Where Have All the Fine Fabric Care Specialists Gone?

Decades ago, any decent sized city would have at least one Fine Fabric Care Specialist. Today, it’s hard to find even one. Where have they gone?

In my article Upholstery Cleaning: Cellulosic Browning on Linen Sofas, I explained: “Upholstery cleaning is an art. It requires training, experience and the right tools. Unfortunately, most carpet cleaners have none of these things.” Why is that?

Over the last 20 years, marketers and so-called business gurus have told small businesses to grow and diversify. What is the result? No more local small business specialists! Every city has the same run-of-mill carpet and upholstery cleaning companies that clean everything, carpet, upholstery, tile, grout, furnace, ducts, hardwood, vinyl plank, and even pressure washing and window cleaning. I know what you’re thinking, “is there anything wrong with that?”. Not if mediocrity is your goal and you love Wonder Bread.

Wonder Bread and Private Equity Firms

Nothing wrong with Wonder Bread. Well, there is, but as I age gracefully, I am trying to be less polarizing. Today, carpet and upholstery cleaning companies are the equivalent of cheap white sliced bread for the masses. They all offer the same services and use the same tools and cleaning chemicals. Why is that?

They all purchase their equipment and supplies from a private equity firm. What, a private equity firm selling cleaning supplies? Yep. This investment firm refers to itself as a leading middle-market private equity firm who owns the largest supplier of cleaning supply outlets who have completed nearly 30 acquisitions over the past decade and more than 20 over the last few years.” Is this a good thing for you, the consumer? Not if you are looking for specialized cleaning services.

As I said, upholstery cleaning is art. A Fine Fabric Care Specialist understands his trade. He knows how to get the absolute best results and avoid damaging the upholstery.

Image showing the official badge of a WoolSafe® Approved Fine Fabric Care Specialist
WoolSafe® Approved Fine Fabric Care Specialist

What a Fine Fabric Care Specialist Understands

Fabric: Upholstery fabrics are synthetic or natural fibres. Within each of these broad categories, there are more differences. For example, synthetic fabrics such as polyester microfibre need to be cleaned differently from woven polyester. Polyester source material also varies. With natural fibres, cleaning Haitian cotton or linen is different from cleaning wool. Modern upholstery fabrics often contain a blend of several fibre types. Rayon and viscose are popular. Then there are different dyes and dye processes used in upholstery fabrics. What happens when these fabrics, are cleaned with too much moisture, the wrong tool or the incorrect pH? A Fine Fabric Care Specialist knows.

Top Cushion Filling: Then is the top cushion material. Foam or down-filled feathers? If down-filled, does the ticking have flame retardant? A Fine Fabric Care Specialist understands these challenges and minimizes the inherent risks in cleaning fine fabrics. 

Texture: Cleaning can change the texture of the upholstery. Generic upholstery tools are not suitable and will cause permanent texture distortion. Too much water pressure or too much heat can do the same. The wrong tools easily cause damage to upholstery. A Fine Fabric Care Specialist understands this.

Construction: Skirting, piping, tufting, ticking, zippers, and buttons are factors to be considered when selecting the correct cleaning method and cleaning agents.

The Right Tools: Even tools designed for upholstery cleaning may cause over wetting, destructive heat spikes, and texture distortion.

Image showing some simple tools of a Fine Fabric Care Specialist
Some simple tools of a Fine Fabric Care Specialist.

The Right Cleaning Agents: The best cleaning tools will not make up for using the wrong cleaning agents that are unsafe for the fabric and upholstery.

The Right Method: The best tools, equipment and cleaning agents do not guarantee the best results. Using the wrong method can cause problems with certain fibres, fabrics, textures, dyes, etc.

The Right Attitude: All things equal, it all comes down to who is doing the work. Most carpet cleaners hate cleaning upholstery. As with most things in life, attitude is everything. A Fine Fabric Care Specialist loves cleaning upholstery. He looks for opportunities to hone his craft and keep the best possible results. He will use the right tool and cleaning agents for the job.

Fortunately, there are still boutique businesses that specialize in textile cleaning only. No Wonder Bread or private equity firms needed.

Tapestry Fine Carpet, Rug & Upholstery Cleaning in Victoria, BC is a certified WoolSafe® Approved Fibre Specialist. As a Fine Fabric Care Specialist we provide highly specialized upholstery cleaning in Victoria and nearby areas.