PRE-TESTING... The Most Important Rule of Spot Removal

While it is true that every soft surface——wall fabric, rugs, upholstery, draperies, etc.—should be carefully pre-tested before using any spot cleaning product, for purposes of simplicity we will focus in this article specifically on seating fabrics. The same general framework of pre-testing is used on all types of interior fabrics and floor coverings.

Physical Methods First

Don't forget to use non-chemical methods before reaching for the bottle of spot remover. Some spots are dry in nature (ashes and soot, for example) and are better removed by brushing and vacuuming. Before you use a spot cleaner, even one of our Fiber-Seal cleaners, read the instructions and precautions on the label. One of the first steps listed in the directions of almost any spot remover is “Pre-test in an inconspicuous area before using.” Unfortunately, space limitations often do not allow further details that would make this instruction more easily understood. So, what are the proper procedures? The goal of pre-testing is very simple. The testing is done to simulate the procedures about to be performed and to look for any changes that suggest that the spot removal attempt may make the fabric look worse than before.

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Inconspicuous Area”

Testing in an inconspicuous area allows a bit more breathing room in case something doesn’t turn out right.

The most commonly suggested area for testing is on the zipper back side of a seat or cushion. If a zippered cushion is not available, other hidden areas should be considered.

Be very careful about using the back of skirts as a test area. The solution could bleed through to the front or the fabric could shrink, causing bigger problems.

In some cases, such as a dining chair with only a tight seat, there simply is no good area in which to test. In these situations, testing must still be done, but using care to keep the test area small and in the most inconspicuous area possible.

If you have a remnant or swatch, that’s even better. Remnants and swatches let you test without causing any problems to your furnishings. Important: The swatch must be from the same dye lot as the fabric about to be spot cleaned.

No Way to Rush It

Once an appropriate test area has been found, the cleaning product should be applied in an amount that is about the size of a quarter (or less, especially if the area is not well hidden). If the fabric has multiple colors, be sure to test all of them. Pay special attention to darker colors, since these are the most likely to have problems.

After 10-15 minutes, blot the test area with a clean white towel and check for any color transfer, either to the towel or within the fabric. If color transfer is noted, stop.

If everything looks good to this point, let the test area dry and then inspect it carefully. Look for:

  • Dye bleeding
  • Yellowing
  • Darkening or lightening
  • Nap distortion
  • Any other appearance changes

If any changes are noted, do not continue. The cleaning agent you have chosen may not be safe for this fabric.

It is important to note that the test area should be allowed to dry naturally, rather than drying with a fan or hair dryer. A prolonged drying period will give a better idea of the true “worst-case scenario” involved in spot cleaning.

The Bottom Line

Are you choosing fabrics for a client and unsure about which will give the best overall result when it comes to spot cleaning and day-to-day maintenance? The professionals at your local Fiber-Seal Service Center can help you test fabrics before they are purchased and installed. From maintenance recommendations to in-person assistance for stubborn spots and spills, the professionals at Fiber-Seal create success stories and happy clients every day.

Need Help With Fabric Cleaning Or Fabric Protection?

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Always use fabric experts to clean and protect your upholstered furnishings.