OFFICE PANELS... Keep Them Looking Like New

Since the introduction of the first open-plan office system in 1964, the use of “cubicles” has become an integral part of the office environment. Today, one-third of the world’s office workers use daily what has become a $5 billion installed base of systems furniture.

Using a fabric panel system solves many design problems in the work place. Fabrics are good sound absorbers and help to reduce office noise. These systems also offer the designer the opportunity to introduce color and texture into what might otherwise be a very sterile, box-like environment.

However many office managers forget that once installed, these systems become “the walls” which would ordinarily receive regular painting. Because they are soft surfaces and their care is more complicated, fabric panel systems often become the most neglected maintenance area in the office.

Maintenance Tips

Because they are made of fabrics, panel systems tend to be ignored for long periods of time. To prevent such neglect, it is best to put a maintenance program in place as the panels are being installed. It is important to note that panel systems are great places for allergens to hide and improving the care of panels can make the workplace healthier. 

Fabrics should be monitored on a regular basis to remove dust and soil residues that get trapped in the weave of the fabric and can aggravate dust and mold allergies.

Vacuuming will help remove loosely held dust and other airborne particles from fabric panels. Two or three times a year is not too often to vacuum these surfaces. Panels in high traffic areas would benefit from more frequent vacuuming.

A sponge specially designed for fabrics is an excellent way to remove handprints, smudges and other dry soils that cannot be removed by vacuuming. These safe and easy-to-use fabric sponges simply and safely “erase” dry soils from the fabric, much like an old-style school eraser.

Spots and Spills

Spills, scuffmarks, ink marks, filtration soil, handprints—these are just a few of the most common problems encountered on office panels. The fabrics used on panels are most often made from 100% polyester or polyester blends. These fabrics are relatively forgiving when it comes to spot removal.

However, many office furniture manufacturers do offer more “exotic” fabric choices and interior designers sometimes choose wools and other fabric blends for a custom look. It is important to know and understand what fabrics are on the panels when deciding how to care for them.

Here are some general do's and don'ts:

  1. Do protect your investment. Fabric panel systems are a huge investment and that investment will last longer and look better if the fabrics on the panels are treated with a fabric protector. Spots, spills, hand- prints and kick marks will be much easier to remove. When the fabrics require an overall cleaning, they will also clean up better if protected when new.
  2. Do pretest. Choose an inconspicuous area of the panel (or a nearby panel) and test any chemicals or procedures you are considering.
  3. Don’t be too quick to grab chemicals. Vacuuming, bushing and/or the use of a fabric sponge can sometimes remove surface stains such as toner and fingerprints without adding any liquids at all.
  4. Don’t rub! You might create a frayed or worn area. Light brushing is acceptable.
  5. Do call professional cleaners if dry cleaning solvents are necessary. Solvents often damage foam backings and should be used sparingly.
  6. Don't over-work a spot. If the stain doesn’t seem to be moving, STOP. Call a professional cleaner for assistance.

General Cleaning

When the time comes for a thorough cleaning, make sure to choose a professional company with experience in panel systems cleaning. Because it is so effective, most professionals would use hot water extraction as the preferred method for cleaning office panels. It is important to determine colorfastness and other potential concerns through pre-testing of cleaning agents and procedures.

Service is Key

Fiber-Seal professionals are part of a worldwide network that stands ready to assist with designing and implementing proper protection and maintenance procedures for new or existing fabric installations. From maintenance recommendations to in-person assistance for stubborn spots and spills, the professionals of the Fiber-Seal Fabric Care System create success stories and happy clients every day.