In this blog we discuss the most common upholstery problems that can arise in use. We will break each problem down, looking at what it is, the likely cause and recommended remedies and solutions to avoid future reoccurrence.

CROCKING: What is it? Crocking is the term used to describe the transfer of excess dye from one surface to another due to rubbing and friction. The issue is increased by certain atmospheric conditions such as humidity and temperature.

Likely cause: In a situation where the dye is transferring out of the upholstery fabric (for instance a red fabric is turning pink) it will usually be a result of either poor quality dyes used during textile manufacturing or that the dyes were not set correctly during the dyeing and finishing process. Crocking can also occur when dye is transferred from an outside source onto the upholstery fabric, for instance a pair of new jeans can transfer blue dye on to your sofa giving it a grubby appearance.

Remedy: The key thing to establish with crocking is whether the discolouration is due to dye transferring out of your upholstery fabric or on to it from an external source. If it is transferring out of the fabric then it is important to check that some substance e.g. a solvent based product, has not come into contact with the fabric and affected the dyes. If all of the above can be ruled out then a genuine fabric issue may be the cause and the fabric will need to be replaced from another batch or alternative fabric.

FADING: What is it? Discolouration or lightening of the dye in a fabric due to exposure to ultraviolet light. Constant exposure to high levels of direct ultraviolet light can also result in fibre degradation, causing the fabric fibres to become brittle, which may result in areas of breakage.

Likely Cause: It is important to note that no fabric is 100% colourfast (resistant to fading), however discolouration can generally be attributed to the use of poor quality dyes during fabric manufacturing or due to constant direct exposure to ultraviolet light with inadequate protection. Ironically ultraviolet damage occurs more during the winter months when the sun is sitting lower in the sky and sun filters/curtains are often left open during the day to increase light flow into a room.

Remedy: Once an upholstery fabric has faded there is nothing that can be done to reverse the issue other than recovering the affected piece of furniture. It is therefore very important that furniture is positioned to protect it from constant direct sunlight and of course the use of quality sun-filters and lined curtains at the window will help to reduce your furniture’s exposure to harmful UV light.  Regular rotation of reversible cushions is advisable so that both fading and wear occur evenly. We also recommend rotating the placement of your furniture in relation to exposed windows for the same reason.

The migration of dust particles can be abrasive to a fabric’s surface and affect its colour if regular gentle vacuuming is neglected. All fabric will fade to some degree over time however adequate protection from UV light and an appropriate care and maintenance regime will help to significantly increase the lifespan of your furniture. If upholstery fading is a major concern, we recommend the specification of solution-dyed olefin or solution dyed acrylic fabric as these have superior fade.

TIP: If you want to use a natural composition yet you are concerned about the probability of fading, it is recommended to choose a lighter colour as fading will be less visible to the eye. 

PILE FLATTENING/SWAY MARKS: What is it? The nap/pile in fabrics such as velvets and chenille yarns may flatten in the main wear areas over time. This will generally be more prevalent when natural fibres such as viscose and cotton have been used although it can still occur to a lesser extent on synthetic fabrics. A disruption in the orientation of the pile, known as “flattening” or “swaying”, is an inherent characteristic of pile fabrics and should not be considered a fabric fault.

 Likely cause: Usually this is just a simple case of physics where the upright pile is flattened in use generally on the main wear areas of the furniture. It happens when moisture and pressure together are applied to the fabric. The moisture may be from having the product cleaned or even purely just perspiration or body heat. This causes the pile to move and subsequently the light to reflect differently on the affected area giving a “sway” mark.

Remedy: Synthetic fibres can be brushed or steamed to help “revive” the pile. Natural fibres can be gently brushed to help lift the pile or vacuumed on a very low suction. Often flattened pile in natural fibre velvets will lift on its own as the fibres absorb moisture from the atmospheric environment.

Please refer to our section on velvets for more detailed information on the care and maintenance of velvets.

A tip for double faced chenille fabric in upholstery application: When a double faced chenille fabric is used on a scatter cushion or loose seat and back cushions it is important to regularly rotate the cushions to prevent movement, also known as “rolling”/“walking”/“tracking”, of the cushion cover against the inner. Rolling is due to the chenille pile on the reverse of a fabric however it can be minimised in three ways; with simple and regular maintenance, the use of a light acrylic backing on the textile or manufacturing a fine cotton cushion lining to act as a barrier cloth.

A tip for velvet in upholstery application: When using a velvet for upholstery application, ensure that particular velvet is suitable for upholstery use as well as your requirements. It is recommended when using this fabric in upholstery application that the pile faces down.

If it is a natural fibre, i.e. a cotton velvet, ensure you understand the idiosyncrasies, such as sway marks, are an inherent characteristic of this construction and should not be considered a flaw. Apply correct manufacturing techniques including seaming the cut edges and folding twice before nailing or stapling the velvet to prevent the fabric from unnecessary rupture and tearing. We recommend that you do not make up velvet directly onto foam fillings, but rather use an interlining even if the velvet has been back coated. The fabric will last longer and pile loss will be reduced. Following the above recommendations will increase the lifespan of your velvet upholstery and reduce the likelihood of pile loss.

This informative post was written by James Dunlop.