Upholstered furniture is functional as well as decorative. Although it has been designed to contribute to the interior decorative scheme of a room, providing comfortable seating is its main purpose. When used on a regular basis, a considerable amount of wear and tear will result. This means that a lot of antique furniture has frequently been reupholstered a number of different times. Even these days, it is very common to strip down upholstered furniture to the frame, and to discard the old upholstery and replace it with brand new upholstery.
Cleaning up spills
First of all, you should immediately blot the spill with kitchen paper so that the liquid is absorbed. Continue to repeat this process until you have gotten rid of as much of the liquid as you can. Don’t use heat for this. For example, if you try using a hair dryer in order to speed up the drying process it can permanently fix stains or cause shrinkage. After you have finished with the blotting process, stop and decide whether you want to attempt to get rid or more of the stain or just accept the damage that remains. If you are in doubt about further treatment, consult with a textiles or upholstery conservator. The Upholstery Workshop are experts in this field with over 40 years of experience.
It may be possible in some cases to dampen the surface of the upholstery lightly with water, and then blot as much of the stain and water away as you possibly can. You can repeat this process, and dry between each stage by thoroughly blotting. However, there are many layers that make up upholstery. If you use water or another type of liquid, you may not always be able to separate the effects that is has on the various layers. You might discover that the top cover colours have run or tide lines may have formed from the dirt being drawn up into the textile cover from the lower layers. These problems both can be permanent and trying to remove these stains will just result in the area of damage being extended.
When it comes to reupholstering, maybe the most common mistake that is made is indiscriminately using traditional upholstery techniques and materials. Many of those techniques were first developed during the 19th century and when they are improperly applied it can produce historically incorrect, over-stuffed and bulky upholstery profiles. In order to avoid this common mistake, the best thing to do is consult with someone who is familiar with upholstery conservation or historic upholstery.
The chair itself may have signs of the original upholstery. You might be able to choose an unobtrusive area (on the back usually) and carefully lift up a small part of the top cover. Search underneath for pieces of earlier covers or the earlier covers themselves. Tack holes and tacks may provide evidence regarding the original upholstery.
If the current layers of upholstery are using all of the tack holes, then they are probably the original materials. On the other hand, if the old tack holes show a regular pattern then that might be evidence of being the original, decorative nailing.
If the chair does not have any original upholstery remaining, you might need to commission reupholstery. Quite often upholstery conservators advocate using stainless steel staples instead of the traditional tacks since they cause a lot less damage to the frame’s original components compared to traditional tacks which extends the original frame’s life.
To clean upholstered furniture’s historic top covers, consult with a conservator. Keep in mind that the tacks that are used for fixing the top cover usually are nailed deep into the wood. Also, the head of the tack is frequently impressed deeply into the textile. Try to lever out the tacks, particularly if they have weakened the textile and rusted, since they will most certainly end up tearing the fabric.
When removing the cover, a conservator will know how to minimise the damage and know what the most appropriate cleaning method is. Another problem is when fitted originally, upholstery tension is used to stretch it then it is re-trimmed. It can be hard to refit if removed since there is not enough remaining fabric for it to be retentioned.
Remember that the drop-in seat frames need to be returned to the original chair. Within sets, the frames aren’t interchangeable. It is very common for the drop-in seat covers to be added one after another, sometimes with additional wadding. You might be able to locate the original profile and cover if they are intact still underneath. However, if a number of layers were added, this extra bulk will act like a wedge and force apart the chair joints or break the rebate at the point that the seat sits within the frame.