Caring for Your Upholstery
Upholstered furniture is both decorative and functional. Whilst it is intended to be a part of an interior decorative scheme, its main role is to provide comfortable seating. Not surprisingly, regular use results in considerable wear and tear. As a result, much antique furniture has been reupholstered, often many times. Even today, it is all too common for upholstered furniture to be stripped down to the frame, old upholstery discarded and replaced with new. The consequence of this is the loss of all original materials and evidence of original techniques. Thus furniture that survives with its original upholstery intact is unusual and often of historical interest.
Upholstery top covers, like other textiles, are particularly susceptible to damage from light. Case or loose covers made of silk, linen or cotton were used historically to prevent expensive upholstery from being damaged by dust and light. These covers were removed for honoured guests and on special occasions. Case covers can be used to protect upholstery textiles from light damage. They are used in many historic houses to protect upholstered furniture during their closed season.
The first thing to do is to blot immediately with kitchen paper to absorb the liquid. Repeat this until you have removed as much liquid as possible. Don’t be tempted to use heat, for example a hair dryer, to speed the drying as this can cause shrinkage or permanently fix stains. After blotting, stop and consider whether to accept the remaining damage or try to remove more stain. If in doubt, limit your remedy to blotting and consult an upholstery cleaning company such as the Carpet Doctor for further treatment.
In some cases it is possible to lightly dampen the surface with water, then blot away as much of the water and stain as possible. This process can be repeated, drying by thoroughly blotting between each stage. However, upholstery is composed of many layers. If water or other liquids are used, it isn’t always possible to keep the effects on the layers separate. You may find that colours in the top cover have run or that tidelines have formed as dirt is drawn up from the lower layers into the textile cover. Both of these problems can be permanent and attempts to remove the stain can simply extended the area of damage.
If you want to clean historic top covers on upholstered furniture, consult an upholstery cleaning company who specialise such as he Carpet Doctor. It is worth remembering that the tacks used to fix the top cover are usually nailed well into the wood, and the head of the tack is often deeply impressed into the textile. Trying to lever the tacks out, especially if they have rusted and weakened the textile, is almost certain to tear the fabric.
The Carpet Doctor will be able to minimise damage when removing the cover and will know what cleaning method is most appropriate. Another problem is that upholstery fabric, when originally fitted, is stretched under tension and then trimmed. If removed, it can be difficult to refit because there is insufficient fabric remaining to allow it to be re tensioned.
It is worth remembering that drop-in seat frames should be returned to their original chair. Frames are not interchangeable within sets. It is common to find that top covers on drop-in seats have been added one after the other, sometimes with addition of a layer of wadding. You may be lucky and find the original cover and profile is still intact underneath. However, if enough layers have been added, the additional bulk acts as a wedge and forces the chair joints apart or breaks the rebate where the seat sits in the frame.
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