For several years, cleaners have focused their efforts in testing and cleaning to find ways to prevent color bleeding and browning, both of which are still concerns for fine fabric specialists. These issues have long been resolved by cleaners who understand the chemistry of cleaning as it applies to fine fabric care.

In a recent discussion that I had with representatives of a leading furniture manufacturer, the individuals with whom I spoke did not complain about cleaners damaging dyes or causing browning — they instead spoke about the amount of texture distortion, damage done during the cleaning process!

Be wary of potential damage

Today’s fine fabric specialist must recognize that delicate textures are not just velvet, which has been for years the fabric most concentrated on in cleaning classes, but now also include such varied products as chenille and microfibers.

While the difference between rayon chenille and polyester microfiber may seem to be worlds apart, both can be easily (and perhaps irreparably) damaged by a careless cleaner.

Use this quick checklist to help to prevent damaging the furniture your customer has entrusted you to care for:

  1. Pre-inspect and pre-qualify your work. Many of these fabrics have already been damaged by abuse from your customer, their children and/or their pets. Make sure you discuss pre-existing problems before you clean.
  2. Precondition using a horsehair brush, and only brush in the direction of the lay of the nap, if any.
  3. Extract. There are plenty of good upholstery cleaning tools, but there are some tools that are designed to be gentler on today’s textures than others. Make sure your tool has no sharp edges, and if you are using it with a truckmount, that it has a vacuum adjustment on the tool or hose. Post grooming of fabric is far easier and less time consuming when you use such tools.
  4. Use as little cleaning or rinsing agent as possible to prevent stiffness from residues. Never use carpet cleaning detergent in your “rinse,” and be aware that many acid rinses may leave sticky residues. Be sure to use a fabric rinsing agent formulated to leave as little residue as possible.
  5. Groom the fabric. Grooming techniques for velvet, chenille and microfibers are all somewhat different, but all should be groomed immediately after extraction, then again after drying with fans.

The day I finished this article, I received two calls from cleaners who needed help correcting distortion caused by failing to follow the above guidelines, and from one individual who was looking at new fabrics for his own home and noted that most of the samples were chenille.

The age of textures has begun. Are you ready?

An industry trainer and consultant, Jim Pemberton is president of Pemberton”s Cleaning & Restoration Supplies and West Penn Cleaning Company, McKeesport, PA. Jim is the Cleanfax magazine 2007 Person of the Year. He has more than 30 years of experience in the cleaning and restoration industry. You are invited to visit his website at, or e-mail him at