CAUTION! Wine Stains Aren't So Easy To Remove!
Just this morning I received an email from a fine fabric specialist that I responded to and felt all of our readers could benefit from. It goes like this:
I had a customer bring in a light brown cord (cotton) cushion cover w/a large wine stain (purple) . The customer had already put a great deal of salt on the stain. I had her sign a release. What would you recommend? The cover is in good shape. I tested the dye for both water and dry cleaning solvent and there was not any bleeding.
Its great to have all of the information I need ahead of time when a "help message" arrives!
Based on your tests, this is what you know:
1. The fabric is made from cellulose material. Cotton is strong when wet, and fairly chemical resistant (as a fiber), but susceptible to abrasion and browning.
2. The dyes appear to be color fast. I'm not sure what you used for your wet and dry tests, but if you get to the point of using oxidizing agents (aka bleaches) or reducing agents, these should be tested as well.
3. The stain is wine that likely does not contain artificial colors (some wine does, most doesn't), and that salt was used to absorb it.
Here is what I would do:
1. Tell the customer that wine stains are very difficult to remove from natural fibers, and the process of removing the stain may cause discoloration, texture changes, shrinkage, or browning. Be sure that they understand that you are not responsible for any of these potentially negative outcomes. (a written pre-understanding)
Clean this "in plant" if it all possible. Most of what I'll be recommending requires several "try - dry - try again" steps.
2. Vacuum the fabric and get the salt out of it.
3. Mist the fabric with distilled water. Many natural fiber fabrics have sizing present, which can create water marks where spills occur. The use of distilled water will help to remove such stains, and also help to prevent them should your spotting process create an uneven drying scenario (something you should try to avoid, by the way).
4. Clean the fabric with an acidic detergent (no stain removers yet). Tannin stains (wine as well as coffee and tea) often come out when cleaned with an acidic detergent.
Since the best cleaners for natural fibers are usually acidic, you might just get the stain out with cleaning. My favorite product for this application is Sapphire Scientific Natural Fiber Cleaner, which can be applied either as a prespray or foaming preconditioner.
Apply the detergent evenly over the entire cushion (not just the stain), allow a few minutes of dwell time, agitate gently, then extract with clear, warm water.
5. If the fabric had a protective treatment applied before the spill, and if its not been allowed to stay in very long since the spill, you might remove most if not all of the wine with this step alone.
6. If a stain remains, the next product that I would try is an acidic tannin spotter. Mist the spotter over the entire cushion face again (this also prevents water marks), agitate gently, blot, then extract again with clear, warm water. If the towel you blot with shows a color transfer of the wine, and more comes out when you rinse, repeat this process.
Be certain that you get the fabric "slightly damp dry" in between each step so that you don't cause browning or water stains from over wetting.
Make sure your tannin spotter is just an acid product, not a reducing agent or bleach at this point! Good examples of products that do NOT contain reducing agents or bleaches would be Sapphire Scientific Dye Stabilizer and Rinse, or Bridgepoint T.C.U.
I am fairly confident you will have success by following these steps.
If you don't, however, the next steps take some careful thought, and additional communication with your customer.
7. Wine that remains after cleaning and treating with spotters designed to remove tannins should be considered a stain. Tannin stains may come out with either reducing or oxidizing agents. Reducing agents are safer, but slower and possibly less effective. Oxidizing agents work more quickly, but they do act as true bleaches.
If the fabric is dyed, the same stain removers that can decolorize the stain may decolorize the fabric! Even the milder reducing agents may cause this problem, and neither reducing nor oxidizing agents should be used on natural fiber fabrics such as cotton without a clear, written understanding with your customer.
8. If you apply a reducing agent, start with a mild browning treatment or coffee stain remover that contains sodium meta-bisulfite. Bridgepoint Coffee Stain Remover would be one such product. This product should be applied, and then allowed to dry. DO NOT continue to apply it while its wet, as it will only create a residue that will make the fabric appear to be bleached, and will be time consuming to remove later. Instead just apply, then let dry. (Another reason in plant treatment is so much better.)
9. Some red dye removers may work if the above product does not, but these should not be applied without rinsing all previous cleaning and stain removal products from the fabric. These also increase the chance of color damage or "over bleaching" of off white fabrics. Try the product without heat, and instead allow it to dry naturally.
10. If you choose to try an oxidizing agent, remember that such products are more aggressive and more likely to cause color loss. Also remember that you will need to remove all traces of reducing agents that have already been applied. This in itself is risky, as repeated rinsing of the fabric may cause browning.
11. Never apply strong peroxide based stain removers to natural fibers! Such products are made for synthetic fiber carpet, not upholstery. Strong (over 3%) peroxide can damage cellulose fibers (such as the cotton fiber discussed here), as well as discolor them. Use only fresh, 3% hydrogen peroxide that you can purchase in a grocery store or pharmacy. Apply the product, and do not blot or rinse, but simply allow to dry.
12. Once you've removed the stain, by whichever means needed, you still might have a remaining water stain. Apply distilled water to the entire cushion, then dry with fans, rotating the cushion during the drying time to allow for even drying.
The most important step of these 12 steps is, of course, step #1
For a good explanation of the limitations involved with cleaning heavily soiled natural fiber fabrics, read the reverse side of our 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.