- Coded for Cleaning
- By Mark Baxter — posted 06/26/2012
For years, many industries have used coding systems to improve safety, advance worker efficiency, and eliminate errors. In the professional cleaning industry, color-coding systems are designed to designate certain cleaning tools, equipment, and processes for use in specific areas of a facility or for particular cleaning tasks.
Although it was developed more than 40 years ago, many cleaning professionals, carpet cleaning technicians, and facility decision-makers do not realize that a coding system—sometimes called a fabric cleanability code—is available to help identify how upholstered furniture is to be cleaned and maintained. The code may be printed on fabric samples, on a label under seat cushions, and/or on hang tags sewn onto the furniture. Astute shoppers also can use the code to select upholstered furniture that will best hold up in different types of facilities and situations.
The coding system was developed to meet the need of identifying the type of fabric used on upholstered furniture, a task that has become more difficult in recent years as manufacturers have developed fabrics that have the look and feel of other fabrics. In fact, serious problems can occur if a cleaning professional does not know exactly what the fabric is and how to clean it. Depending on the fabric, ssing the wrong cleaning chemical, spotter, or method can cause considerable damage. For example, a school recently selected a light colored sofa that was made to be cleaned using only “dry” methods. Unfortunately, unaware school administrators and cleaners used “wet” cleaning procedures, which damaged the fabric and produced unsightly brown spots.
To further help mitigate these issues, cleaning professionals and consumers can look to fabric codes from ASTM International, which develops standards for materials, products, systems, and services used in a variety of industries. Although not mandatory, some upholstery fabric manufacturers print ASTM International fabric codes on their products’ labels or in sales and marketing materials. These codes provide information about a fabric’s colorfastness, specifically as it relates to cleaning and the use of cleaning and spotting agents.
The most often used ASTM codes are:
- Code W. The dyes used in Code W fabrics are stable—meaning they will not run, fade, or be damaged—when using water-based cleaning agents or spotters. This furniture can be cleaned safely using water-based upholstery cleaners or water-based foams.
- Codes S and P. These fabrics should be cleaned by a professional technician using solvent-based cleaning agents and spotters.
- Codes S/W and W/S. These codes denote fabrics that can be cleaned safely using solvents, foams, or water-based cleaners.
- Codes X and X/S. These fabrics can't be cleaned using traditional solvents, foams, or water-based cleaners. Cleaning such furniture with these solutions can damage the cushions, cause shrinking, ruin the dyes, or destroy the backing.
- Code F. Instead of scrubbing with soap and water, Code F items should be cleaned using foam cleaners.
- Code W-S. These fabrics remain stable whether water- or dry-solvent-based cleaning agents and spotters are used.
- Code X. These fibers should not be cleaned with water- or dry solvent-based cleaning or spotting agents.
The bottom line is that cleaning technicians should check to see if the label on the upholstered item bears a code before cleaning any upholstered item. With this information, technicians can get a good idea about what cleaning methods and chemicals are recommended for a particular upholstered item, eliminating several problems, headaches, and costs along the way.
Mark Baxter is an engineer and product manager with U.S. Products, a manufacturer of portable and truckmount carpet cleaning equipment. For more information about U.S. Products, visit www.usproducts.com.