We love designer upholstery fabrics. We even have our very own fabric by the yard line. And they’re lovingly made and well-designed, so it breaks our sentimental hearts when they’re not cared for properly.
You might be confused on how to care for your domestic textiles, and we get it. We were just as surprised to find out that soap and water are NOT the answer to everything. So whether it’s linens, curtains, carpets, rugs, or upholstery, here are some tips on caring for fabrics in your home.
How to Care For Your Favorite Fabric By The Yard
Most upholstery fabrics are made from natural materials such as cotton, linen, silk and wool and these involve processing and spinning to create yarn. Depending on the chemical and physical properties of the fiber, the textile may or may not have longevity. In addition, other materials added to the fabric can also affect deterioration. For instance, beads on a tulle can cause minute tears as the tulle ages and becomes more brittle.
Many synthetic fibers are chemically unstable and are prone to discoloration. Not to mention exposure to the elements like sunlight, wind, and humidity can also hasten fabric aging.
We’re all fans of upcycling, especially if we’ve picked something up from a destination flea market or vintage store. Take a look at this Pixie Nook Cottage with jewel hues, upcycled vintage finds and bold Designers Guild fabrics. Isn’t the fabric’s vibrant vibe makes it so beautiful? Repurposing worn out textiles as some of those is not always a good idea. It’s nice to think that you can cut up a vintage silk fabric by the yard to make into pillows, but perhaps it’s best to seek professional advice on the value of the piece first and if conservation of the original textile is possible.
When it comes to cleaning, we subscribe to the less is more philosophy. Just like in these denim upholstery fabrics, repeatedly washing these textiles will result in a worn appearance and perhaps (to our chagrin) permanent damage. The most damaging are tumble action machines, as their rolling and beating action breaks fibers, while spin cycles crush them. To prolong the life of your designer upholstery fabrics, avoid the need to clean them. As an alternative, prevent dirt accumulation rather than cause damage by cleaning treatments.
Washing and Drying
You’d think the most common method of cleaning designer upholstery fabrics, of course, is through good ol’ water and detergent. However, textiles with a lot of intricate details and especially those with backing should not be tossed in with the rest of the laundry. Hot water can cause cotton and linen to shrink, while the detergent can often affect the dyes in the textiles. Shrinkage due to heat causes distortions in the fabric and will destroy your favorite pieces.
That’s why we suggest gently cleaning these Boho Luxe Home velvet pillows with a small steam cleaner. Make sure you dry the velvet immediately after steaming using a hair dryer or fan, then brush the nap to restore its luster.
Now we’d hate to get stains on these pretties, but accidents happen, so try Woolite’s Fabric and Upholstery cleaner on them. Be sure to spot test it on a corner first and apply with suede brush or sponge rather than the scrubber. Remember: gentle cleaning. A great tip is to do both the front or back of the pillow to keep from creating a flattened spot. Afterward, vacuum off the residue and brush several times with your hand.
I had chips with my salsa
Oh no, crumbs! You’re thinking of busting out the vacuum cleaner, aren’t you? The safest way to remove loose dust and dirt is by vacuuming, but stay away from stronger, blower machines that will push the dirt further into the fabric, especially in certain rugs such as the high pile faux fur here.
Check your textile carefully to see whether it’s sturdy enough to survive a vacuum cleaning. Look for loose fibers and tears, especially if the fabric looks particularly fragile in some areas. For example, embroidery threads often come loose with time, and a strong suction could unravel an entire area, permanently ruining the design, not to mention unstitching will damage the fabric. Following the tips in this post will help keep your embroidery looking their best.
Additionally, using the vacuum recklessly could suck up sequins or other embellishments on designer upholstery fabrics. To avoid this, cover the nozzle with a thin fabric like a stocking or a fine net, and secure it with a rubber band. Hold the nozzle a few centimeters—5 to10 will do—above the fabric to reduce suction pressure and prevent scuffing. Remember, every designer fabric by the yard is delicate! If there are more intricate decorative elements like embroidered flowers, employ the services of a soft brush to lift dirt from tight spots toward the covered nozzle.
But I spilled something on it!
We know the usual suspects—water, wine, ketchup, and the occasional salsa. But don’t give in to temptation by drenching the textile in water. Contain the damage by drying it and then dab a paper towel on it to absorb as much moisture as possible. Repeat this until all the moisture has been removed. Treat the designer upholstery fabric gently and DO NOT SCRUB.
The next step of saving your textile is to circulate cool air around it to dry. Keep a gentle current of cool air all around the fabric with a desktop fan, but should not be pointed directly at it. Hairdryers are good too, as long as they’re set on a cool setting, as heat can make the damage worse.
I’d really much rather send it out for dry cleaning
We often use dry cleaning for our upholstery fabrics believing that it’s a gentler process than washing with water. Actually, it’s a rough treatment because it uses chemicals that more often than not can damage textiles. Unfortunately, commercial dry cleaning is not advised for that favorite Beni Ourain rug you want to pass down to the next generation.
To know if your newly-bought fabric by the yard can or cannot be dry cleaned, check out this guide. Offhand, the solvents that are used in dry cleaning removes oily dirt, and the process involves using it with a large tumble action machines on a fixed time cycle. The machine usually takes loads of 10 to 20 kgs, and it’s impractical to solvent clean items one by one, so when the cycle is set, the machine cannot be stopped even if—shudder—dye is running. (Cue horrified screams from textile lovers everywhere!)
My grandma said—
Powder? Bread? Milk to clean textiles? No, no, and no. We’ve heard about these natural cleaning remedies but sadly, these make the damage worse than managing it. The problem with these methods is that residue gets left behind, and that’s just an invitation for insects and mites to come live in your designer upholstery fabrics.
We don’t want that! And we definitely don’t want mold! Now milk was believed to help in oil-in-water emulsion spills, but it’ll cause the same problems that water causes, like permanent stains and colors running. We say, stay away from these treatments at all costs!
When in doubt and if your designer upholstery fabric has sentimental value and you wish to pass it on to future generations, perhaps think about consulting a professional conserver of fabrics. And if you’re having a hard time deciding which fabric by the yard to shop and design to choose for your upholstery, look through a list of fabric manipulation techniques here and Brown’s guide below to give you an idea!