Upholstery cleaning is 50% art and 50% technical. Most carpets can be cleaned the same way but that’s not true for cleaning upholstery. There are a variety of fabrics and patterns each with their own vulnerabilities. The technical comes from knowing what kind of fabric and what chemicals, process and technique is best for that fabric.
Manufacturers often don’t take into consideration the cleaning and maintenance of the furniture when they design it. Most people shop for style and often put less emphasis on durability and maintenance, unless, of course, they have a bevy of young boys running around.
As a rule of thumb, the more expensive a piece of furniture is the more difficult it is to clean as more exotic fabrics tend to be used. This is not always the case, but if you have a significant investment in your upholstered furniture, it is wise to seek out experienced and highly trained specialists to clean it.
Even they can be surprised. We’ve encountered a familiar colorfast cotton material that had a different colored backing that bled through when cleaned and stained the surface. This is unusual but has happened. In this case we had to reupholster the seat cushions to restore the sofa.
The art comes from visualizing the end result of the cleaning. There’s an overall look to the finished product that transcends the technical aspects of the cleaning. You can actually get something too clean. Material, like anything else, tends to oxidize. Also, some areas wear differently than other areas causing the light to refract differently giving it a different look. A skilled technician will take these factors into consideration when cleaning the upholstery. His goal is not only cleaning it but giving it a pleasing appearance. This sometimes means not overworking a spot or just lightly touching upon the front and sides so they look similar to the more worn and soiled areas. An inexperienced cleaner can actually make a sofa, though very clean, look worse after cleaning it.
There have been occasions where, upon inspection, we’ve recommended just vacuuming the sofa rather than cleaning it. In some cases the customer has insisted we clean the furniture only to later complain the sofa looked worse. The irony is there’s no remedy as this problem was cleaning it, and more cleaning won’t help.
As with anything, you need to match the solution to the problem. You wouldn’t take a Bentley to a Ford mechanic and, conversely, you wouldn’t want to pay a Bentley mechanic to work on a Ford. This is not to say that skilled upholstery cleaners are a lot more expensive than less skilled ones. But if you value your upholstery, I would suggest skipping unrealistically low priced services. You’re not going to get a prime aged filet at a restaurant for $6.95 no matter what the advertisement or the menu says. It’s just not doable. Something’s amiss. The old adage, “You get what you pay for” is not infallibly true. There are bargains, and some things are overpriced. But it’s a place to start from when making a purchasing decision.
Hope this helps!