Keeping Out of Trouble When Cleaning Upholstery

Jim Pemberton

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Four Things You Must Know To Be A Fine Fabricare Specialist! (…and To Prevent Damage Claims!)
by Jim Pemberton - Fabric Pro Specialist
Here Are The Facts!

*If you don't know what you are cleaning, or . . .
If you don't know how it will react with your products -- You will never get consistently good results! -- and,

One day you will ruin something!!

You'll note that I didn't say “lack of training”. There are people who have never attended training courses; who have learned through research and perhaps through an unselfish mentor how to do things right. There are also people who have attended training courses who, for a variety of reasons, have left the class without having retained any useful knowledge.

Whether you obtain your knowledge through research, training, or a qualified mentor (all three are obviously the best), here are four things you need to know:

#1 - Fiber Characteristics:
You must know how fibers react to soiling/staining and how they react to cleaning products and procedures. It might be “fun to know” things about their history and unique characteristics outside of the cleaning realm, but don't get distracted by such details during class or research.

What you must know are the unique things about the fibers that make them easy or difficult to clean, and how they react to the products you have available to clean them. Learn what things the “families of fibers” have in common, such as which are absorbent, delicate natural fibers as opposed to less absorbent, durable synthetic fibers.

(Of course, you will need to know how to identify these fibers or families of fibers for this information to do you any good in the field.)

- Fabrics: You don't have to be an interior designer and know all of the specific names of fabrics (though at the marketing level it might be helpful). You DO need to know how the construction/design of the fabric influences what pre-existing conditions you can or cannot correct, what tools and products you'll choose, and what risks you take when cleaning the fabric.

Here are some things you should know (though not all…):


  • Does the fabric have a soft texture or nap? Knowing how to prevent and/or how to correct texture distortion is critical.
  • Is the fabric white or cream colored? Browning problems are becoming more common than ever.
  • Is the fabric multicolored? Haven't seen bleeding for awhile? (Wait till you encounter some of the newer imports from Southeast Asia.)
#2 - Products:
Because of the wide variety of fibers, dyes, and finishes used in upholstery, you should not use alkaline carpet cleaning formulations on sensitive upholstery fabrics. Understanding which types of products (not necessarily brands) should be used for the variety of fibers and fabrics you'll encounter is important.



"A CARPET CLEANING PRE-SPRAY CAUSED THIS SEVERE COLOR DAMAGE."

Products are not just cleaning solutions, but also tools. Redirected flow "Dry Tools" can help you clean more safely and effectively than the "wet tools" that were “state of the art” just a few years ago.

#3 - Procedures:
It's important to know “what you are working on” and “what you need to use”, but you also need to know “how to do it”. Learning how to clean the wide variety of fiber and fabric types is nothing you'll learn by watching a video or take a few “swipes” across a cushion. You need to know these procedures in depth, and to have practiced in “real world environments.


There are enough easy to clean, “safe”, synthetic fiber fabrics out there for a cleaner to get by cleaning them with insufficient knowledge of what he's working on, and with solutions and tools that aren't appropriate for more delicate fabrics. The problem is that the more you clean, and especially as you move up to cleaning for more upscale income customers, the more likely you are to encounter something that will clean poorly at best, or that you'll ruin at worst.

If you would like an opportunity to learn how to clean the most delicate upholstery fabrics in a “hands on” environment, join me at our next Fabric Pro Upholstery Cleaning Workshop.

*********************************************
 

Trey

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Very well stated Jim. Once you reach a level of cleaning where you think you know it all, is the exact moment that you'll see something you've never dealt with before and/or ruin something. Over confidence is one of the biggest reasons that we make mistakes.
 

Trey

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Semantics.....But yeah, if you do something even though you know better, or don't take proper precautions, that could be termed stupid. I have been guilty of both that and overconfidence. If you haven't, you haven't been doing this long enough.
 

Jim Pemberton

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Semantics.....But yeah, if you do something even though you know better, or don't take proper precautions, that could be termed stupid. I have been guilty of both that and overconfidence. If you haven't, you haven't been doing this long enough.
Trey, also understand that a comment like that from Marty is a sign of recognition and acceptance.

If he ever says anything uplifting, gentle, and kind, we will know his mind has gone and is passing is soon to come.

We'll look forward to your contributions and questions here.
 

Trey

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Trey, also understand that a comment like that from Marty is a sign of recognition and acceptance.

If he ever says anything uplifting, gentle, and kind, we will know his mind has gone and is passing is soon to come.

We'll look forward to your contributions and questions here.
Thanks Jim. And yeah, I knew it was more or less tounge in cheek. No offense taken. Even though I haven't replied, I have read many of your articles and pretty much agree with most everything you talk about. I appreciate your work. It's nice to have a forum like this.
 

George III

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Remember how much fun cleaning Haitian Cotton use to be?

Thanks for the great article on upholstery cleaning Jim! Great stuff!

Looks to me like somebody used degreaser from HD on that cushion.
 
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Rick J

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BUT what would happen if you used upholstery specific chems on carpet hmmm?:biggrin::biggrin:

Just kidding

But I did do it in the past. One of those dirty doggy smelling places. Had done ALL the other reccomended ways. Multiple times. Had access for a while, and was using it to try and crack the problem for good.
So that in the future I would have THE answer.
Thought , well body oil even if an animal's , maybe an upholstery chem might break it down better.
NOT
 

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