Microfibre has become an extremely popular upholstery fabric over the last several years. The first microfibre commonly used in upholstery was called microsuede. So, you may sometimes hear this fibre referred to by that name. Although the name has fooled some cleaners in the past, micro suede is neither suede nor leather.
Exactly what is this fibre and how should we clean it?
Most microfibre upholstery is made of polyester or a combination of polyester and a polyamide fibre (like nylon). Very thin polyester fibres are split and fused with a nylon core. Rarely, you will also find some rayon and acetate fibres used.
Microfibres have a denier (a way of measuring diameter) of 1 or less. For comparison, a human hair has a denier of over 100.
The shape and the extreme thinness of each filament mean that there is a lot of surface area for water and soil to hide in a microfibre fabric. To remove the maximum amount of soil and water, you will want to make multiple slow vacuum passes during the initial dry vacuum step and also during extraction.
Microfibre has a soft luxurious hand and is available in a number of deep and rich colors. Microfibre is not likely to pill like other polyester upholstery. It has intrinsic resistance to water and water-borne dyes and staining material.
Pet hair can be difficult to remove from microfibre. If animals have been on the furniture, remove the pet hair before it dries. I like to use a Dry Cleaning Sponge (AX26) that builds a static charge pulling the pet hair off the surface. A Hair & Lint Roller (AU12) works well also. These tools can be left with the customer for interim maintenance of their furniture.
Although polyester tends to repel water, its affinity for oil and the surface are to hold dry soils means that microfibre can hold a lot of dirt. You’ll want to hit microfibre with Avenge Heavy Duty Fabric Prespray (CU21GL). Remember it takes a lot of those thin fibres to make the fabric. Apply sufficient prespray to cover all that surface area.
By boosting the pre-spray with Citrus Solv (CR08) does wonders to speed up the removal of an accumulation of hair and body oils along with greasy food spills. For the tops of arms, the headrest area or other high touch places that collect a lot of body oils or hair oils, use a clean white towel or even the center circle from a white floor polishing pad for agitation.
Rinse with Avenge Clean Rinse Neutral Upholstery Emulsifier (CU24GL). Don’t press your upholstery tool down into the fabric. This makes lines or marks from the tool more likely. Rather use a slow and gentle movement allowing vacuum to bring the fabric up to the tool.
A word of caution!
Although most microfibre is woven, an increasing amount of microfibre is flocked. This is especially true in lower priced pieces. Open a cushion to inspect the backside of the fabric. The interlaced fibres should be visible on a woven fabric. A flock fabric is produced by giving short fibres an electrostatic charge and gluing them to a foundation or base fabric. Loss of the fuzzy face fibres in high wear areas like the arms is another indication that you may be dealing with a flocked fabric.
Solvents may loosen the adhesive used for some fabrics and allow fibres to come loose. Check your cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area before overall cleaning. If solvents prove to be an issue, clean with Fabric Shampoo (CU61GL) and do not add Citrus Solv.
Because microfibre resists watery spills, some may hesitate to apply a protector, but polyester needs protection from oil! Be sure to finish your job with by applying Maxim Advanced for Upholstery (CP01GL)
The Groom Industries Handi-Brush (AB34) is a real time-saver to groom the nap following cleaning. In areas that were matted, you may want to begin by rubbing a clean white towel or grooming tool against the fibre – usually from bottom to top. Finish with strokes that go from top to bottom and from the back to the front on horizontal surfaces.
An Ace air mover will provide air movement across the fabric – never directly into the fabric – helps assure quick and even drying.