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Upholstery Care / Chemicals
January 2014 Technical Tips

Remove the Uncertainty

Upholstery cleaning can be like carpet cleaning. Here’s how.

January 06, 2014
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I have had discussions with cleaners about upholstery cleaning for decades, and I’ve often wondered why upholstery cleaning services represent as much as 50 percent of the residential cleaning volume of a few companies, and less than 10 percent of the volume of most others.<photocredit>Jeff Cross</photocredit>

These were the reasons I was given by most of the “10 percent” group.

  1. Poor results.
  2. Took too long to do.
  3. No money in it.
  4. Fear of damage claims.

As much as those reasons seem like distinct and, on the face of it, legitimate reasons, they are all based on this:

Lack of information doesn’t allow the cleaner to make decisions that will avoid these four problems.

Let’s see what information a cleaner could have before cleaning upholstery that would eliminate each of these issues:

1. Poor results

This could probably be better worded as inconsistent results.

Cleaners who encounter furniture that just doesn’t clean up as well as others they have cleaned that seem to be the same thing may become very frustrated.  A synthetic fiber fabric that is white in color will clean up far easier and faster than one that is made from a natural fiber, such as cotton. 

If cleaners test to determine the fiber family (natural or blends versus synthetic fibers), they’ll better be able to choose cleaning products and methods that work better on natural fibers and blends, and also better qualify the work to the customer before they begin.

Additional information that could prevent poor results would be knowledge of cleaning products and procedures so that the cleaning could yield far better results than would be otherwise achieved.

2. Takes too long to do

It can be frustrating for a cleaner to find themselves taking longer to clean one sofa than all the carpet in the house. 

What causes such long cleaning times is often a poor understanding of the fibers, fabric, pre-existing conditions and proper procedures. An example would be the difference between cleaning a natural fiber velvet or chenille that require extensive texture restoration procedures after cleaning, versus one made from synthetic fibers that can be cleaned and quickly brushed to leave a pleasing appearance.

If a cleaner knows the difference of the fibers involved ahead of time, they can qualify the job better, price it according to the time required and then feel comfortable with the extra time needed to do it right.

3. No money in it

In a way, this concern is related to points 1 and 2, but deserves its own discussion. 

It is difficult to properly (and profitably) price something with which you know too little. When you have an understanding of the value of the item to your customer, the training, products and equipment necessary to clean it safely and properly, and you can translate that information in a positive and understandable fashion to your prospect, you can then price the work you do more profitably.

4. Fear of damage claims

Most fears related to upholstery cleaning are greatly exaggerated or even unfounded altogether. 

Cellulosic browning is not nearly as common today as it once was because of better tools and cleaning products, and color bleeding is so rare it’s nearly (though not entirely) non-existent unless improper tools or products are used.

These fears can be minimized, if not completely removed, by learning how to inspect, test and identify the type of fabric to be cleaned, as well as by keeping up-to-date with the latest tools and products used for upholstery cleaning.

If you can get past these four roadblocks, you should be able and willing to promote upholstery cleaning services to more customers and increase your bottom line.

You will be able to do this with far less fear and worry about what may happen — just like with carpet cleaning.

An industry trainer and consultant, Jim Pemberton is the president of Pemberton’s Cleaning & Restoration Supplies in McKeesport, PA, and he has more than 30 years of experience in the cleaning and restoration industry. Pemberton is the Cleanfax 2007 Person of the Year. You are invited to visit his website at www.ECleanAdvisor.com, or e-mail him at JimsCleanChat@Gmail.com.

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