Take 60 Seconds to Improve Your Results and Reduce Claims

5 Reasons to Spend an Extra 60 Seconds Testing Before You Clean!
by Jim Pemberton - Fabric Pro Specialist
Fiber ID testing is one of those tasks that cleaners acknowledge should be done (at least in class or in the presence of a trainer or mentor), but that they rarely do in practice.

There are several reasons why cleaners skip this important test, but one of the most common ones is that it is too complex and/or takes too much time to test for specific fibers!

If you feel this way, you are RIGHT!

Surprised? Don't be. The fact is that trying to determine the specific fibers that make up upholstery fabric by means of burn testing is nearly impossible!

The fact that many fabrics contain two or more blends of fibers, that yarns may be very fine, and that back coatings made from synthetic materials are also adhered to many of the yarns makes it nearly impossible to get the proper flame color, smoke odor, etc when you burn test upholstery fibers.

However, you do need some VERY important information before cleaning a fabric that a simplified burn test will be able to provide.

To best explain the risks and limitations involved in cleaning an article of upholstery, and to determine what products and procedures will provide the safest and best results, you must have the following information:

  1. How Absorbent is the Fabric?
    This will tell you how difficult it will be to remove soils and spills, how much water you can use during cleaning, and if drying fans will be necessary.
  2. Is There a Possibility of Browning?
    Browning is easier to prevent than to cure, and you must know the fiber family to know if this will happen or not.
  3. Is There a Risk of Texture Distortion?
    Texture changes during cleaning can occur in any fiber, but natural fiber fabrics are always the most susceptible to texture distortion due to the exposure to moisture, vacuum, and heat.
  4. Are Colors at Risk to Fade, Bleed, or Change?
    As with textures, color damage is possible in any family of fiber, but if the fabric contains natural fibers, the risks are far higher.
  5. What Affinity Does the Fiber Have to Soils and Stains?
    Synthetic fibers are more oil loving, but release water based spills readily. Natural fiber fabrics are not as likely to hold onto oily soils, but their absorbent nature is such that water based spills are harder to remove.



BROWNING IS EASIER TO PREVENT THAN TO CURE-


You can find the answers to these five questions by doing a simple “fiber family” burn test. Synthetic fibers, regardless if they are nylon, polyester, olefin, or acrylic, will melt when ignited. Natural fibers, whether cotton, linen, wool or silk (or the regenerated cellulose ones like rayon) will burn and crumble to a soft ash.

When you squeeze a tested fabric sample in your finger tips after it ignites, it will respond in one of three ways:

  1. Clean, Hard Ash: Synthetic Fiber Family
  2. Dirty, Soft Ash: Natural Fiber Family
  3. An Ash that has Both Characteristics: A Blend of both Natural and Synthetic Fibers are present. (Treat such blended fiber fabrics the way you would a Natural Fiber Family fabric)
With this information, you should know what risks are involved, what level of success you can expect, and how aggressive you can be in your cleaning process.
 

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SamIam

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I will test if I’m
Not sure what it is!

Mostly microfiber and synthetics here!

But I can clip and spark if I have too!
 
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Bob Pruitt

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I had one today that looked like white polyester and felt like it too. Few very small things made me think it wasn’t. Called the owner and she said she had it re-upholstered a year ago and was told it would be easy to clean. Bamboo viscose. Any one clean that? Jim?
 
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Cleanworks

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I had one today that looked like white polyester and felt like it too. Few very small things made me think it wasn’t. Called the owner and she said she had it re-upholstered a year ago and was told it would be easy to clean. Bamboo viscose. Any one clean that? Jim?
I think you want to walk on that one.
 
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Jim Pemberton

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It will act like viscose/rayon. Weak when wet, easy to distort, colorfastness issues, tendency to brown.....maybe.

Test colors, make no promises about texture retention, use low moisture/low pH techniques, and dry it fast.

As long as their expectations are managed, you can make it look better if it's not trashed
 

Bob Pruitt

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make no promises about texture retention
Texture- That is the thing I noticed first and the thing that I doubt will be satisfactory when dry. The finish is almost a sheared velvet. Very reflective of light since it's white. A few water drops that were pre-existing almost looked like bleach spots... but viewed from a different angle they just looked out of alignment. The picture against the table with the line from the compression of the table shows the difference pretty well.

The picture of the spot that someone tried to clean also shows this.
 

Desk Jockey

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Most natural fiber velvets and velours don't respond well to spills. They change texture as you describe. Cleaning doesn't necessarily leave it with the same change. I'm not sure if it's due to grooming or if the vacuuming during extraction leaves it dry enough not to crush the fiber down like a spill would. ???
 

The Great Oz

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I had one today that looked like white polyester and felt like it too. Few very small things made me think it wasn’t. Called the owner and she said she had it re-upholstered a year ago and was told it would be easy to clean. Bamboo viscose. Any one clean that? Jim?
Unfortunately we see way too many of these.

"Bamboo Viscose" is just rayon derived from bamboo. Rayon velvet is more sensitive to cleaning than silk velvet, and often people have paid silk prices for it. If the customer has monkeyed with it and there is distortion or a "clean" spot, you won't be able to fix it.

The best you can achieve is an overall different appearance from new. It will always distort and lose color if you wet clean it, so don't. Dry clean or walk, unless you have the $6k to reupholster burning a hole in your pocket.
 

scottw

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Claims for "Bamboo viscose" were out-lawed about year and a half back by the Federal trade Commission. As Bryan states, it is simply rayon. It does not matter where the feed stock came from.

Many had claims about it being environmentally preferable. Only if you consider poisoning the mostly child work force and thereby reducing population growth.
 

Bob Pruitt

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I declined this job. She kept insisting I do it and I felt pressure to clean it because they were referred by one of my larger accounts. But I declined the job and gave her the information regarding her fabric. My guess is she is calling someone else anyway and they will do it thinking it’s some kind of polyester.
Jim’s point about taking time to be sure to reduce claims has been made.
 

Jim Pemberton

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I often get the question: "If I take your class,does it mean I'll never turn a job down?" My reply is that you'll not turn them down out of fear, you will turn them down out of knowledge.

If ANY customer INSISTS that you try to do something you don't want to do is a warning sign from the start. I learned long ago that anyone who tried to talk me into to do something I had doubts about seldom, if ever, had my interests at heart.

Another classic line from people is: "Go ahead and try. It CAN'T look any worse"

Believe me....with upholstery it surely can...
 
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The Great Oz

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Many had claims about it being environmentally preferable. Only if you consider poisoning the mostly child work force and thereby reducing population growth.
If the "environmentally responsible" ever checked into it, they'd find that rayon production is an environmentally dirty industry, and in Asian factories workers die or succumb to mental issues from the chemicals used.

Due to these concerns, rayon is no longer produced anywhere in the US.
 

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Thanks Bryan I've bought enough furniture in my career.

They really don't have many options. They have virtually uncleanable (without risk) upholstery. When it reaches an unacceptable appearance they will be forced to recover it or settle for the appearance change.
 

Cleanworks

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Thanks Bryan I've bought enough furniture in my career.

They really don't have many options. They have virtually uncleanable (without risk) upholstery. When it reaches an unacceptable appearance they will be forced to recover it or settle for the appearance change.
Same with viscose rugs. I just got off the phone with a customer about their viscose rugs. Both are heavily soiled and need a thorough cleaning. I explained that I could remove the soil but the texture of the rugs may be spoiled and it may look matted or clumpy. They understand and want me to go ahead anyway. Some clean up well, some don't. They have to pay me either way and it's always at their risk.
 

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