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Notes from the Trenches: Tackling Furniture Cleaning as a Service

February 1, 2002
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If your cleaning firm offers carpet cleaning services exclusively, I would

recommend upholstery cleaning as a highly

lucrative add-on opportunity.

With years of exposure to carpet cleaning companies marketing the two services jointly, most homeowners have come to rely on their carpet cleaner to maintain their furnishings as well. Needless to say, you do not want your valued client phoning another carpet cleaner to do their furniture

Most technicians can offer this service relatively easily, by using a small (50psi) portable extractor with a stair/upholstery hand tool, brushes, sheets to protect the muslin lining and surrounding areas and a good blow dryer. In most cases, this fits the 'equipment necessary' requirement.

Specialized equipment
There are many specialty tools and brushes required to fill out your arsenal. While many use common stair tools for upholstery cleaning, a proper cleaning tool incorporates both flow and vac. bypass functions. Water and vacuum control are necessary when cleaning delicates such as polished cottons/chintz. Crevice tools and auto detail tools are also available for this service. There are nylon brushes suitable for durable fabrics such as Herculon as well as soft Horsehair brushes for cottons, etc. Smaller size brushes work well when cleaning arms and pleated areas.

Most fabrics can be safely 'wet cleaned' with the remainder requiring dry (solvent) cleaning. Some fall right in the middle. We use a fast drying upholstery shampoo with the extractor used solely for extracting. Quick drying is a key to problem free upholstery cleaning. To that end, we employ blow dryers to speed up the process.

Drying and chemicals
Remember, however: Most problems occur in the drying process. Excessive moisture-left to dry on its own can cause 'swell-water marks' on certain fabrics, as well as color bleeding. We always speed dry using a blow dryer on a cool/warm setting. It's important to avoid hot air and never train the dryer directly on one area. Taking this step forces moisture into the backing of the fabric, creating problems not easily corrected.

Educate yourself to upholstery cleaning
More importantly, education should be the first priority before offering upholstery cleaning as an add-on service. While training and knowledge are essential to anyone getting into carpet cleaning, upholstery cleaning takes this 'requirement' a step further.

The IICRC offers certified courses in this area in many parts of the country. In lieu of apprenticing with an experienced cleaner, I suggest attending any courses you can. When offering this service, knowledge of fabric Identification, proper cleaning method, etc., are all a must.

Going into this area of the industry 'cold' can leave you 'broke.' I can assure you, there are many more damage claims filed as a result of improper furniture cleaning then there is carpet cleaning. Armed with the proper knowledge and a good portable extractor, you can add this lucrative (and necessary) service to your company arsenal.

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