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Q: I have cleaned chenille fabrics many times in the past, and have always had the client sign off on any potential texture damage. But, although I protect myself with the release, I still don''t feel good about the predictable texture change. What can I do? Normally, the fabric is heavily soiled which means I have to clean it aggressively.
— Lawrence, Boise, ID
A: There is a technical tip article in the July 2011 issue of Cleanfax magazine that discusses some of these challenges. This is an issue that is coming up more and more as delicate fabrics increase in popularity in the marketplace.
But, in a nutshell, what you want to do is agitate only as aggressively as the piece allows. In other words, remember that the customer owns the dirt; you own any damage, holes and texture problems created during the cleaning.
Natural fiber chenille, velvets and other pile weaves need to be treated with care. Using some of the modern "dry" tools is best as the water pressure on the pile isn''t as aggressive as the traditional direct spray tools (which work very well but you have to be concerned with the amount of pressure you use during cleaning).
Grooming the piece is vital. If you can remove any cleaning marks or tool before the piece dries, you can minimize damage.
Consider cleaning with a neutral foam detergent, soft horsehair brush and cotton towels, working the foam into the pile, gentle agitation and removing residues with the towels. If the upholstery isn''t severely soiled, this method might work just fine.
Don''t be afraid to turn down work if your customer waited so long between cleanings that the piece may be beyond cleaning without potential damage.
Q: One of my biggest problems with carpet cleaning is on the nose of stairs and in front of chairs, such as a heavily-used recliner in the living room. I apply preconditioner, agitate the area and rinse with hot water. I think I''m doing the best job possible, but those areas often still look dirty. Anything else I can do?
— Bill, Tacoma, WA
A:If you are using the best, most aggressive (for the fabric) preconditioners, lots of agitation and hot water extraction, from a cleaning aspect you are probably doing the best job possible.
However, there are some extra steps you can take.
One would be to use oxygen in your cleaning. An oxygen booster, usually with sodium percarbonate as the main ingredient, is considered a "color-safe" bleach that helps with the physical appearance of textiles. The oxygen action not only bleaches away the soiled appearance on textiles, but it also helps remove smaller soil particles from fiber surfaces. This is based on the action of oxygen in your cleaning solution.
Another option is to use anti-wicking agents, usually strong encapsulation products, which will help crystallize remaining soils that you might be missing. After cleaning, work the solution into the pile, usually with a carpet rake or brush, and allow to dry. You should see a noticeable improvement in appearance.
All this being said, remember that any surface that is used will not look brand new again. As carpet becomes soiled and trafficked, its natural appearance will change.