UK Fashion & Textile Association

Caring for Furnishing Fabrics

We spend a great deal of time and money decorating and furnishing our homes by choosing different styles and colours to suit our individual tastes. When the time comes that our furnishings need to be cleaned, we want to return them to that fresh, crisp look and feel they had when new.

Incorrect cleaning methods can reduce your treasured furnishings to a very sad state.

If, for example, a silk blouse said "dry cleaning only" you should not be surprised if the colours run during a machine wash! Fabrics chosen for furnishing your home need to be selected, used and cleaned with the same consideration, you would give to a silk blouse. Here are some hints on what to look for.


Where they are given, INSTRUCTIONS SHOULD BE FOLLOWED CAREFULLY. This is particularly important because of the wide variety of fibres and blends, fabric constructions and finishes that are now available.

This is especially true of FLAME RETARDANT Treatments, where inappropriate cleaning could seriously reduce their effectiveness.

It is most important that curtain fabrics are washed or dry-cleaned regularly to avoid soiling which if allowed to build up can be extremely difficult to remove and also cause premature weakening or fading of even the most colour-fast fabrics. Do not attempt to wash curtains with fixed sewn-in headings.

If you choose to wash your curtains there is one other important general point to make regarding your choice of detergent. Most washing powders contain mild bleaching agents and optical brightening chemicals designed to produce "whiter than white" results. These can change the appearance of coloured fabrics, particularly prints, especially when compared to unwashed articles.

If you wish to preserve subtle or delicate colours choose a liquid detergent which does not contain these additives.

Machine Washing


Loosen tape drawstrings and remove all hooks and other attachments such as weights.
Carefully follow either any care label instructions or visible selvedge symbols.
Follow washing machine manufacturers' general recommendations.
Do not overload the machine. This can cause rubbing and damage the face of the fabric.
Do not use bleach in any form.

Hand Washing

Loosen tape draw strings and remove all hooks and other attachments such as weights.
Follow any care label instructions carefully.
Follow detergent manufacturers' general recommendations.
Ensure that the detergent is dissolved fully before immersing the curtains. Avoid long periods of soaking which may affect colour fastness.
Avoid rubbing: squeeze gently.
Fabrics containing viscose should be handled with care throughout because viscose fabrics can lose some strength when wet.
Use hand hot water (40 deg C).
Rinse thoroughly; detergents left in the curtains can cause severe deterioration
Do not use bleach in any form.


Upholstered furniture should not be exposed to direct sunlight for long periods or colour fading will result. Protect furniture by drawing blinds or curtains, but remember the curtains will also fade if they are not lined. It is advisable to obtain or make up arm caps, or even loose covers, when buying upholstered furniture.

These help to protect furniture at the points where heavy where is common., equally turning cushions regularly will extend their life by spreading the wear more evenly. Do not allow animals on your furniture. They can cause more damage in a short time than years of normal use. Teach children not to climb on furniture; shoe heels, even of rubber, can cause abnormal degrees of wear. Watch out for sharp edges on buckles, studs on belts or jeans or points on toys etc.; they can easily pluck threads from the surface of the fabric.


Heavy soiling can ruin the appearance of upholstered furniture causing permanent damage to the fabric.; regular cleaning is vitally important.

Fire safety regulations introduced in 1988 have changed the nature of fillings, particularly foams and covering fabrics on furniture sold since that time. It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you follow manufacturers' advice on cleaning; inappropriate cleaning may not only spoil the appearance but could SERIOUSLY REDUCE THE FIRE SAFETY of the furniture.

There are two general types of flame retardant treatment for fabric covers; chemical treatments which are invisible, and coatings on the back of the fabric, some of which might be difficult to detect. Whilst some treatments and coatings are durable you cannot assume this is generally true. Some upholstered furniture is constructed with a flame-retardant interliner or barrier fabric under the outer fabric, therefore the covers may not necessarily have been treated. OBTAIN ADVICE FROM THE MANUFACTURER BEFORE COMMENCING ANY CLEANING TREATMENT.

Generally, fixed covers should be brushed frequently with an upholstery brush or gently vacuum cleaned. To clean the covers use only reputable brands of cleaning agent or shampoo and follow instructions carefully, most advise against soaking or high temperature laundering. It is a wise precaution to test the cleaning agent on a hidden area first. DO NOT USE BLEACH in any form. Also soap should be avoided since soap limes or scums from hard water are difficult to remove. Zip fasteners are used on some furniture for ease of manufacture and not necessarily to make it easy to remove the covers for cleaning.

In some circumstances removable or loose covers are subject to the same fire safety requirements as fixed upholstery; they may be washable or dry cleanable, but CHECK WITH THE SUPPLIER FIRST, as any shrinkage may prevent them being refitted. Refitting covers will be found to be easier if this is done whilst they are still slightly damp.
Finally be aware that some aerosol spray treatments or cleaning aids can permanently damage your soft furnishings. Again, obtain advice from the manufacturer/supplier before you start.

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