The most common types of upholstery cleaning used by contractors are shampooing, hot water extraction and encapsulation. The key when cleaning any type of upholstered furniture is to avoid over-wetting.

“Over-wetting is the root of all evil in cleaning,” Yeadon says. “It contributes to shrinkage, leaking and odor-development.”

However, technological advancements in equipment, especially in relation to low-moisture extraction, are preventing over-wetting, he says.

“What’s really changed over the last several years in upholstery cleaning is the introduction of new upholstery tools that fall into the low-moisture category even with a hot water extraction system,” Yeadon says. “The tools used today have more of a shearing effect. You can still get moisture in there but it’s going across the surface and being extracted out before it can go very deep.”

Hot water extraction provides a thorough, deeper clean. A damp or dry shampoo can be brushed on, agitating the fibers, and allowed to dry before being vacuumed away.

“More people are using encapsulation; just like they’re using it more frequently on carpet, they’re also using it more frequently on upholstery,” Jasper says. “Ultimately, what they’re going to use is also going to be determined by the budget.”

The barriers to entry aren’t all that high, especially considering the potential for return on investment. A BSC that is trained in hot water carpet extraction simply needs to add an upholstery tool as well, as some pre-sprays and rinses to the machine already being used.

“It’s not like it’s a major investment in equipment. You change the tool and understand it’s a little bit different than what you’re doing but it’s a simple process,” Yeadon says.

BSCs should consider traffic levels, furniture usage and budget restrictions when determining cleaning methods and frequencies, Jasper says.

“In an office, you have sugars, starches, proteins, skin, perspiration, and germs circulating throughout the entire facility and collecting on furniture,” he says. “Those protein molecules hold onto the fabric and you need an alkaline cleaner to break these bonds down. Some furniture cleaners are slightly acidic because they have detergent in them to help break down those bonds, releasing soil.”

As far as determining what type of chemicals to use, it typically depends on the type of fabric.

“Most upholstery cleaning chemicals have fewer wetting agents, which means they don’t penetrate into fabric as much as other cleaning chemicals,” Jasper says. “Those will normally have a lower pH, will be a little more neutral. With synthetic fibers, you’re not going to have the shrinkage that can threaten natural fibers, so you’ll be able to use products with a higher pH that are a little more aggressive.”

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