No matter how careful you are, spills and stains happen. Unfortunately it’s extraordinarily difficult for amateurs to clean upholstery without leaving telltale rings or light spots. That’s why furniture manufacturers and retailers recommend the same solution: For the best results, have upholstered pieces cleaned by a professional.
Here are some of the cleaning terms you’re likely to encounter as you look for and begin working with an upholstery cleaning service:
ASTM – The acronyms stands for American Society for Testing and Materials, the organization that establishes international standards for materials, products, systems and services. ASTM has defined performance standards for different fabrics, so the acronym is sometimes used in upholstery cleaning articles or websites.
Cleaning Codes – The fabric used on upholstered furniture requires special care, so textile manufacturers have established standard codes to define the specific method to use for each type of fabric. (The primary cleaning codes are detailed below.)
Code F – Dry clean using an approved petroleum solvent or fluorocarbon agent.
Code P – Dry clean using an approved solvent.
Code S – Dry clean using a pure petroleum-distillate solvent.
Code SW – Use water-based cleaners, foams or pure petroleum-based solvents. (Often used interchangeably with code W.)
Code W – Use water-based cleaners, foams or pure petroleum-based solvents. (Often used interchangeably with code SW.)
Code WS – Clean water-based stains with water-based cleaning solutions. Clean oil-based stains with solvent cleaners.
Code WS – Clean with water-based cleaning formulas only, and do not use solvent cleaners.
Code X – Avoid all types of cleaning agents. Lightly vacuum or brush to remove dust or dirt particles.
Dry Clean – This term is often a misnomer, since many recommended dry cleaning methods rely on liquid solvents. In most cases, the “dry clean” designation means fabric should only be cleaned with an accepted solvent, but solutions that are water-based and/or contain detergents should be avoided. Water spills and water-based cleaners may cause permanent stains and shrinkage.
Fabric Protector/Protectant – A variety of formulas are designed to coat fabric and help it resist stains, spills and soiling. The operative word is “resist.” Protectants reduce how quickly and deeply stains penetrate, so you have more time to blot spills. Most formulas make it easier for professional cleaners to remove stains and soil, and some also protect against UV fading.
Solvent – These cleaning formulas come in liquid, solid or gaseous form. Solvents dissolve dirt, grime and stains, so they can be extracted with blotting cloths or upholstery cleaning equipment.
Slipcovers – This term describes removable protective coverings for upholstered furniture. Multipart slipcovers are tailored to fit individual cushions as well as the back, arms and sides. Single-piece slipcovers are generally loose, unfitted and designed to be draped over the couch or chair then tucked into place. Most are dry cleanable and some are machine washable.
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