Upholstery / Furniture Cleaning, Care and Protection

Upholstery Cleaning, Care and Protection

Steps in cleaning upholstery:

  1. Pre-Inspection:
       Pre-inspection is by far the most important step in cleaning upholstery. Examine the upholstery piece extensively and document all pre-existing conditions. Inspect for previous damage and possible problems. Look for loose buttons, tears, holes, loose legs, mold, etc.
    1. Questions to ask the customer:
    2. How old is this piece of furniture?
    3. Has this piece been professionally cleaned before?
    4. Have you spotted or cleaned the piece yourself?
    5. What is this material primarily made of?
    6. Has this piece ever been reupholstered?
      Inspection determinations:
    1. Note overall soiling condition.
    2. Check headrest and arms for oil.
    3. Look for yellowing due to age.
    4. Check for loose buttons.
    5. Check skirt or flounce and corners for shoe polish and scuff marks, as well as for shrinkage and the possibility of fabric detached from the frame.
    6. Check the back for dust or dirt from air vents.
    7. Check for frayed areas, especially at corners and on arms.
    8. Inspect cushions for spots, stains and frayed piping or thin material from wear.
    9. Unzip cushions and check stuffing material and underside of face material (possible bleeding). Also check for ink or magic marker which could bleed through. Check for "filler fibers" that might bleed to the surface.
    10. Confirm the sturdiness of all furniture legs.
    11. Proceed with testing for color fastness of the material and underlining.
    12. Prepare a written review that the customer can acknowledge as to its condition before cleaning. Be certain that any pre-existing problems or defects are also noted on your invoice.
    13. Check for a cleaning code tag to give you an idea of the materials of construction and proper cleaning method. Unfortunately, the manufacturers are not required to reveal the type of face fabric used, only the filling material. Many manufacturers will tag furniture as solvent-clean-only when it can be wet-cleaned if done carefully. In fact, over 80% of all upholstery can be wet cleaned if proper procedures are followed.
      Upholstery Cleaning codes:
    • Code S and Code D:

    • Dry cleaning by a professional furniture service is recommended.
      Use a mild, water free dry cleaning solvent. CAUTION: Use of water-based or detergent-based cleaners may cause excessive shrinkage. Water stains may become permanent and unable to be removed with solvent cleaning agents. To prevent overall soil, frequent vacuuming or light brushing to remove dust and grime is suggested.
    • Code F:

    • Foam clean.
    • Code W:

    • Clean this fabric with water-based cleaning agents or water-based foam to remove overall soil. Many household cleaning agents are harmful to the color and life of the fabric.
    • Code SW (W/S):

    • Clean this fabric with water-based cleaning agents, foam, or pure solvents. Professional dry cleaning is recommended. To prevent overall soil, frequent vacuuming or light brushing to remove dust and grime is suggested.
    • Code X:

    • Clean this fabric only by vacuuming or light brushing to prevent accumulation of dust or grime. Water-based foam or solvent-based cleaning agents of any kind may cause excessive shrinking or fading.
  2. Identify Upholstery Fibers:
    • Identifying fibers is extremely challenging, but is sometimes necessary.
    • Cut a small piece of material from under the skirt or the inside seam allowance inside of a cushion.
    • Hold this sample over a fireproof surface, and ignite it with a cigarette lighter, not a match.
    • Make note of the odor - wool and silk smell like burned hair and cotton smells and looks like burned paper.
    • Examine the ash.
    • Synthetic fibers will look melted, natural fibers will look charred. If cotton is present, there may be an "afterglow".
    • Synthetic fibers such as nylon and olefin will melt leaving a hard bead that you can’t crush between your fingers.
    • Natural fibers will crumble to a soft ash. Blends will, of course, exhibit both types of ash.
    • More complex tests with solubilities in various chemicals as well as microscopic examination will yield more information.
    • ASCR, now called Restoration Industry Association,has an upholstery identification class which is excellent.
  3. Pre-Test before Cleaning Upholstery:
    • Pre-test everything before you clean it! Always pre-test the appropriate agents at proper use dilution. Allow adequate dwell and drying time to best realize the final result. After pre-testing, choose the proper cleaning agents and cleaning method.
    • First, moisten a white Turkish Towel with your hot PCA™ Formula 5 cleaning solution and spray onto it some of your diluted Preface® pre-spray. On an inconspicuous area, such as a skirt on the back, lightly rub the towel on the fabric and look for dye transfer. Wait at least 5 minutes and retest. If the piece did not bleed, you can probably safely clean with it.
    • However, if you did observe some dye transfer, retest with diluted LCA® -256 in the same manner. With its lower pH, dye bleeding is much less likely.
    • If dye transfer was evident with the LCA, test with Natural Fiber Cleaner or Chemspec’s Haitian Cotton Upholstery Cleaner (powder or liquid).
    • If dye transfer still occurs, you can only dry clean this piece!
    • Of course, if your pre-inspection indicated that this is Haitian Cotton, Osnaburg, or white cotton, you should use only Natural Fiber Cleaner or wet-dry-wet clean.
    • If pre-inspection indicates that this is a material that should only be dry cleaned or wet-dry-wet cleaned, proceed accordingly.
  4. Use Furniture Pad:
    • The furniture pad prevents overspray from getting onto the carpet or wood floor.
    • Move the furniture piece onto one or more furniture pads.
    • NOTE: To avoid damaging the carpet (especially olefin) or creating furniture stains on the floor, ALWAYS use the E-Z Moves or Bane-Glides to move any furniture!
    • To save your back, use the Lift Buddy™ to raise the furniture piece up while sliding the blocks or tabs under the legs.
    • The appropriate cleaning process is determined directly by the results of the pre-testing process.
    • Once complete and the cleaning system is chosen, begin by vacuuming. Vacuum the shelf and the crevices and remove all debris
  5. Precondition Upholstery:
    • Do not remove zippered cushion covers for cleaning – if excessive shrinkage occurs, backing compounds may be damaged.
    • If pre-inspection indicated that the piece can be safely wet-cleaned with your standard cleaning solutions, overspray entire piece with diluted Preface.
    • Wipe all overspray off the wood surfaces.
    • If pre-testing indicated that a milder prespray is needed, use Chemspec’s Heavy Duty Soil Lifter, which is a neutral pH co-solvent prespray. It is used full strength before dry cleaning or diluted before wet cleaning.
    • Another neutral pH pre-conditioner is Chemspec’s dual-enzyme PreKleen for Upholstery. This neutral pH enzymatic pre-conditioner is unsurpassable at breaking up food spills and other protein-based soils on wet cleanable fabrics.
    • Use a Turkish Towel or the Upholstery Brush to mildly agitate the heavily soiled areas, especially on the arms. Avoid excessive agitation as pile removal, pile distortion, or matting can occur.
  6. Clean Upholstery:
    • The detergent solution to be used depends upon your pre-testing conducted earlier.
    • Take cleaning strokes in only one direction, taking as many as necessary but always use extra vacuum strokes to shorten drying time and reduce the possibility of browning. Clean the skirts in vertical strokes to help set the pleat. Avoid excessive moisture to avoid shrinkage.
    • Use a dry towel to wipe down the piping area, behind buttons, and in any creases to eliminate trapped moisture and to remove surface soil. Wipe down the entire piece with dry towels to accelerate drying and to remove surface soil.
    • Place slit foil or plastic tabs behind any steel buttons to avoid any rusting problems like this!Rusted Buttons
    • Lightly overspray and extract the cambric fabric on the shelf of the piece to avoid water spotting.
    • If velvet or microfiber, your cleaning tool may leave cleaning marks, so be sure to groom them out and set the pile before the piece dries.
  7. Spot and Stain Removal from Upholstery:
    • For any remaining spots or stains, blot the stain-removal agent and the stain using a fresh towel, but don’t rub; rubbing can smear the stain.
    • Once the stain is removed, lift the residual cleaning agent from the fabric by blotting and rinsing, or drying for solvent-based cleaners.
    • When spotting, apply a small amount of stain-removal agent on a damp towel and work it from the stain’s outside edge to its center. Be careful - too much stain-removal agent may cause overwetting or stain spread.
    • Check the Pet Problems articles and the Bane-Clene Spotting Guide for more details.
  8. Prevent Browning after Cleaning Upholstery:
    • When wet-cleaning, it is imperative that you ALWAYS apply a neutralizing agent to the fabric to prevent browning, to stabilize and brighten colors, and to provide a soft hand. Lightly apply Brown Out® diluted 8 ounces per gallon to the upholstery with a sponge. Instead of Brown Out, you can use Chemspec All Fiber Textile Rinse™ by diluting it and running it through the base unit.
      Apply Phase II™ for any odors that need to be controlled.
  9. Apply Protector to the Upholstery:
    • After you have cleaned, you need to restore the protective finish with Sta-Clene®, DuPont Teflon® Advanced Protector or Bane-Guard. Towel off exposed wood areas.
  10. Move Furniture Back:
  11. Dry and Groom the Cleaned Upholstery:
    • Groom velvet upholstery or any fabric with a nap using a Handi Brush™. Charge an extra 20% for velvet furniture.
    • Set cushions on brown paper in a tee-pee fashion away from the furniture - NOT on the shelf of the chair or sofa!
    • Tell the customer not to use the furniture until it has completely dried.
    • Set up air movers to speed up drying of the cleaned pieces. Proper drying time is the key to successful Haitian Cotton cleaning. Place air movers so that air is moving across the fabric not into it.


Leather is the ordinary designation of tanned hides and skins.

Leather terms & types of leather:

  • Split:
    All leather hides have to be split into two hides because a hide is too thick to upholster or use in any type of manufacturing. The bottom hide is known as split leather. This hide can be sanded down (corrected) and embossed with a consistent graining pattern to be used on the outside back and sides of sofa for a slight cost savings. A split leather is still 100% leather, and has all the same finishing treatments as the top grain portion.
  • Top Grain:
    In the above process the top grain portion is the top portion of the hide. It is generally used in the areas that receive more wear since the fiber of top grain is more compact than that of split grain.
  • Full Grain:
    Top grain leather that uses the grain of the hide. No correction is made to the grain.
  • Embossed Grain:
    From above, using rollers a consistent graining pattern is "pressed" into the leather. It can be as subtle a small natural looking graining pattern, or as different as a crocodile pattern.
  • Corrected Grain:
    This leather is top grain aniline dyed leather. Small natural markings and scars are sanded from the hide and then it is pigment coated for color consistency. Then a clear protective top-coat is applied to prevent fading and stains.
  • Pull-up:
    Aniline - dyed leather that has been waxed or oiled. When the leather is pulled, the oil/wax separates, causing the color to lighten.

Cleaning and Care of Pure Anilines and Nu-Buk Leather Upholstery:

You’ll notice that leather initially repels most spills, but if left to stand, they’ll be absorbed. That’s why it is important to blot any liquids immediately with a clean cloth or sponge and let air dry. Most spills and stains will dissipate with time. For stubborn spots and stains, blot excess liquid immediately with clean absorbent sponge or cloth. If you need more help, use distilled water and a clean white cloth and let air dry. Use soap sparingly and lots of distilled water. Always test a hidden area to convince yourself of the effectiveness of that method.

LEATHER WILL ABSORB OILS. Appropriate preventative care must be taken to avoid these stains as they may be permanent.

Leather Upholstery Care and Protection:

As a general rule, most leather creams, saddle soaps, and various leather care products should not be used. They are not intended for household, upholstered leather.

Dry clean with chemical sponges, and/or towels with solvent. Finish as needed with a cream or oil-based leather cleaner applied by hand.

Professional Leather Cleaner is a ready-to-use leather-care product which helps replace natural oils that leather loses as it ages. It is safe on most finished leather, vinyl, and Naugahyde™. Follow label directions.

Additionally, Chemspec’s Area Spray - Leather Scent can be used to increase the leather aroma in a room.

Simulated Leather (Vinyl/Naugahyde) Upholstery):

Nonwoven materials made to look like leather. Should be wet cleaned only. If solvent is used for spotting, it must be used extremely carefully and must not contain any chlorinated solvents.

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