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Upholstery Care

Fine fabric restoration specialist opportunities

January 09, 2012
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The restoration of soft content items after smoke damage is an art that is not well understood by most fire damage restoration contractors.

When the restoration industry was served mostly by cleaning companies that grew into the restoration business, the cleaning and restoration of soft content items, specifically upholstered fabrics, was often done successfully.

Today, the majority of larger restoration companies has a stronger background in construction, and may not have the trained staff that can understand how to clean and restore smoke damaged fabrics to "pre-fire" condition.

This lack of attention to the restoration of upholstered fabrics is partly due to the fact that carpet is often damaged too badly after a fire to be saved, and thus most of the other soft contents get discarded, or are subject only to superficial restoration attempts and then are discarded when they can''t be brought back to pre-fire condition.

Allowing upholstery (as well as high value area rugs, and other textile contents) to be discarded when complete restoration is still possible is not only costly to the insurance company, but often causes the insured to lose very valuable property than may not be replaceable.

Fine fabrics and other high value textiles often cannot be replaced with identical materials, and some have antique or at least heirloom value to the insured.

There are, of course, levels of damage that occur that defy even the most skilled restoration specialist. However, it's my belief that there are very few skilled fine fabric restoration specialists in the industry.

This lack of ability to restore high value upholstery leaves a great opportunity for the more "cleaning savvy" restorers, as well as for fine fabric specialists who can offer their services as skilled subcontractors for restorers.

If you are currently involved in fire and water restoration, you likely are spending most of your training dollars on water restoration classes. While this training may be critical, you are likely doing it to simply "keep up" with all of the other restoration companies.

You will find that becoming a specialist in contents restoration, especially high value textiles like fine fabric upholstery and area rugs, will give you a more unique position when marketing your services to the insurance industry.

Or, if you are a fine fabric specialist looking to expand your business without entering into the restoration business yourself, make a point to call on disaster restoration businesses.

Some may be confident in their own staff's ability to handle soft contents cleaning, but many would appreciate having a skilled subcontractor who could confidently clean high value upholstery, area rugs, tapestries and other textiles that have high real or heirloom value.

The key to being able to market yourself as such a specialist is, of course, gaining skills in that arena.

In upcoming articles, I'll point out some of the conditions that occur during smoke and water damage that create unexpected challenges when it comes to restoring high value textiles, such as fine fabric upholstery.

Finally, I will also give some tips of how to clean and restore smoke and water damaged fabrics to help make your service of high value to the insurance industry, or restoration contractors who need a specialist in this field.

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

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