Upholstery Cleaning is a difficult task that can take years of experience to do correctly. Trained upholstery cleaning technicians can restore just about any material and do so without the risk of damage to delicate materials. This article will go over some of the basics of upholstery cleaning. Use it as a general guide, but be sure to get proper training before attempting to clean upholstery.
The first thing that you need to do when attempting to clean upholstery is look at the tag located on the upholstery decking beneath the cushions. It will be marked either with an S, W, SW or X. S means that the piece should be cleaned with solvent based cleaners. W means that the piece should be wet cleaned. SW means that you should use low moisture wet cleaning such as foam and X means that the piece is to be dry cleaned only. Sometimes these tags are wrong, but you can use them as a general guide.
The next step in the process is to do a burn test. Unzip a cushion and look for a bit of excess material. Cut off a piece if it is safe to do so without damaging the material. Now separate the fibers and burn each thread separately. If it burns slow and leaves a soft gray ash, it is cotton. If it smells like hair, it is wool. If it burns quick with no ash like a fuse, it is rayon. If it melts it is a synthetic. Generally speaking, the synthetics are usually safe for wet cleaning and the natural materials, including rayon, will often need to be cleaned with solvents or low moisture. Sometimes cottons and wools can be wet cleaned though. This is where training comes in.
Next, you want to test the colors to see if the dye bleeds. Get a bit of cleaner on a white rag and dab it on a hidden spot. Rub slightly and give the chemical time to work. If color transfers to the cloth, it can not be wet cleaned with that cleaner. If that is the case, also try a bit of solvent on a clean rag and see if color bleeds with the solvent. If it bleeds with solvent, chances are that the piece is a vacuum only piece.
Lastly, you want to look at the construction of the material to be cleaned, Unzip a cushion and look at the back of the material. Are there any cross threads running across the back, waiting to bleed through? Is there a latex backing, ready to melt when you hit it with solvents? Is there a mark from an ink pen from an upholsterer, just waiting to pop through the material when you get it wet?
As you can see, there are lots of things to look at when cleaning upholstery. Unlike carpet cleaning, there are lots of potential pitfalls that you need to look out for. This is why you need to hire a professional to clean your upholstery or if you are a pro, you need to get proper training.