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Q: For a long time, I’ve cleaned furniture with no problems whatsoever. But last week I cleaned a white sofa with a flowered design and the color came right out with the dirt. After cleaning, I found out it was a cotton sofa. I’m in trouble. What can I do?
— Chris, Culver City, CA
Your comment about not having a problem in the past… unfortunately, the inevitable finally caught up to you.
As for “What can I do?” there’s nothing that will add those floral print designs back in. It would be nice if there was some technique cleaners could use in situations like this.
You will have to decide if you will replace the sofa for your customer or wait and see if they demand it, which could end up in court. You have to weigh the cost of replacement to the bad publicity this may bring you.
Since there isn’t anything you can do to the piece in question, the only thing now is to prevent it from occurring again in the future.
You went “a long time” before something happened. What you can do is something simple, to avoid this in the future. The following are a few tips on avoiding furniture cleaning disasters.
There are fabrics you will find (which you did) that lose color and have other cleaning issues. These are normally natural fibers, such as cotton, linen and silk, among others. If you do a quick burn test, on a small thread of yarn obtained from inside the cushion or other area of the piece that is inconspicuous, and the result is an ash that you can crumble or that leaves a dirty residue on your finger, you have a natural fiber and should proceed with caution.
If you had this information before cleaning that sofa, you could have used lower moisture, less agitation, a lower pH cleaning product… lots of things you could have done to avoid this color loss nightmare.
Something else you could have done, and should do on every job, is test the colors by adding your strongest chemical you will use and use a white towel to see if there is color transfer.
Then, if there is no transfer, clean a small area on the lower back of the sofa, such as the skirting. If you precondition that area, agitate the chemical into the fabric, and clean as you normally would, you would have an opportunity to see if there is any color loss. If there was, you could stop and talk to the customer and come up with a safer cleaning plan — which could mean dry cleaning or turning down the job altogether.
We are out of space here, but there are additional steps and procedures to consider. There are entire articles on www.Cleanfax.com about this issue and they have valuable details on all aspects of pretesting, precleaning and keeping out of trouble when it comes to furniture care. Take some time to visit the site and use the search function and learn all you can about how to be successful with all aspects of professional furniture care.
We are primarily carpet cleaners. One of my customers had a “puff back” and I cleaned the carpet. But there is still an odor in the home. They have had us back a couple of times to clean the carpet again. I fear another phone call. What can we do?
— Randy, Scranton, PA
You aren’t the first carpet cleaner to do a good job cleaning the carpet in a puff back situation and then be called back to clean — again and again and again — because the odor just won’t go away.
The reason it won’t go away is because the source is not in the carpet. It’s probably in areas you aren’t addressing, such as the air ducts, the register vents and the entire furnace/AC system. Odors can also come from residues on walls and contents in the home.
You didn’t mention if you cleaned the furniture. If not, that could be the source of the odor as well.
So think of all the surfaces touched by the puff back and clean and deodorize them, and if you don’t work with those types of surfaces, find a company that does. For instance, the duct work needs a thorough cleaning. In a puff back, it’s a requirement to clean all air handling equipment.
Remember: If you remove all odor-causing residues, you won’t have an odor. Is this easy? No. But it has to be done.