Upholstery items

11 July 2018

Stacey King of DTC takes a look at some of the problems that can arise when drycleaning household textiles

Greater longevity leads to more wear and tear


Household textiles such as upholstery are not typically cleaned as frequently as day-to-day garments. This means that they can be particularly soiled when presented to the cleaner and may need a vigorous clean. As they have a longer life span than standard garments this also means that they can be exposed to higher levels of wear and tear or degradation related to ageing so the vigorous cleaning process required may result in physical damage or revelation of pre-existing damage to the textile.

It is a common occurrence for staining to develop during cleaning where drinks may have been spilt on a cushion cover or with the early stages of mould growth on curtains. These types of stains might not be visible prior to cleaning if they are relatively new and will not be removed in a drycleaning process; the inherent drying stage of the process may reveal these stains particularly when using solvents which require longer drying times and higher drying temperatures.

Sunlight is another frequently encountered complaint with household furnishings, particularly curtains. Photodegradation is easily recognisable as it results in a linear pattern of fading which correlates to the natural folds of the curtain when hung. There is nothing the cleaner can do to prevent revelation of this type of damage as it is an inevitable outcome with age due to the end use of curtains. It is the manufacturers responsibility to ensure that the fabric used has a suitable lightfastness to prevent this issue occurring too soon in the items usage life.

Challenges can be encountered with upholstery as bespoke items are rarely labelled. This leaves the cleaner unaware of the textile composition or manufacturer cleaning recommendations. The element of guesswork means that the cleaner could be liable for damages if the fabric is misidentified or an incorrect cleaning process is chosen. In these instances, DTC would always recommend that the cleaner asks the owner to sign a disclaimer outlining any associated risk of the chosen cleaning process. The disclaimer should be item specific and detail only appropriate risks, for example, sunlight damage, relaxation shrinkage or colour loss (if drycleaning an unlabelled coloured item).

In this month’s feature we examine some of the issues surrounding upholstery and household furnishings encountered by the DTC lately. For more tips, updates and advice from the DTC team, follow or tweet us on Twitter @dtc_enquiries.


The dye is cast

Fault:  Discolouration to this chaise longue was noted when the owner was wearing a particular garment.

Cause: The garment had poor colourfastness to dry rubbing. Even after washing, a large amount of loose dye was found on the garment. The chaise longue is made of a beige suede which is particularly susceptible to dye pick-up.

Responsibility: The responsibility lies with the manufacturer of the garment.

Rectification: It is unlikely that the dye will be removed without damage to
the suede textile. The garment itself remains undamaged but will continue to have the potential to transfer dye to contrasting items.



Sofa, not so good when ‘invisible’ stains appear

Fault: The customer complained of brown staining on this sofa cushion after drycleaning.

Cause: The stain was found to fluoresce to a lemon yellow when viewed under UV light. This indicates that residual sugars are present on the cushion cover. Sugars are water soluble and are not removed in drycleaning without spot-treatment. If the contaminant which contains said sugars dries to be invisible, the cleaner would not know to treat the stain. The unremoved sugars are then susceptible to oxidation during the tumbledrying stage which is why a brown mark became evident after cleaning. Some blue/white fluorescence is also noted; this has been caused by spot-treatment of the stain with a detergent containing optical brighteners but has not improved the stain.

Responsibility: The responsibility for the staining lies with the end user. The cleaner is not expected to remove ‘invisible’ stains; post-treatment of the stain did not show any improvement.

Use of optical brighteners on this occasion had no discernible effect to the cover in natural light.

Rectification: ‘Set’ stains can be difficult to remove. The cleaner has already tried to post-treat this stain therefore it is unlikely that it can be rectified.


Smoking kills looks of sofa cover

Fault: A cluster of small black/brown marks were noted on this sofa cover post cleaning; the damage appears to be localised to one chair arm.

Cause: Examination under magnification revealed that the cause of the discoloured marks were burns. The small cluster-like appearance allows us to rule out burning due to over-drying or pressing at too high a temperature. The pattern and location is much more consistent with something which has been introduced during use, for example, cigarette ash or similar. The damage has become evident during cleaning as the mechanical action of the process has flushed away the damaged fibres surrounding the burn.

Responsibility: The responsibility on this occasion lies with the end user.

Rectification: None is possible.


Neither wet nor dry

Fault: Post drycleaning, a set of cream curtains now exhibits an overall pink hue due to colour run from the red printed details into the cream fabric.

Cause: The curtains here were not labelled. The retailer advised that the fabric should be drycleaned, however, the manufacturer states that the fabric should be hand-washed. Although this seems like a tall order for such a large item, the fabric was tested for its resistance to both water and drycleaning solvent; it was not colourfast
to either medium.

Responsibility: The responsibility for the dye bleed should be taken by the manufacturer. The fabric cannot be cleaned in water nor solvent without detriment to its overall appearance.

Rectification: None is possible.


Getting a bit too hands-on with curtains

Fault: The leading edge of both curtains appeared to have broken down during cleaning. The degradation is localised to approximately the centre of the leading edge.

Cause: The tensile strength of the fabric in this areas of was significantly lower than that of the undamaged fabric. It appears that the silk has become weakened in damaged areas. Judging by the location of the damage it is most likely that this has been caused due to chemical damage via natural oils and moisture on the hands. Opening and closing the curtains results in transfer of said oils and moisture which can weaken the silk fibres as seen here; any weakened fibres are susceptible to breakdown during cleaning due to the mechanical action of the process

Responsibility: The responsibility here lies with the end user.

Rectification: None is possible.


Mouldy diagnosis for orange bloom

Fault: The customer was unhappy with the series of orange clusters of discolouration which were climbing the bottom of their curtains after cleaning.

Cause: The pattern of discolouration here is consistent with that of mould growth. Mould has a tendency to form clusters, which will first become orange and then in time go black. There is very little the cleaner can do about this; in a similar manner to sugar stains, mould can develop during tumble drying resulting in a visible area of discolouration where nothing was originally present. Where condensation from the window soaks into the fabric, the damp dark folds can become an ideal breeding ground for mould.

Responsibility: Lies with the end user.

Rectification: Bleaching may remove the discolouration, DTC would recommend a non-chlorine bleach to prevent colour loss to the outer fabric.


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