Over the past year, I have learned quite a bit more about how vapor works on upholstery. There are many fabrics that do not work well. The flat fabrics like silk, linen, and satin are the most troublesome.
I have recommended spraying the fabric with 1 part detergent 9 parts water but I can clarify with greater detail. First, use Oxy-clean or some other oxygen bleach. It is gentle on the fabric and works well on organic matter. Second, with these flat fabrics, you should make an effort to spray the fabric thoroughly, almost till it is soaked. Blot with a towel to get some of the exess moisture out, and with it the soils that you are trying to remove. Finally, use the steam cleaner with the triangle brush wrapped in a towel and make overlapping passes across the entire surface, repeating several times and changing towels frequently.
This will get you the best results. One customer used this method and his green and black modern chair and ottoman went from dingy and stained with oils and dirt to bright green and dark black with no evidence of the prior marks. The chair and ottoman went from looking like a relic to a museum piece on modern furniture.
Though I have no reason to believe this will work on the many beloved soiled ivory colored couches out there, this would be the best shot at bringing the fabric back to what it used to be . Often, with light fabrics, the soil marks become dyed in. The oxygen bleach will help to break down the organic compounds while the steam will help lift them out of the fabric.
I got a call the other day. “Will the dry vapor cleaner get out red wine from a cream colored sofa?” they asked.
The answer is no, not really. The problem with red wine or blood is that it acts like a dye.
There is a way to deal with it if caught early. If you spill red wine or get blood on anything, your best bet is cold water and lots of it, ideally before the spill dries. If the caller had not washed the cushion cover in luke warm water but instead immediately put it in a bucket of ice cold water, eventually the wine would dilute into the water and come out. After a few fresh buckets of cold water, there is a really good chance that nothing would remain. It also depends on the type of fibers and the processes used to finish the fabric. As for the arm of the couch, one should use a towel soaked in cold water draped over the spill. Pat it into the stain gently, rinse and replace many times.
Also, this would be the ideal job for a Rug Doctor using COLD water only. As a wet vac, the Rug doctor and it’s hand held couch tool could get water into the area and pull it back out.
Though the dry-vapor cleaner is ideal for most soils and ideal for your health, there is a time and place for heat and a time and place for cold.
Most people don’t realize that indoor air quality is a cause for concern. Here is a link to introductory material from the EPA on this topic.
If you weren’t aware, cleaning with steam will atomize toxic chemical residue left in household surfaces. Always remember to open windows or, if you’re really sensitive, invest in a mask that is rated for protection from fumes. Though you live with these dangerous fumes every day as they off gas into your indoor environment, it is ideal to make sure that when you are promoting off gassing that you protect yourself.
Also, it is desirable to induce this off gassing with a Dry-Vapor cleaning system because less of these gasses stay in your furnishings and therefore cannot later contaminate your indoor air to the extent that they were able to previously.
One very simple thing you can do for your health is leave some windows open for a few hours every day. Perhaps you can pick the warmest hours of the day so as not to lose too much heat in the winter, or just leave a couple of windows open a crack and turn the heat off while you are away from the house during the day. Unless you live in an extremely polluted part of the world, creating ventilation is the simplest single step you can take toward improving indoor air quality.
This article in the New York Times titled “Who Should Worry About Dust Mites (and Who Shouldn’t)” is a great addition to the “How to Clean Your Room for Asthma” article on this blog. It confirms that washing and drying bedding on the hot cycle is definitely a confirmed method for getting rid of dust mites and their feces. If you are super sensitive, just drying it every few days will help keep the population down. But the article recommends weekly washing and drying of bedding. I think drying your bedding more frequently will be more effective.
Finally, the New York Times article suggests there is controversy over whether Dust mite encasement works. Either way, it’s the dryer that does the critical work. If there is any item worth replacing, they suggest your pillows would be the most critical.