Most upholstery fabrics are wet cleanable but not all, so it is important to carry out a survey to decide how to proceed:
- The first step is to quantify the degree of soiling and staining on the fabric as either light, moderate or heavy.
- Then we establish the type of fibres present as this will help determine whether the fabric will give up or retain the soiling or staining. This test also confirms if it is wet or dry cleanable.
- Next we carry out a test to determine if the dyes are stable or if there is a possibility that they might migrate to adjacent lighter coloured areas.
- We then test for potential shrinkage.
- Sensitive fabrics such as brocades and chintzes are checked to see if they are adversely affected by the cleaning process.
- Finally, any pre-existing damage is noted such as loose tassels or braid, wear, fading or yellowing.
With the survey complete we can start cleaning the upholstery fabric:
- First, we thoroughly vacuum all the pieces to be cleaned. This is an important step and a great deal of time is spent removing as much dry soiling as possible.
- Next, these items are uniformly wet or dry cleaned using the correct method and equipment.
- At this stage we can attempt stain removal but not before. This ensures effective stain removal and minimises the risk of ring marking.
- Finally, any excess moisture is wiped off with a clean, white terry towel and if circumstances dictate we can install a turbo fan in the room to hasten drying.
So what are the different methods of cleaning upholstery fabric mentioned at stage 1 and which one do we utilise?
Well the answer depends on how dirty the items are and the condition of the fabric:
Low Soiling – under this category there are two ways to clean upholstery fabrics that are in very good condition. These methods can be used as a regular maintenance system to remove light, greasy surface soil so as to keep the furniture in pristine condition.
- by spraying a water based solution onto the fabric and wiping off with a quality, absorbent towel. The fabric should be touch dry within an hour.
- by spraying a spirit based cleaner onto natural velvets and other hypersensitive fabrics or fabrics with loose dyes and then, again, wiping off with a quality, absorbent towel. Dry in about two hours.
Medium Soiling – there are three ways of cleaning upholstery fabrics that are in good condition, with no visible wear and showing medium soil build up on body contact areas.
- by applying a crystallising shampoo by sponge. This method is fast drying, one to two hours, and is mainly used on furniture that is grubby rather than greasy.
- by hot water spray extraction to heavier soiled items on wet cleanable fabrics with drying taking 4-6 hours.
- by spray cleaning with a spirit based cleaning solution on hypersensitive fabrics. Drying takes about twenty-four hours.
Heavy Soiling – this method is for wet cleanable fabrics only that are in poor condition and very heavily soiled.
- again by using hot water spray extraction but on a repeated basis because of the extreme soiling. Drying times will be extended.
Cleaning leather upholstery requires a different approach than for cleaning fabric upholstery. Before we start to clean, it is essential to determine the type of leather the customer has so that the correct cleaning solutions and methods can be used. This will ensure that no damage is caused during the cleaning process. With this in mind, it is helpful to categorise upholstery leather into three main groups:
Aniline Leather cleaning
Aniline refers to the non-toxic dye used in colouring leather and not to the leather itself. However the leather selected to become aniline is usually the best quality without anything removed from the surface and is known as Full Grain. Within this group we include all leathers that have minimum surface protection and absorb moisture readily. This group of leather also absorbs dirt and stains readily, so it pays to regularly maintain the surface. Following a thorough vacuuming we follow up with a cleaning solution that does not contain detergents as we only want to clean the dirt away from the surface of the leather and not push it further into the grain. Afterwards, we apply a fluoroseal protector to the leather which helps against staining and finally leave the customer with a bottle of leather maintainer and a quick explanation on how to best care for the suite now it has been cleaned. Leather maintainer is a spray and wipe product that is designed to clean, hydrate and protect. If maintained correctly and regularly then dirt can be wiped off the surface reducing the need to deep clean.
Protected Leather Cleaning
The better quality protected leathers are also made from the top layer of a hide, but from one that is deemed not good enough to be Full Grain and has had any imperfections buffed out. It is normally aniline dyed and then coated with one or more pigments and includes antique and two tone finishes. Cleaning is carried out using a foaming product, whereby the dirt is encapsulated into the foam and then removed from the surface of the leather. Using a foam cleaner is a more efficient way to capture the dirt rather than using a spray cleaner that just moves the dirt around the surface of the leather. Using foam also prevents “bleaching” streaks that can prove stubborn to remove. After the suite has been fully cleaned, a coat of fluoroseal protector is applied and then it is good practise for the owner to look after the suite by cleaning the body contact areas with the leather maintenance product supplied by us. In this way it will clean, hydrate and prevent surface cracking and reduce the frequency of “deep cleaning”.
Nubuck is a Full Grain aniline dyed leather that has had its surface buffed to give a suede effect and may have a protective coating of wax. Because the surface has been buffed and the leather fibres are exposed it is very susceptible to spillages and body oils. Cleaning is normally carried out with a nap brush and a tack cloth. Again, a fluoroseal protector is applied after the cleaning process and a bottle of leather maintainer is left with the customer to clean, hydrate and protect.
You may notice that I have emphasised the word hydrate. This is because leather is marketed in a way that makes you believe it is like living human skin that regularly needs moisturising, however this is untrue. During the tanning process, all the natural stuff in the hide is removed leaving only fibrous material. At this stage the hide can now be called leather but it is very stiff, so natural and artificial oils and fats are introduced to lubricate it and make it soft and supple. These oils and fats are chemically bound to the fibres and should last for a minimum of 20 to 30 years. If you try to ‘condition’ the leather with more oil then it will just remain on the surface and attract dirt. This dirt will abrade the surface and cause cracks and the dye to fade. Because leather has a tendency to dry out, only water based cleaning products should be used. By keeping the surface clear of dirt and body oils allows moisture in the air to be carried through, keeping the leather in balance with the surrounding levels of humidity. However if the environment is too dry, as our homes often are, then a 3-in-one maintainer used on a regular basis will help to keep the leather soft. The 3-in 1 maintainer is designed to clean, hydrate and add a thin coat of fluoroseal protector to the surface of the leather. The protector will help in the fight against stains and body contact oils.
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