Yellowing Problems on Upholstery?

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Yellow Alert for "Fine Fabric Cleaners"
by Jim Pemberton - Fabric Pro Specialist
There are several things that can cause furniture to have a yellow discoloration or "haze". The causes and cures of these problems are so diverse that its critical to know the fabric and its maintenance history to know what you should do (or NOT do) next.

Inspection and Testing

1. Test the fabric:
Synthetic fiber fabrics tend to yellow from oily soils. Yellow discolorations on natural fiber fabrics are more often from cellulose browning. You must know how to conduct a burn test to determine what type of fiber family is present.

You don't need to know the SPECIFIC fiber, but you do need to know if its synthetic or natural.

2. If the fibers present are synthetic, the yellow is most likely from oily soils,
or soils from smoke related damage. In both cases the use of an alkaline prespray designed for synthetic upholstery should be used.

If yellow staining still remains, the use of an oxidizing agent as a booster,will likely remove residual yellowing.

NOTE: This process is NOT recommended for yellowing of natural fiber fabrics!


1645a.jpg

"THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF CELLULOSE BROWNING"

3. If the fibers are natural, you should suspect cellulose browning.
Be certain to discuss previous cleaning and maintenance of the fabric. If another cleaner, or the owner of the fabric caused the browning, you must inform your customer that this yellow condition is evidence of DAMAGE to the fabric, and that you cannot be held responsible for this damage. Even if you can correct the appearance, the physical processes that cause browning also weakens natural fibers.

4. Establish this understanding (in writing is always best) with your customer.
You may then attempt to remove the browning using the safest methods possible to prevent further damage to the fabric.

a. Apply a mild acid tannin spotter.
Tannin spotters that do not contain reducing agents are good products to start with. The mild organic acids used in these products can remove browning without damaging or over whitening fibers.

b. Apply a reducing agent.
If "a" does not work, rinse the fabric with clear water and try a reducing agent, such as a formulated product for Haitian cotton or raw cotton. These products have an objectionable odor and will often leave a stiff feel to the fabric. Their advantage is that they rarely "overwhiten" the fabric.

c. Use an aggressive blend
If "b" does not work, or if the condition is severe, use an oxidizing agent as an additive, or a formulated product. This is the most aggressive, and also the most damaging correction method. Use only as a last resort. Avoid strong urine stain removers that contain peroxide. These products are formulated for synthetic fibers, and will both over whiten and rapidly damage cellulose natural fiber fabrics.

Large, but localized yellow stains may be caused by urine, which can be detected by UV lights and odor, and should be treated with care as most urine residues damage dyes on both natural and synthetic fiber fabrics.

As you can see, the causes and related risks of yellow discolorations vary greatly. Do not ever attempt to clean or restore fabrics with yellow discolorations without a clear understanding of the nature of the fabric and the cause of the discoloration.


******************************************

Jim Pemberton presents . . .
"21st Century"
'Fabric Pro Upholstery Specialist' workshops!

Next Available Date?

Click Here For Pembertons Learning Center Calendar:

This unique two day course is absolutely not a "Prep" course to prepare you for another longer certification course.

In this two day course you'll receive all the essential information not contained in other courses, without the mind numbing additional information on
fabric names, dyeing processes, and chemistry that is “nice to know”, but rarely “need to know” information for the ......

Fabric Pro Upholstery Specialist

Jim Pemberton explains why you need to attend . . . (click below)
www.ecleanadvisor.com/public/1074.cfm
 
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20171202_104051.jpg


20171202_104102.jpg


This chair was brought in last week. A casualty of Thanksgiving???

It had a large nasty water ring where the homeowner had worked on it and made it far worse. (Wish I would have take a pic) We misted distilled water as you suggest for a first step. It did fantastic! We did it a second time and now there is only a very slight ring left.

Now for the spot. The homeowner got too aggressive and distorted the texture some and left a halo. We will attempt a neutral cleaner and see how it responds. Unfortunately there was no fabric protection applied and with such fine fabric I'm not very hopeful for removal of the spot.

It did correct the nasty water stain if nothing else. We shall see where it goes next week.
 
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Yellow Alert for "Fine Fabric Cleaners"
by Jim Pemberton - Fabric Pro Specialist
There are several things that can cause furniture to have a yellow discoloration or "haze". The causes and cures of these problems are so diverse that its critical to know the fabric and its maintenance history to know what you should do (or NOT do) next.

Inspection and Testing

1. Test the fabric:
Synthetic fiber fabrics tend to yellow from oily soils. Yellow discolorations on natural fiber fabrics are more often from cellulose browning. You must know how to conduct a burn test to determine what type of fiber family is present.

You don't need to know the SPECIFIC fiber, but you do need to know if its synthetic or natural.

2. If the fibers present are synthetic, the yellow is most likely from oily soils,
or soils from smoke related damage. In both cases the use of an alkaline prespray designed for synthetic upholstery should be used.

If yellow staining still remains, the use of an oxidizing agent as a booster,will likely remove residual yellowing.

NOTE: This process is NOT recommended for yellowing of natural fiber fabrics!


1645a.jpg

"THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF CELLULOSE BROWNING"

3. If the fibers are natural, you should suspect cellulose browning.
Be certain to discuss previous cleaning and maintenance of the fabric. If another cleaner, or the owner of the fabric caused the browning, you must inform your customer that this yellow condition is evidence of DAMAGE to the fabric, and that you cannot be held responsible for this damage. Even if you can correct the appearance, the physical processes that cause browning also weakens natural fibers.

4. Establish this understanding (in writing is always best) with your customer.
You may then attempt to remove the browning using the safest methods possible to prevent further damage to the fabric.

a. Apply a mild acid tannin spotter.
Tannin spotters that do not contain reducing agents are good products to start with. The mild organic acids used in these products can remove browning without damaging or over whitening fibers.

b. Apply a reducing agent.
If "a" does not work, rinse the fabric with clear water and try a reducing agent, such as a formulated product for Haitian cotton or raw cotton. These products have an objectionable odor and will often leave a stiff feel to the fabric. Their advantage is that they rarely "overwhiten" the fabric.

c. Use an aggressive blend
If "b" does not work, or if the condition is severe, use an oxidizing agent as an additive, or a formulated product. This is the most aggressive, and also the most damaging correction method. Use only as a last resort. Avoid strong urine stain removers that contain peroxide. These products are formulated for synthetic fibers, and will both over whiten and rapidly damage cellulose natural fiber fabrics.

Large, but localized yellow stains may be caused by urine, which can be detected by UV lights and odor, and should be treated with care as most urine residues damage dyes on both natural and synthetic fiber fabrics.

As you can see, the causes and related risks of yellow discolorations vary greatly. Do not ever attempt to clean or restore fabrics with yellow discolorations without a clear understanding of the nature of the fabric and the cause of the discoloration.


******************************************

Jim Pemberton presents . . .
"21st Century"
'Fabric Pro Upholstery Specialist' workshops!

Next Available Date?

Click Here For Pembertons Learning Center Calendar:

This unique two day course is absolutely not a "Prep" course to prepare you for another longer certification course.

In this two day course you'll receive all the essential information not contained in other courses, without the mind numbing additional information on
fabric names, dyeing processes, and chemistry that is “nice to know”, but rarely “need to know” information for the ......

Fabric Pro Upholstery Specialist

Jim Pemberton explains why you need to attend . . . (click below)
www.ecleanadvisor.com/public/1074.cfm
Good article Jim. I have a client who upholsters and reupholsters furniture with linen only. He has given me a sample cushion for testing. I will do a video when I get around to doing it. (I'll send Marty the full length unedited version) any recommendations on the best procedure for cleaning?
 
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View attachment 76118

View attachment 76119

This chair was brought in last week. A casualty of Thanksgiving???

It had a large nasty water ring where the homeowner had worked on it and made it far worse. (Wish I would have take a pic) We misted distilled water as you suggest for a first step. It did fantastic! We did it a second time and now there is only a very slight ring left.

Now for the spot. The homeowner got too aggressive
Good article Jim. I have a client who upholsters and reupholsters furniture with linen only. He has given me a sample cushion for testing. I will do a video when I get around to doing it. (I'll send Marty the full length unedited version) any recommendations on the best procedure for cleaning?
In a nutshell, "low moisture/low pH"

A good dry tool, neutral to mildly acidic preconditioned, acid rinse, speed dry.

Send me a PM if you want more details.
 
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Thanks Jim. I am going to abuse it, then try to restore it. I want to try with an alkaline upholstery prespray, dry vac well and see the results. Then I will do it the right way and see what the difference is. Got to get a tripod for my phone.
 
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Thanks Jim. I am going to abuse it, then try to restore it. I want to try with an alkaline upholstery prespray, dry vac well and see the results. Then I will do it the right way and see what the difference is. Got to get a tripod for my phone.
This is a great way to learn. The only hint I would like to give you is that new fabric is often forgiving of alkalinity and overwetting. The cellulose material (in this case linen) hasn't yet degraded, and sometimes protector is present. You may not be able to turn it brown.

I embarrassed my self 35 years ago during the early days of Haitian Cotton. I had an upholsterer make me a cushion, cleaned it carpet detergent the end of the first day of class, and told my students:

"This will be brown tomorrow"

It was as white as it was the day before.

:redface:
 
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This is a great way to learn. The only hint I would like to give you is that new fabric is often forgiving of alkalinity and overwetting. The cellulose material (in this case linen) hasn't yet degraded, and sometimes protector is present. You may not be able to turn it brown.

I embarrassed my self 35 years ago during the early days of Haitian Cotton. I had an upholsterer make me a cushion, cleaned it carpet detergent the end of the first day of class, and told my students:

"This will be brown tomorrow"

It was as white as it was the day before.

:redface:
Should have told them that you now have the magic solution for sale. You just wanted to prove how great it works.

$100.00 a gallon Step right up!

You'd have made out like a bandit. Of course it would have been Witness Protection program after than. :winky:
 
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Jim,
And since these days many fabrics are blends:
  • I assume you treat blends as natural fibers (the weakest link) yet the yellowing may be related to oil on synthetics.
  • I see yellowing on natural fabric headboards. Linens cotton. Body oil that oxidized.

Seem like in these situations one needs to go alkaline to break these oils (enzymes can work but need more time) agitation helps and neutralize with an acid rinse. Sometime with a haitian cotton cleaner (yet that leaves an objectionable smell, not favored on headboards).
 
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Blends are troublesome, and yes your suggestions are sound.

I am loathe to use Haitian cotton cleaning products if at all possible, as consumers are more and more sensitive to cleaning agent odors.
 
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Jim,
And since these days many fabrics are blends:
  • I assume you treat blends as natural fibers (the weakest link) yet the yellowing may be related to oil on synthetics.
  • I see yellowing on natural fabric headboards. Linens cotton. Body oil that oxidized.

Seem like in these situations one needs to go alkaline to break these oils (enzymes can work but need more time) agitation helps and neutralize with an acid rinse. Sometime with a haitian cotton cleaner (yet that leaves an objectionable smell, not favored on headboards).
Sometimes I use a volatile or semi volatile solvent both to break down the oil and to set up a moisture barrier. Then clean with your fine fabric products.
 
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Sometimes I use a volatile or semi volatile solvent both to break down the oil and to set up a moisture barrier. Then clean with your fine fabric products.
That's an excellent technique as long as your solvent can be emulsified and suspended by your preconditioning agents. The key is to have a compatible system of products that allow for that to work, which it seems you do.
 
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I'd like to understand:
  1. How would a solvent form a moisture barrier on a fabric that is 1/16 of an inch thick?
  2. And in these oily residue cases (like oil from scalp on headboards) the fabric, many times, is saturated through. You need to break the oil and your rinsing agent needs detergency (is that an actual word?) and the ability to flush and rinse throughout?
And while we're at it:
Most sofas, by the time we get to them are way over due and need heavy duty cleaning. So all the low moisture principles are lovely but not practical.

Unless by low moisture you mean tools like the SS or PMF internal jet, that allow you to do heavy cleaning and flushing without transferring a lot of moisture to the filling material. The majority of upholstery I clean, without heavy duty rinsing will not look good.
 
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I'm glad (I think) you'll be coming to class with me in March. Those questions are better handled in conversation. You're welcome to call me too, of course.

Regarding moisture barrier: This was a method we used for decades before the advent of low moisture tools and improved detergents that work safely and effectively at neutral and acidic pH values. The way the moisture barrier worked is complex, but stood the test of time when dry cleaning was more of an option than today.

Regarding breaking oil bonds on upholstery:
Synthetics experience more oil bonding issues than do natural fiber fabrics. Those hair and body oils can be broken down with solvents (either in a "pure form", or as an additive) or detergents with alkaline builders. The choice of which has to do with the nature of the fibers in the fabric, dye stability, and what risks you will be willing to take. Removing some solvents can be challenging, depending on what you need to use to emulsify them. Alkaline materials are often easier to neutralize and rinse, but can also create dye or browning issues before that can occur.

The issue of lower moisture methods on delicate natural fibers, whether by low moisture products or tools, or both, is dependent on the condition of the material at hand. That's why inspection and communication are an important part of a cleaners task, and why bringing the need to clean delicate materials to a client's attention before they become unrestorable is a prudent path to follow.

Forgive the brief reply; I'd prefer to get into further details in conversation, as I've only touched the surface of these issues from a technical perspective.
 
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I'm super excited to see what, if anything, will come of my client out your way with that crazy issue. I know you'll be there in the next couple of weeks. Hope it makes for a good case study and a great blog/article can come out of it.
 
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I'll be seeing her on the 20th. I'm not sure if you know this, but even the carpet has a yellow/brown discoloration. The fact that the issue reappears after an extended period of time after cleaning makes me think that even the first unqualified cleaner may not be at fault.

Unless there are issues where confidentiality is involved, I'll likely share the story in an article Meg. I may be calling on you for some of your views regarding both the environment and what was volunteered by the home owner.
 
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I'll follow through with a call, but "while we are here":

Did she give you any indication that she had anything applied to her carpet and upholstery both when she bought them new?
 
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She mentioned, the couch did have some sort of protection on it. Obviously not FPA, but it wasn't any of the other ones I usually hear mentioned (ultragard/seal, Microseal, Fiber guard). I should have written down which one she said. I didn't ask if that was done on location or prior to delivery. If done there, and no drop cloths, that could explain it. But it doesn't make sense that it returned 3 weeks after it was cleaned/and removed. I would think it would show immediately or within a few days.
 

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