“Is that what I think it is?” I ask my husband, zeroing in on a rainbow-shaped stain on the side of the white armchair.
“Luke!!” We holler in unison at our 60-pound rescue mutt, who promptly avoids eye contact and slinks out of the room.
“Time to call John?” My husband asks.
John Gartner is a professional upholstery cleaner and owner of Major Floor Care, a cleaning company based in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Unfortunately, he’s also a regular around here. I call him when the surface soil around the house hits my tipping point, or when we have a pet emergency. Today, it’s both.
Before Luke (aka Marmaluke, Luclear War, Luk-o-motion) expressed himself on the chair, our house had already, once again, gone to the dogs. Pippin, our miniature labradoodle, has a habit of wiping his muzzle, followed by his entire body, along the length of the white sectional, which ultimately gives it a sort of bathtub ring effect. Luclear War generally behaves when we’re home, but the minute we leave, he hops on the furniture. The crushed sofa backs and rearranged throw pillows give him away.
“Typically, homes get dirty gradually, so owners don’t notice,” said Gartner, who has been cleaning furniture and carpet for 26 years. “They call when they hit a pain point, like they have company coming.”
While the golden arch on the white chair horrified me, Gartner wasn’t fazed. He’s seen and cleaned worse stains from every substance you can imagine and some you can’t: chocolate, coffee, grease, ink, lipstick, red wine, nail polish, diaper failures and all-around surface soil.
But pets and kids keep upholstery and carpet cleaners in business, he said. “The biggest weeks for me are the ones after Christmas and Easter,” he said. “That’s when pets get into the candy and get sick.” Lovely.
Over FaceTime, I showed him the sofas, chairs and area rugs I needed cleaned. He sent an estimate. (Chairs run $60 to $80.) Two days later, he and his partner set to work vacuuming the furniture and rugs and pre-treating stains. Then they ran over the furniture with a DriMaster tool, which looks like a squeegee attached to a hose. The business end pressure injects water and cleaning solution into the fabric through one channel and simultaneously vacuum-sucks the moisture back out through another, so furniture gets cleaned and not soaked.
“You want to avoid oversaturating upholstery, so you don’t leave watermarks,” Gartner said. When a spill or pet accident seeps through the surface fabric and saturates a sofa or chair cushion, Gartner takes it to his shop to deep clean and deodorize.
“I bring at least 12 stain-removing chemicals on the truck,” he said, “so I’m ready to treat whatever we find.”
While regular furniture cleaning is part of living with dogs and kids, here are some tips for treating soiled furniture yourself, and when to call a pro.
Don’t let stains sit. The quicker a stain gets treated, the greater the chances it will come out. After 30 days, it may be too late, Gartner said.
Always blot, never rub. Whether on upholstery, rugs or carpet, rubbing will grind the substance in and wear down the fibers, possibly making the stain permanent.
Use cold water. Hot water sets stains fast. Club soda is often a good start.
Create a solution. You can treat many pet stains with a mild solution of half white vinegar, half water and a few drops of dishwashing soap. Pour a small amount of solution on the stain. Let it sit for several minutes then blot it with a white towel. Use a fan to dry. Depending on the fabric (test on a hidden area first), a small amount of household hydrogen peroxide can also lift stains like red wine and coffee. On greasy stains, like the ones my labradoodle leaves when he wipes his face, citrus-based cleaners work well because they break down oil.
A few drops of soap are enough. Too much cleaning solution might get the stain out but will leave a soapy residue that will attract dirt.
Call a pro. When you have a heavily soiled item or more than a few light spots to touch up, call a professional, Gartner said. “If there’s vomit involved, carefully scrape up what you can, then don’t touch it. Have a pro come out.”
Be realistic. While professionals can lift most stains and clean soiled furniture, they can’t fix fabric that is worn, sun-faded or bleached. That said, having your good furniture cleaned regularly will extend its life.
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books, including “Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go.” Reach her at www.marnijameson.com.
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