, perhaps even anxiety and panic ridden at the prospects of having a customer needing medical attention related to your cleaning.
A cleaner I know once received a message like this one, and I'd like to share what happened, how it was resolved, and most importantly:

How to make sure this NEVER happens to you!

Here's What Happened:

Problem 1: “The furniture”
The cleaner was asked to clean a heavily soiled microfiber sofa. If you are at all familiar with this popular type of furniture, you know that the absorbent nature of microfiber fabric combined with the oil loving nature of polyester (the most common fiber used for microfiber furniture) often creates a heavy soiling issue in a relatively short period of time.

This piece of furniture was no different.

Problem 2: “The cleaner”
The cleaner had learned from experience (not always the best teacher) that he could “get away with” using high pH detergents in his preconditioner and extraction solutions to quickly restore this material to a nearly new condition, and that's exactly what he did.

While its true that strong, highly alkaline detergents rarely cause damage to this fabric in the way they would delicate natural fibers, what the cleaner didn't anticipate . . . (and you might not have thought of) was this:

Problem 3: “The customer”
When people sit on furniture, they have more skin contact with the fabric for longer periods (and any detergent residues that may remain on the fabric) than they do when they walk on carpet. For that reason, its more likely that they could experience skin irritation after the fabric was cleaned.


"WHEN PEOPLE SIT ON FURNITURE, THEY HAVE MORE SKIN CONTACT WITH THE FABRIC THAN THEY DO…ON CARPET"


In most people this would probably not be anything they would notice, but for whatever reason, this person had more sensitive skin, and he developed this itchy rash as a result.

The cleaner sent the SDS documents for each product to the man's doctor, and the doctor merely suggested that the materials be rinsed from the fabric.

After the fabric was rinsed, the gentleman could now comfortably sit on his furniture, and he was happy.

This issue was easily solved because the customer was a reasonable individual. Not all of our customers are such people, and sometimes they react emotionally to such situations and the end result becomes more costly.

To prevent this problem from happening to you, here are a few easy and sensible steps that you can follow.

#1. Understand The Nature of the Fabrics You Clean:
If you need to clean something that is highly adsorbent (microfiber) or absorbent (all natural fibers and blends), you need to remove as much detergent as possible during extraction. Detergent left in fabrics is either bad for the fabrics or the people who sit on them.

#2. Understand Your Cleaning Products:
Cleaning products that are designed to remove body oil from fabric will do the same thing to skin. You've likely seen that happen when you get cleaning detergents on your hands. If you leave these on fabrics, the residues may cause skin irritation or even chemical burns.

It is never a good practice to leave alkaline cleaning agent residues on any fabric, but don't overlook that even fabrics that aren't damaged by high pH cleaning agents will hold onto that residue that might irritate or even harm your customer. Always rinse and neutralize when you clean upholstery fabric.

#3. Understand Your Cleaning Tools:
Most cleaners use (and should use) low moisture “dry tools” to clean upholstery. What few cleaners recognize that they low wetting characteristics of these tools will not rinse out preconditioning agents that are allowed to “soak into” fabrics, such as heavily soiled microfiber fabrics.
If you feel that you need to “soak it” to loosen the soil, you will then need to “flood and flush it” to remove the excess detergents. Some dry tools, such as the Upholstery Pro, can have their water volume “turned up” to accomplish this when needed.

#4. Understand What Your Customers Do:
People sit, eat, sleep, etc on their furniture. They have substantially more skin contact with fabric than they do with carpet. Be sure to not leave anything that could cause skin irritation on furniture fabrics when you clean them.

If you make a point to understand that the products you use aren't “smart”, and will remove oil from whatever they touch, and "what goes in must come out”, you'll likely never have this problem.
 
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#2
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I actually had this exact complaint from a customer about 2 weeks ago. Then again, She originally calls us to come clean her new (something like 3 or 4 month old) sofa because she had friends over. They say on her sofa during the visit and she had been itching “because fabric softener must of come off their clothes and onto her sofa”..... 😳 we cleaned it and sure enough the itching got worse and it’s our fault
 
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#3
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I actually had this exact complaint from a customer about 2 weeks ago. Then again, She originally calls us to come clean her new (something like 3 or 4 month old) sofa because she had friends over. They say on her sofa during the visit and she had been itching “because fabric softener must of come off their clothes and ont her sofa”..... 😳 we cleaned it and sure enough the itching got worse and it’s our fault
Who knows what they were doing on the sofa? Maybe she needs to get checked by a doctor.
 
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Who knows what they were doing on the sofa? Maybe she needs to get checked by a doctor.
She admitted to being hyper sensitive but she was pissed because she said the tech “promised her she wouldn’t have any outbreaks due to the products used”. When I asked the guys they said they told her that they’ve cleaned hundreds of pieces of upholstery with the same product without issues in addition to it being used by Steemer nationwide and that he hadn’t heard of any issues. I told her regardless of the product how could you expect us to be able to guarantee you that your hypersensitivities wouldn’t be affected? We don’t know your medical history not are we in the medical field. SMH.... IMO it’s s pretty unrealistic expectation for her to put her unusual medical condition in an average carpet cleaners hands.
 
#5
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She admitted to being hyper sensitive but she was pissed because she said the tech “promised her she wouldn’t have any outbreaks due to the products used”. When I asked the guys they said they told her that they’ve cleaned hundreds of pieces of upholstery with the same product without issues in addition to it being used by Steemer nationwide and that he hadn’t heard of any issues. I told her regardless of the product how could you expect us to be able to guarantee you that your hypersensitivities wouldn’t be affected? We don’t know your medical history not are we in the medical field. SMH.... IMO it’s s pretty unrealistic expectation for her to put her unusual medical condition in an average carpet cleaners hands.
I agree 100%. People are always looking for someone to blame. Anyone asking a carpet cleaner for medical advice, deserves what they get.
 
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She admitted to being hyper sensitive but she was pissed because she said the tech “promised her she wouldn’t have any outbreaks due to the products used”. When I asked the guys they said they told her that they’ve cleaned hundreds of pieces of upholstery with the same product without issues in addition to it being used by Steemer nationwide and that he hadn’t heard of any issues. I told her regardless of the product how could you expect us to be able to guarantee you that your hypersensitivities wouldn’t be affected? We don’t know your medical history not are we in the medical field. SMH.... IMO it’s s pretty unrealistic expectation for her to put her unusual medical condition in an average carpet cleaners hands.
teach them when and why to decline, Chester
The red flags were so myriad on that one, it should be (or needs to be) a no brainer

..L.T.A.
 
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I actually had this exact complaint from a customer about 2 weeks ago. Then again, She originally calls us to come clean her new (something like 3 or 4 month old) sofa because she had friends over. They say on her sofa during the visit and she had been itching “because fabric softener must of come off their clothes and onto her sofa”..... 😳 we cleaned it and sure enough the itching got worse and it’s our fault
Did they have protector applied to the furniture when they bought it? It might be coming off with use and then when you cleaned it you aggravated the situation even more.
 
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Did they have protector applied to the furniture when they bought it? It might be coming off with use and then when you cleaned it you aggravated the situation even more.
Actually yes.... and she asked if that could be what was causing her issue. I told her that most textiles, both carpet and upholstery, have a fluorochemical protection applied when manufactured and if she hasn't had any adverse reactions to sitting on upholstery or walking on carpet in the past, I doubted that is what was causing the reaction. I told it was more likely to be the alkaline (PH between 9.0 - 10.0) cleaning agent used when cleaning and that we would come out to do a fresh water rinse.
 
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