Because tapestries and other fabrics are hanging in elevated positions, they may be well above the heat line in a fire-damaged structure, and they may be subject to heavy smoke and heat damage. Of course, this may severely impact your ability to achieve satisfactory cleaning. To compound the problem, these items may be somewhat delicate due to their construction or age. Clean them with extreme caution to avoid fiber or fabric distortion, dye bleeding or simply disintegration. Tapestry restoration may include the following:
In moderate to heavy smoke situations, apply a dry solvent pre-conditioner (with dry solvent compatible detergent), and agitate cautiously with a white, terry cloth towel or horsehair bristled brush. Allow a few minutes of dwell time; then, rinse the fabric with a dry solvent rinse and compatible deodorant that is injected and extracted with a standard upholstery and drapery dry solvent extraction cleaning unit.
If smoke residues are so heavy that dry solvent-based cleaners simply won’t achieve acceptable results on tapestries, consider two additional options: First, after briefing insureds or adjusters on available options and obtaining appropriate authorization, consider use of in-plant immersion dry cleaning that is more aggressive and may be expected to produce better results than on-location dry cleaning. Just be sure to inform your dry cleaning subcontractor of the item’s delicacy and specify that they clean the tapestry—size permitting—in a nylon net. This practice minimizes the agitation that may cause the tapestry to fray or distort. Additionally, dry cleaners should reduce cleaning cycles to a bare minimum.
Ultimately, wet side cleaning may be necessary. Again, test for dye bleeding and fabric durability carefully. Even at that, use wet cleaning with caution, and consider it salvage cleaning, with insurance company representatives and insureds being informed of potential problems and other options (replacement), before you begin restoration work. Pre-conditioner strength varies based on fiber content and color stability, but usually, its pH is close to neutral, maybe even slightly acid, to stabilize color and protect natural fibers. Agitate with a soft, horsehair bristled brush, and minimize dwell time. Extracting suspended soils from tapestries with a drapery tool (perforated slot) is highly recommended, to lessen the possibility of fabric damage.
Occasionally, when wet or dry cleaning delicate tapestries, and especially loosely woven fabric wall hangings, it may be necessary to build a frame over which a durable white sheet or polyester screening material is stretched tightly. Then lay the tapestry or wall hanging on top of the sheet. After carefully removing all dry soils with meticulous vacuuming procedures, and using a low pressure gun-jet “soaker” tool, spray a pre-tested dry solvent or neutral, water-based cleaning solution into the top of the tapestry, while vacuuming the underside of the sheet being used to stabilize the loose or delicate weave. The idea is to suspend the soil and flush it downward, through the sheet and into the cleaning unit’s vacuum recovery system. In this manner many delicate fabrics may be cleaned safely and effectively.