Three Challenges Created by Cosmetics on Fine Fabrics
by Jim Pemberton - Fabric Pro Specialist
Lipstick, "make up", eye liner, etc all contain pigments carried in an oily medium to help them adhere to lips and skin, and to help keep them "in place" in the presence of moisture.
These characteristics create unique challenges when fine fabric specialists are asked to remove them from upholstery fabrics.
Cosmetics may cause the following unexpected difficulties for you:
1. Fiber Type:
Highly absorbent, sensitive natural fibers will always be the most difficult to spot, regardless of the material. Conversely, the fact that some synthetic fibers are very oil loving can make cosmetics more difficult to remove from otherwise "easy to clean" fabrics.
2. Fabric Type:
Soft textures, such as chenille or velvet, are very difficult to treat for spots without creating texture damage. Adsorbent microfiber fabrics, which are very often made from polyester, on of the most oil loving of fibers, could be especially difficult to treat.
Many fabrics have synthetic back coatings to keep the fabric stable, and cheaply constructed microfibers are often laminated to a secondary fabric backing. In both cases, the dry solvent spotters that are sometimes used to break down the oily materials in cosmetics, and especially the hardened film from nail polish, very likely will dissolve such adhesives used in the fabric's construction
To keep these issues from becoming a problem for you, follow these steps:
1. Test, Inspect, Communicate:
Find out all you can about the type of cosmetic that was used, and what your customer might have done to attempt to remove it. Many cosmetics are sold as "organic" or "all natural" today, and in this sense "organic" means that they use more natural items, such as egg oil.
DRY SOLVENTS ARE NOT ALWAYS THE SAFEST PRODUCT TO USE! THIS FABRIC FADED AFTER A SOLVENT USUALLY USED FOR COSMETIC REMOVAL WAS USED!
Such cosmetics are more water soluble, and thus might not need solvents that might otherwise be destructive to adhesives, as mentioned above.
Also, test to determine the fiber family and inspect to see if the fabric's texture will hold up to your spotting process. Last, but not least, remember that solvent based spotters can cause color damage on some natural fiber fabrics. Above all, warn your customer of any risks before beginning!
2. Clean First:
If the cosmetic was made up of "natural/organic" substances, cleaning alone will likely remove the spot, and if not, a relatively safe "general purpose spotter" will likely suffice. Depending on any efforts your customer might have made to remove the stain, before you got there, you chance of removing most cosmetic stains are fairly good.
THIS LIPSTICK IS WATER SOLUBLE, AND IS EASILY REMOVED WITH WATER BASED UPHOLSTERY CLEANING PRECONDITIONERS
3. Treat Remaining Stains with Care:
The old maxim of "use solvents first because they are safer" is less applicable today. Your choice of spotting agents needs to start with the limitations imposed upon you by the fiber type and fabric's construction. Then consider the newest technology available in water based spotters, which with the exception of hardened nail polish, often can remove oily spots as easily as solvents, but without the risks to the fabrics construction.
The most important thing to remember is that you need as much information as possible about the cosmetic that was used, what the customer might have tried to do themselves, and how the fabric is held together. You also must be sure that your customer is aware of these variables and risks and clearly understands the limitations of what you can do within the parameters outlined here.
If you'd like an opportunity to learn how to remove difficult spots from sensitive fabrics, plan to attend our next Fabric Pro Workshop (August 20, 21 in Minnesota)