It is worth getting into the habit of vacuuming your upholstery on a regular basis, since if you spring clean it once a year, dirt will be ground into the fabric. Most suction cleaners have a special attachment for cleaning upholstery and for removing dust and dirt from awkward places in the backs and sides of chairs. If possible you should remove any spillage immediately after it happens. Treatment will depend on the type of fabric, so before you begin always check the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure the cleaner you have in mind is suitable. You should check for such things as shrinkage and colour-fastness by making a small test with the cleaner in an inconspicuous place on the upholstery. To avoid over dampening the fabric and the padding beneath, it is best to use a dry cleaner on fabrics to get rid of spots and stains. This type of cleaner only wets the surface and dries very quickly to a powder; when you brush off the powder, it should take the stain with it. At least one make of this type is suitable for cleaning both upholstery and carpet.
These can be either dry-cleaned or washed, depending on the composition of the fabric. If you are in doubt, check with the manufacturer’s washing instructions or go to a reputable cleaner for advice. Some materials may be liable to shrink or run their colours in the wash and you should check for this before you begin washing.
Very badly soiled areas in fixed fabric covers can be cleaned by using a special upholstery shampoo. Again, to avoid overdampening the fabric, you can use a dry shampoo with an applicator. The shampoo foam is forced through a sponge head in a controlled flow which eventually dries to a powder and is removed with an upholstery attachment on a vacuum cleaner. To make sure the shampoo will not harm the fabric, check on a small, hidden area first. Alternatively, if you are going to spring-clean yow carpets by hiring a hot water soil extraction machine, you can clean your upholstery at the same time. Ask for a special upholstery tool attachment when you are hiring one of these machines, which are available by the day or half-day from specialist hire shops and some carpet retailers. The machines are fairly heavy to manoeuvre; but this should not be a problem when you are cleaning upholstery, since you will probably be able to reach several chairs from one position. A shampoo is mixed with the hot water, ‘vacuumed’ over the upholstery with one sweep and sucked back with the grime and dirt in the next sweep, which takes out most of the moisture. It is best to treat very dirty areas with a spot remover to loosen the stain before starting to clean with the machine. The upholstery will dry out in a warm room.
Methods of repairing
Burst or frayed machine seams or tears near piping can be repaired by slip-stitching, which if done with care will conceal the damage. Neaten any frayed edges by trimming, but don’t cut into the fabric itself. If necessary, turn in a tiny piece along either side of the tom edges to make them neat. Use large darning needles fixed down firmly into the padding along the torn edges to hold them together while slip-stitching the tear. You will need matching strong thread and an upholsterer’s half circle ‘slipping’ needle, which you can buy from the haberdashery department of a large store or possibly an upholsterer’s shop. Tie a knot in one end of the thread and insert the needle into one side of the tear a little way in from the end, hiding the knot on the underside of the upholstery. Bring the two edges together by using very tiny stitches on either side, pulling the thread through very firmly each time and keeping the stitches parallel. Remove the darning needles as you go along and finish by fastening off the thread, working the thread end into the seam.
A hole can be successfully repaired by taking replacement fabric from elsewhere (from the underside of the chair or sofa, for example) and patching it in. If this is not possible and you feel it is worth the effort, try locating an extra piece of matching fabric from the manufacturer. Carefully cut away all the damaged fabric, tidying up the edges as you cut. The replacement patch should be slightly larger than the actual hole size and, where necessary, you should carefully match the pattern; if there is a pile make sure it is the right way up. Push the patch down into position onto the padding and underneath the hole edges. Coat round the edges of the patch and the undersides of the fabric edges round the hole with a fabric adhesive, taking care not to let the adhesive touch anywhere else. Wait until the adhesive becomes fairly tacky, press the two surfaces together and leave them to dry. This type of patch will satisfactorily disguise small damaged areas. For anything larger you will need to fit a replacement cover for that particular section: this is covered later in the book.
Leather and vinyl
Covers in leather and vinyl cannot be slip-stitched, but provided they are soft and well worn you can repair holes or tears with a special repair kit available from a hardware store or haberdashers. The kit enables you not only to match up the upholstery colour but also the grain, which is particularly important if you want to achieve a good repair. Clean the surface with white spirit to remove grease and dirt and insert a small piece of bonding sheet (provided with the kit) through the tear to form the base for the repair paste. Mix the paste to the exact colour and use a knife or spatula to spread it into the area. To match the upholstery grain use one of the patterns which come with the kit; alternatively for an unusual grain pattern you can use the rubber compound (which is also sup plied) to make a mould of an area identical to that which is damaged to provide a pattern. Place the grain pattern or rubber mould face down over the paste, place a piece of card on top and press down on it for two minutes with a warm iron to imprint the pattern on the paste.