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Ugly Yellow or Brown Stains
Remaining After Cleaning?

JIm Pemberton - Fine Fabric 'Cleaning Coach'

One of the more common questions that I receive regarding upholstery cleaning concerns the appearance of yellow or brown discolorations on arms and cushions upholstered with microfiber fabrics. This discoloration often remains after cleaning, and many cleaners are puzzled as to the nature of these ugly stains.

What cleaners are usually observing is staining from body oils that have oxidized and are stubbornly bound to the oil loving polyester fibers most often used in microfiber fabrics.

Actually, this phenomenon has been observed for years in polyester fabrics, but is being noticed more lately for the simple fact that microfibers have exploded into the marketplace. You probably have also observed this ugly yellow/brown discoloration in the traffic areas of olefin carpet where oily soils are tracked in from the outside, especially paved parking areas.

In all such cases, this oxidized oil bonding is not easily removable with most upholstery cleaning products, and depending on the time element involved, the stained, oily soil appearance may not be safely removed.

There are two types of additives that have been helpful in removing the staining when used as boosters in upholstery preconditioning agents.

  1. Solvent Boosters.
    Most such products are made from d-limonene; often called "Citrus Solvents" or "Citrus Boosters".  These products help to dissolve the oils that have bonded to the polyester fiber. Citrus solvents will not alter the pH of your preconditioning formula, but will increase its wetting potential, so be careful not to over apply.
  2. Oxidizing Agents:
    Powdered, non chlorine bleaches are commonly sold as cleaning boosters, and can help decolorize any remaining oil bonds that have stained the fabric.  These are also designed to be added to upholstery preconditioning products, and may also be compatible with solvent boosters so that both may be added together.

NOTE: Never mix products together that are not formulated to be used in such a fashion, and always follow label directions!  Do not attempt to be your own chemist!

After the mixture of your upholstery preconditioner and one or both additives have been applied, agitate gently and allow a few minutes of dwell time before extracting with an appropriate upholstery cleaning rinse agent.

This method should reduce the intensity of the yellow/brown stain, if not completely remove it.  Your degree of success will be directly related to how long your customer has waited to have their furniture cleaned.

Encouraging your customer to have their furniture cleaned on a regular basis, instead of waiting until oils have bonded and perhaps permanently stained their valued belongings, is always recommended. As always, performing a careful pre-inspection using a printed professional inspection form will really help your customer to appreciate your skills as well as build their trust in you.

Use the following guidelines to communicate the risk of cleaning heavily contaminated fabrics found on the reverse side of our downloadable Upholstery Condition Inspection Report.

I strongly recommend this Upholstery Condition Inspection Report, which since 1987 has been the only comprehensive such form in our industry. If you would like to check out the form, CLICK HERE.

You can download a "proof set" as well as find out the price for bundles of 50 of these valuable 2 part NCR forms.

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