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Beyond clean: Disinfecting upholstery

September 19, 2010
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One of the most overlooked items in facilities today is upholstery.

Managers often settle for the fabrics looking “a little cleaner,” instead of actually being clean.

What about the upholstery?

Until recently, there were no clear cleaning protocols for upholstery cleaning, and thus many cleaning technicians were unsure as to how to clean it properly.

But, over the past few years, upholstery cleaning protocols have been set and their role in the proper maintenance of public spaces has become paramount.

To ensure proper cleaning, the first step is to follow fabric hang tags, labels and/or cleaning instructions.

Once the fabric type is determined, you can begin the cleaning process to safely remove a spill or spot.

Remember, a soil may be considered any substance that does not or has not chemically combined with the fabric.

A stain is any substance that has chemically bonded with the fabric.

Soils can be removed easily, while stains must be chemically altered without disturbing the fiber makeup of the fabric.

Disastrous results have occurred when individuals attempt to remove a soil, and end up setting a stain in fabrics.

For example, some kinds of dirt are easily removed with cold water only.

Hot water can alter the same dirt chemically and cause some of its chemicals to stain the fabric.

Water in general, however, can be a powerful cleaner when combined with the right active ingredients to carry stains away.

The following steps will help you achieve beautifully clean upholstery.

  • Get to the spot quickly, identify the material, and get to work!
  • Carefully remove whatever excess you can from the surface.
  • Always test your spotting agent first in an inconspicuous area.
  • Do not rub or brush the spot first. Apply cleaner designed for upholstery, blot and repeat.
  • If scraping is required, always make the spot smaller: Work from the outside toward the middle.
  • Be safe... use solutions that are buffered, not concentrated.
  • If you must brush, choose one engineered specifically for fabric.
  • Remember…wet goes to dry. Blot with clean, soft white towels to transfer spots from the surface to the blotting cloth.
  • Be patient. If the stain is lifting, keep repeating the process until removed.
  • If needed, use an extraction machine designed for upholstery so the fabric does not become too wet.
  • Establish a program to perform regular, interim and restorative maintenance for your fabrics to keep them looking great for years.


Greg Hadfield is director, Crypton Care, LLC, of West Bloomfield, MI.

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