Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Cleaning Smoke-Damaged Window Treatments, Part 3: Blinds

Understanding the various methods used for cleaning blinds will assure you and the insured of a successful outcome.

Photo courtesy of Hunter Douglas.

Photo courtesy of Hunter Douglas.
In Part 2, we covered sheers and top coverings. In the final installation of this series, we'll discuss restoration techniques of various blinds.

Venetian Blinds
Another window treatment you're likely to encounter is Venetian blinds or mini-blinds. These blinds are comprised of slats that originally, were made of stained or painted wood, but today are made of metal coated with enamel paint. In past years the slats were connected by latex coated cotton "ribbons" and cotton draw cords; however today, ribbons are virtually gone and nylon cords are used for both connecting, spacing and drawing blinds. In the past restoration of blinds was a time consuming, tedious, hand cleaning operation accomplished slat by slat. But today, with more durable components and better techniques, cleaning is much faster and easier. Consider these steps:

Dismounting: Open the corner-mounting bracket to easily remove the blind from the bracket.

Site Selection: Select a flat, smooth surface on which to process the blind, such as a concrete slab. A bathtub may be adequate for single window blinds, but problems arise when larger blinds are processed. Be sure to place a soft drop cloth on any surface to prevent scratching the enamel paint covering the slats. Fully extend the blind and lay it out on the prepared surface.

Cleaning: Using a properly diluted, warm, free-rinsing, general-purpose detergent, liberally spray-apply it to all the slats and cords. Agitate the solution with a soft, nylon bristled brush (truck washing brush) mounted on an extension handle. Then, flip the blind over and repeat this process on the other side of the slats.

Rinsing: Hang the blind from a clothesline or rack and rinse thoroughly with clear warm water. Rinse from bottom to top and again from top to bottom.

Drying: Then close the blind and quickly wipe the slats with a chamois or with lint-free towels to prevent water spots. Reverse the slats and wipe down the opposite side as well. Use forced air movement to dry all components quickly and thoroughly.

Remounting: Remount blinds on the window from which they were removed. Blind cleaning machines that use ultrasonic baths are also highly touted for restoring smoke-damaged blinds and other immersible objects. These units are great for wholesale cleaning of commercial blinds on a routine basis, but don't expect miracles when tackling blinds with a heavy buildup of household soil, combined with the heavy residues often generated by typical grease fires. With light to moderate soot residue, they work very fast and efficiently.

Finally, consider cost. The price of many mini-blinds has dropped dramatically in recent years. When cheap blinds are used throughout a home, it may be more cost effective to replace, rather than to restore them.

Vertical Blinds
Vertical blinds are made of woven synthetic yarns (polyester, olefin) that are heavily back coated with latex adhesives. They are durable, colorfast and sun resistant. The individual slats or panels are tied together by chains or cords that allow them to rotate to open or close, or which withdraw them from the window altogether.

Because of their durability, they respond well to restoration cleaning, even though handling these blinds may be a little complicated. The slats may be dismounted individually (a time consuming task) and laid out on a worktable. Detergent is applied and agitated with a brush. Then, each slat is rinsed with a hot water extraction employed with a hand tool. Perhaps more practical is a technique similar to mechanical wall washing. Having protected windows, walls and floors with heavy-gauge plastic, a detergent solution is sprayed onto the vertical blind beginning at the bottom and working to the top. Light agitation may be accomplished with a soft, nylon bristled brush, pushing each slat against the protective plastic material. After three to five minutes, the back of each slat (latexed side) can be rinsed with an upholstery tool. Then reverse the slats so that the front side of each slat may be cleaned in similar fashion. Of course, clean mounting hardware (usually enamel coated metal) by hand.

Roman Shades (Woven Woods)
Woven woods consist of a combination of durable synthetic yarns interlaced with thin wood (bamboo) slats that usually are coated with clear varnish or enamel paint. Draw cords enable them to roll upward when not being used to cover the window.

Because durable, colorfast components are used, they may be processed with the same procedures used on Venetian blinds. However, because of the moisture sensitive nature of the wood component, they must be force dried rapidly. Failure to do so may result in warping of the wood or cracking and chipping of paint or varnish. Always test for colorfastness and component durability before proceeding.

Window Shades
Today's window shades are made of anything from inexpensive vinyl sheeting to fabrics that are heavily back coated with latex, plastic or vinyl. They are designed to roll up when retracted. Like Roman shades or Venetian blinds, they are fairly durable and colorfast, and they may be processed with the same restoration procedures used on those components: laid flat, detergent applied to both sides with a soft bristled brush, rinsed and wiped dry.

In the past few issues, we've addressed the cleaning methods of various smoke-damaged window treatments. Next month, we'll launch the first of a two-part series on restoring wood furniture.

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