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Home Maintenance And Repair - 01500280

Testing Upholstery Cleanability

Check Stuffing and Lining
If the cushions don't have zippers, the stuffing or lining materials can be determined by sticking a fine crochet hook in the bottom side of the cushion and pulling out a small amount of stuffing and lining.

If latex foam rubber padding, a dry cleaning solvent should not be used. Urethane foams, such as polyurethane or polyfoam, are less subject to deterioration by dry cleaning solvents. Polyester fibers in cushion are resistant to most dry-cleaning chemicals except ones that contain phenol or hot mets-cresol.

If any dark or red stuffing thread is found be aware of potential bleeding during shampooing or cleaning. It may indicate that the fabric must be cleaned with a minimum of moisture.

If jute fillings are found close to the surface, the jute may cause browning of the upholstery fabric when it becomes wet.

Check for Color Fastness
This is done by pressing a white rag or paper towel dampened with cleaning solution on the fabric's deeper colors on some unnoticeable place. If color is transferred to the rag, it should be tested again with a slightly acid cleaning solution. If color still bleeds, then the only safe cleaner for the fabric is dry cleaning solvent which may be used for spots, but should NOT be used at home for overall cleaning for safety. Have solvent cleaning done commercially by professionals in a controlled plant. Even though an upholstered piece may have been cleaned several times, it can still run or fade after long exposure to wear or sun.

Check for Shrinkage
Clean a section on the back or pillow side; use the cleaning solution in the appropriate concentration, allow to dry, and inspect. Has the fabric pulled together or become tighter? If so the fabric has shrunk.

If any of these tests indicate bleeding, fading, shrinkage, or damage to the upholstery fabric, then you have two choices: either have it cleaned by a professional or decide not to clean the piece.


This article was written by Anne Field, Extension Specialist, Emeritus with references from the Georgia Extension bulletin, How to Care for Your Furnishings.

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