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Furniture Care: Caring for your Fabric Sofa

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A sofa or chair is not just a piece of furniture – it is a haven to escape to.

Every sofa, chair and ottoman we build is crafted in high quality materials. The strength of our sofas are designed to withstand the various stresses to which it is subjected during its working life.

Each range is expertly matched to give the ultimate combination of style and comfort. We work with some of the largest fabric mills to bring you a collection of modern fabrics which are all tested to industry standards for durability, resistance to fading, pilling and abrasion to ensure that your fabric will hold up to daily use.

This guide has been created to help you understand fabric upholstery, so you can appreciate the quality and the necessary care and maintenance to ensure that your sofa will be with you for years to come.

Characteristics of Upholstery Fabrics

Modern upholstery fabrics are quite different to the fabrics typically used in making garments. Garment fabrics are known for their use of natural fibre yarns such as cotton, linen, silk, wool, rayon blended together, or blended with man-made synthetic fibres such as polyesters, acrylics, and nylon.

Fabrics used to create beautiful upholstery must perform differently to what is expected for garments. Today’s advanced upholstery fabrics primarily utilise man-made synthetic fibre yarns because they can help to:

  • Repel grime and stains
  • Deliver better/longer wear
  • Be easier to clean
  • Resist mildew and mould
  • Feel and look like natural fibres, with lower cost and less maintenance.

Fabric Content
While this is not an all-inclusive list of contents found in upholstery fabrics, these are the basics:

Natural Fibres
Natural fibres generally feature flat weaves that are ideal for prints. They are softer, and tailor well for upholstered furniture. However, being a natural product they can fade in direct sunlight, and may be susceptible to pilling. Examples include: cotton, linen, wool and silk.

Synthetic Fibres
Synthetic fibres are made by extruding chemicals into fibre strands. They are more durable and (in general) more resistant to staining and fading than natural fibres. However, synthetic fibres are just as likely to be susceptible to pilling. Examples include: acrylic, polyester & nylon.

Depending on which fabric you choose and how you use and maintain your fabric upholstered furniture will determine how long it lasts and maintains its look and feel.

Good Looks Need To Be Maintained

Prior to your sofa leaving the factory, it will receive a final inspection. It will then be wrapped in order to protect it and minimise movement whilst in transit. Once unpacked, fabric sofas may require “dressing” which involves plumping up the back cushions and the arm pads of each sofa.

Seating Comfort
During the first 3 months of use, polyurethane foam in the seats and cushions tends to soften and then should permanently stabilise. This settling may also create very slight folds on the covering which is a completely normal characteristic of the product.

If your sofa has fibre or feather filling, it will be necessary to model or ‘dress’ them to ensure they return to their initial look, which will have altered during transit. These types of cushion give a more relaxed comfort so general use will naturally show more creasing.

Sofas with a polyester wrap around the foam will give some softness whilst allowing the foam to breathe and resist creasing. When used with high density foam they give a more tailored and uniform look.

Back cushions are normally finished either in a “box” type or a knife edge (where there is a continuous seam in the middle of the cushion).

Solid Foundation
The load bearing components of Freedom’s frames are correctly engineered from various timber and timber composites. Timber products, such as structural grade plywoods, are featured in appropriate areas according to the requirements of the design. Where required, joints will be reinforced with corner blocks for added strength.

Depending on the design of the sofa, high strength webbing or sinuous steel springs are used to provide support to the seat cushions.

A Quality Sofa Doesn't Wear Out, It Wears In

If your new Freedom sofa feels or looks a little different to the one you saw in the store (the seat may feel firmer; the fabric might look tighter), that’s because your furniture is brand new, unlike the store’s floor sample which may have already been well “run-in” by many visitors.

If your purchase of a new sofa, that is an identical article and/or has the same colour as a sofa that you already own, it is possible that because of fabric dye-lots you may note slight differences in shades of colour between the two.

Similar to a new car, your sofa may have a strong smell after it is unpacked. This is normal and after airing in a well-ventilated room or open space, the smell will dissipate. Depending on the surrounding environment the smell may dissipate quickly or over a longer period of time.

Fabric Performance
Every Freedom fabric is tested to International Standards (ISO) for colourfastness to rubbing and light, abrasion, seam slippage and pilling.

Performance Rating
Our fabrics are tested in an independent laboratory and we assess those results to ensure optimal performance.

Abrasion Testing
The Martindale Abrasion machine tests durability of woven fabrics and the STOL Abrasion machine tests the durability of knitted fabrics. In laboratory conditions, fabric samples are continuously rubbed until the yarn is observed to fatigue. The results are a guide to the durability of the covering.

Martindale categories are described as follows:

  • LD - Light Domestic: Suitable only for upholstery intended for occasional, decorative or light usage.
  • GD - General Domestic/Light Commercial: Suitable for most styles of upholstery for general daily domestic use.
  • HD - Heavy Domestic /Medium Commercial: Suitable for furniture subjected to heavy domestic or medium commercial use, including motion furniture.
  • HC – Heavy Commercial: Suitable for upholstery normally subjected to heavy commercial use including bar stools, tub chairs and dining chairs where the furniture is used throughout the day in commercial environments.

All Freedom fabrics are tested to General Domestic/Light Commercial application, and no Freedom fabric is used unless it meets this level of durability.

Colour Fastness
All fabrics are tested for colour fastness. It is important to note that no fabric is 100% colour fast and that it is impossible to prevent colours fading if adequate precautions are not taken in the home. Winter sun, sitting lower in the sky, can cause the most damage, particularly when protective curtains have been pulled back to warm the room.

There are two common causes of fading/bleaching of upholstery fabric. UV and sun damage can cause fading, particularly in bright colours, depending on the degree of exposure. Some fabric damage will be evident where fading is most pronounced. Constant exposure to sun rays will break down fabrics, causing them to become brittle and more susceptible to breaking.

Fading or “bleaching” can also be caused by certain types of medication taken orally or cream based applied directly to the skin. These medications can transfer to the upholstery through the skin causing a bleaching or staining effect. Known medications that can cause this effect include treatment for acne, arthritis, high blood pressure, aspirin based medication and chemotherapy treatments.

Professional steam cleaning on a regular basis will help alleviate the impact. We also recommend you follow the necessary care and maintenance guidelines to ensure your sofa will be with you for years to come.

Fumes from chimneys, auto exhausts, open fires, gas fires, stoves or whatever combustion is present, produce a mild sulphuric acid. This matter is absorbed by or clings to, the furnishing fabric and contributes to discolouration and deterioration of the fabric.

Can occur occasionally as a result of normal daily wear and should not be considered as a fault. There are many variables which can trigger pilling, including climatic conditions, atmospheric purity and user environment. Even specific clothing types (fleecy tracksuits, etc) can transfer pills from the clothing to the furniture fabric. As the fabric surface is rubbed, a single or small group of loose fibres on the surface begins to twist upon itself, forming tiny balls or ‘pills’. Often the catalyst that starts this process is a foreign fibre or speck of dirt.

Pilling can be successfully removed with battery operated pilling tools available to purchase in-store. ‘De-pilling’ only removes unsightly loose surface fibres and does not affect fabric performance.

Freedom strongly advises against allowing pets on furniture. Pets are a leading cause of product concerns. Pet claws can catch the weave, causing damage, along with accelerated wear, pilling and heavy soiling.

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Caring for your Fabric Upholstery

Correct care will extend your furniture’s life and value. Various factors determine the life expectancy of your fabric, for example colour, weight and fibre content. Due to so many variables, some fabrics may require specific, specialised cleaning solutions or procedures. Hence it is impossible to provide a single cleaning code for all fabrics.

Your furniture should have a Fabric Care Label affixed to or accompanying the furniture. If in doubt, you can also consult one of our furniture sales specialists.

We highly recommend purchasing a Freedom Fabric Protection Kit with your sofa purchase. This will provide you with the correct products in order to care for your fabric sofa. But remember, these fabric care products are for spot cleaning only. You must closely follow the individual usage directions for each product in the Care Kit. If stains persist, consult a Professional Upholstery Cleaning Service.

  • Vacuum all surfaces, cushions and decking regularly. Accumulating dust is abrasive and will accelerate wear if regular vacuuming is not carried out. Always use an upholstery (brush) attachment. Do not vacuum feather filled cushions.
  • To remove dust, brush delicately using a brush with soft bristles or use a vacuum cleaner set to the medium power output setting (using the most suitable accessory supplied with the cleaner) and taking care not to rub the accessory directly against the covering.
  • Rotate or reverse cushions regularly when the design permits. Do this once a month to minimise wear from ‘favourite chair syndrome’, this is where more obvious soil build up on the most frequently used seat or seats.
  • Prevent ultraviolet (UV) damage. Keeping furniture away from direct sunlight will help minimise colour loss and/or fibre damage by UV exposure. Even short regular exposure can cause damage. Some fabrics (e.g. dark/strong colours) may be extra sensitive to UV.
  • Position the sofa at least 2 meters from a heat source, such as heaters or radiators.
  • Do not sit on edges of cushions or arms. This causes premature wear and may distort the padding under the fabric.
  • Keep pets and sharp objects away from fabric. Fur is particularly oily and may cause permanent discolouration. Claws, belt buckles, heels, keys, etc., can cut and/or pull fabric, causing permanent damage.
  • Pilling can be expected on some fabrics and should not be considered a fabric fault. Fibre pills can be removed easily using an electric/battery pilling machine (available to purchase in-store). This will not damage the fabric when used correctly.
  • Do not put newspaper on the sofa as print ink from newspapers will transfer onto upholstery cover and dirty the sofa.
  • Feather and down cushions have excellent recovery, but much like down comforters or pillows, they need to be fluffed more frequently to restore their loft.
  • Just like down comforters and pillows, feathers can sometimes find their way through the weave of the fabric. This is not considered a fault of the product.
  • Tight, attached seat and back cushions will stretch and wrinkle with use. You can easily restore their appearance by smoothing the surface and tucking excess upholstery into the sides of the seat or back.
  • An annual professional clean will keep your upholstery looking its best. 

Spots and Spills
  • To maintain the aesthetic appearance it is advisable to treat each stain immediately before it becomes absorbed excessively. This will avoid prolonged or abrasive treatments being required.
  • Do not rub, carefully soak up the spillage by gently ‘blotting’ with a clean, dry, absorbent cloth.
  • Clean the stain using a circular movement, working from the outside towards the centre. Always take care to rub each stain delicately.
  • Do not use a wet cloth, rather, use a slightly damp one.
  • Only apply the appropriate upholstery fabric cleaning and care products suggested by your sales consultant.
  • Do not use household detergents or strong chemicals to clean your upholstery.
  • Pre-test all of the care products in a hidden area to make sure that they are compatible.
  • Improper cleaning may void your fabric furniture warranty.
Things to Note
  • Do not move the sofa by dragging or lifting by the armrests.
  • Do not move the sofa by pushing or pulling it.
  • Do not jump or throw yourself onto the sofa.
  • Do not sit on the arms and/or the back of the sofa.
  • The correct way to move the sofa is by lifting it from the base, but avoid using the feet as a level to prevent breaking them.
Failing to care properly for your fabric product may invalidate your Freedom warranty.

  • Follow the general care and spot cleaning instructions attached to your sofa.
  • For overall cleaning, we recommend using professional dry cleaning. Always clean the entire slipcover to prevent colour variations and to ensure even wear.
  • Cleaning removable loose covers. Ideally, these covers should be professionally cleaned while in position on the furniture. This can usually be done in your home. However, if you are removing the soiled cover and changing over to an alternative cover, ensure that the soiled cover is cleaned by a professional upholstery service (usually dry cleaning if the fibres are suited).
  • Store any unused covers in a clean, dry area away from the sun.
  • Do not attempt to self-machine wash at home. Removable, loose covers may shrink or distort making re-fit impossible (and potentially overload, causing damage to your domestic washing machine).
Professional Cleaning Frequency
How often you engage a professional upholstery cleaning service depends on how you use your furniture, your maintenance and the environment conditions.

Overall, as a general guide, (restorative) cleaning is recommended every 12 months for most family room fabric furniture. In other circumstances, more frequently used furniture may need extra attention. Difficult stains should be attended to by a professional as soon as possible and not be left to the next restorative clean.

For all-over cleaning (or if in doubt about spot cleaning), use only a trained professional upholstery cleaning technician.