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Deep cleaning fabric

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There are 2 general ways for deep cleaning fabric. Using a damp cloth or vacuum cleaner (just removing surface dirt), or using a steam cleaner or wet/dry vacuum cleaner (deep clean the fabric). When you deep clean fabric, you need to take into account that you will spent a lot more time on it.

Why deep clean fabric

When a fabric becomes dirty, the dirt can sink into the fabric. When you vacuum the interior, you only remove loose surface dirt. To remove the dirt that has sunk more deeply into the fabric, you need something more then just a vacuum cleaner.

An introduction into deep cleaning fabric

A simple thing to keep in mind when cleaning fabric is to understand how cleaning liquids work. A cleaning liquid mixes with water, lowers its surface tension (surfactants) and adds certain ingredients that help to loosen up dirt like sand and dust, but also to weaken the bonds of oily contaminants. The result of this is that it becomes very easy to mix the water with the dirt you want to remove. If the water and the dirt have mixed, you just need to remove the water/soap/dirt mixture. Which is actually easier then just trying to remove the dirt alone.

The steps

The steps below are just a guide, you might need to adjust your approach depending on the cleaning product you use, your tools and even the surface you are working on. But this general guide will give you a good direction to start with. It is not made to be the “one and only” technique, but to help you on your way and possibly to evaluate your current steps.

  1. Spray some water on the surface you are going to clean, don’t get it soaked, but allow it to get wet
  2. Spray your cleaning product (very likely to be a (low foaming) APC) on the wet surface and leave it to soak for a few minutes
  3. Use a soft haired brush to agitate the cleaning product
  4. Spray the surface again with water
  5. Use your wet vac (preferably with the carpet-cleaning attachment) to suck up the moisture
  6. If your wet vac also has a waterpump, you can use the spray to wet the surface while moving the wet vac attachment over the surface
  7. You might need to spray more water over the surface, and suck it up, before the water looks less soapy
  8. Stop spraying water on the surface and slowly go over the surface with the wet vac until it doesn’t seem to suck up any water anymore
  9. You might need to repeat steps 1 to 8 until the water is clear and the stains are gone
  10. Leave the product to dry, although it might feel reasonably dry to the touch, it will take hours for the inside of the fabric to fully dry
  11. If you are in a hurry, you can use a hair-dryer or a pet-dryer with heated-air to speed up the drying
  12. For very stubborn stains, you can use an engine bay cleaner, however you should try it out on a small patch first to see if it doesn’t stain or bleach the fabric!
  13. To speed up the cleaning, you can use a brush mounted on a backing plate to use with a Dual Action

Tools and products to use

There are a few products and tools that might help to get the best results

Tools

  • Wet and dry vacuum cleaner (preferably one that is designed to be used as a carpet cleaner)
  • Steam cleaner
  • Attachment for carpet cleaning
  • Soft hair brush
  • A few spray bottles
  • Microfiber (drying) towels
  • Hair dryer or pet dryer with heated air
  • A Dual Action polisher with a brush mounted on the backing plate
  • A tornador can help you dry and remove the surface dirt

Products

  • Low foaming APC (you don’t want to much foam, or the wet vac will get clogged or starts to drip)
  • Water
  • Engine bay cleaner

Things to keep in mind

  • Don’t work in direct hot sunlight, the product might dry to quick and leave stains
  • It is not recommended to leave fabric out in the hot sunlight to dry, it might cause the water to evaporate to quickly, which might results in patches and mineral desposits that make the fabric harder then it should be
  • As long as the water is dirty, the fabric isn’t clean. Check the color of the water you are sucking up often to get a good indication

Work without any tools

Although tools are not mandatory to do this task, it will make your job a lot easier and will help you to get a much better result much easier. Working without tools will also mean that it is very difficult to get deep into the fabric.

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