The importance of upholstery and drapery cleaning training

Consumers, property managers, insurance companies as well as legislation, expect that we work to a standard of care, and one that is recognised globally.

The amount of skill and knowledge required to professionally clean upholstery and drapery is something that changes depending on two main factors; the development of textile technologies and fashion.

Because of these two factors soft furniture cleaning has become a lot easier over the last two decades in terms of having less construction (whether that be covering, frame or packing material) related problems.

Today furniture manufacturing must meet tough consumer expectations and strict industry standards, which reduces many issues for cleaning technicians. Developments in textile technology and protective finishes have also made cleaning a lot easier.

The actual methods used to clean fabrics, however, has not needed to change much and while we see a vast improvement in cleaning tools and products, methodology still remains unchanged for many decades.

An analogy that might illustrate this is the development of the automobile. While huge technological improvements have been made in the car it is still basically a combustion engine on pneumatic tires.

So the question could be asked, “If furniture cleaning is getting easier and methods haven’t changed greatly, why does a fabric cleaning technician still need extensive training?”

  • Some imported furniture may not meet local standards
  • There is still a huge antique and mid-century market
  • Some re-upholstered pieces may not meet industry standards
  • New textiles may require special methods to meet manufacturers warranties
  • Insurance requirements
  • The very consumer legislation that improves construction standards can place more liability on cleaning technicians.

Because of these issues the majority of work we do carries the risk of liability to our businesses. Understandably, consumers, property managers, insurance companies as well as legislation, expect that we work to a standard of care, and one that is recognised globally.

Probably of equal importance to the growth of our cleaning business is that we can show clients we have the training and education to back up our claims in providing a superior service than that of our competitors.

It should be one of our major marketing points of difference. That standard of care globally and recognised industry standard is IICRC S300 Standard & Reference Guide for Professional Upholstery Cleaning

While specific pricing is something that cannot be discussed in this course, for both legal and professional reasons, it is obviously a key part of being successful in this industry.

For this reason it is strongly recommended to join recognised national trade association to help you develop your business and provide you with a voice in legislative matters which may affect your industry whether you are a sole trader or part of a franchise or collective group.

Membership to these organisations, in addition to your qualifications, through the IICRC provide strong points of difference and reassurance to consumers that they should be using you.

Most consumers, however, would have little idea about how to care for their furnishings and unlikely to have been given any useful advice by the furniture salesperson, interior designer or architect who sold them their upholstery or drapery.

This means in many cases the item is poorly cared for and the client may have expectations that exceed what you can deliver. Upholstered fabrics that have excessive soiling can be permanently stained or discoloured. Hence it is recommended you remember the Four ‘Pre’s’:

  • Pre-inspection (what you are looking for)
  • Pre-qualify (what you tell your customer)
  • Pre-agreement (what you both agree to)
  • Pre-vents problems (what you get if you don’t do the prior three)

Almost all complaints can be eliminated if the technician has done a thorough pre-inspection of the items followed up by good communication with the client.

These are just some of the basic things covered in an IICRC Upholstery and Fabric Technician Certification class and we haven’t even discussed the technical and practical areas yet!

All this and more is covered in these classes and leads to an international and insurance industry recognised qualification. For more information, visit: http://www.cleaningsystems.co.nz/training/courses/iicrc-training

*Paul Pritchard is immediate past president of the Carpet Cleaners Association of New Zealand (CCANZ)

CCANZ provides free to its members national industry pricing surveys which provide a benchmark of pricing throughout the country. To become a member contact 0800422689 or visit www.carpetcleaners.org.nz

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