It’s been a few decades since we have seen velvet in abundance, but it is making a comeback. This trending material is becoming a centerpiece of today’s living rooms and we couldn’t be more excited. Velvet is a huge challenge, and at Mother Nature’s Cleaning – difficult things are our specialty. In fact, our newest technician is fast becoming a velvet expert – he has already successfully assisted in cleaning six velvet sofas  and has only been with us a few short months.

The term velvet does not indicate a specific fiber type, but rather a type of construction or weave of fabric. Velvet is made on a unique loom and is similar in construction to area rugs as it has a pile, known as nap. Velvet has been around since 2000 BC, but it was seen much more starting in the 14th century – The Renaissance Period – when it was one of the most valuable things a person, or the church, owned. Velvet was very expensive to make and was mostly made with silk. This earned it a reputation of being aristocratic and highly sought after. The fabrication of velvet was a highly controlled industry in thread quality, dye quality and craftsmanship, and trade secrets were carefully guarded. Regulations even determined who could buy velvet and what colors they could wear!

As machines took over the weaving process during the industrial revolution in the 1800s it became more available to the public. In the 1930s the first synthetic fibers were created and nylon stockings replaced silk, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that performance fabrics were developed. In the 1960s and 1970s velvet was quite popular and funnily enough this is when steam cleaning (aka hot water extraction) for the carpet and upholstery cleaning profession was born. Velvet quickly became known to cleaners as one of the most difficult upholstery fabrics to clean. We didn’t see much of it after the mid 1980s but in the 2010s synthetic fabrics surpassed cotton in popularity and velvet fabrics became adulterated with blends of fibers – manufacturers produced fabrics with the same look and feel as the original silk velvet, but at a much lower quality and cost. Today velvet is a very affordable fabric due to it’s wide availability and versatility, and in the last few years has gained rapidly in popularity.

While the fabric has changed considerably since the 1970s, the level of difficulty in addressing velvet has not. Rather than having to understand just a few fabrics and how to best approach them, we now have an infinite number of blends to navigate.

Some of the most popular microfibers and performance fabrics are a polyester blended velvet. As a green business, we feel that plastic velvet is not a great alternative to natural fabrics, but since this is the trend, we have learned how to clean it all. I will admit while natural fiber velvets are VERY complicated and difficult to clean, their synthetic counterparts are the opposite – the difficulty lies in identifying which velvet you are dealing with, because the wrong identification can cause irrevocable damage.

So you’ve given in and finally bought the velvet sofa of your dreams, and now you need to know how to care for it. Read on to find out what to do, and what not to do, to keep your velvet furniture looking its absolute best.

Tip #1:

  • Know the fiber composition of your particular velvet upholstery. Fiber identification is the first step in any cleaning process. There are different cleansers designed for different fiber types, and using the wrong one can be disastrous. Same thing goes for just using the wrong cleaning process for the wrong fabric type.

Tip #2

  • Vacuum your velvet regularly.
    • This is important to do correctly – the deeper pile of the fabric means that dust and dirt will make a home there if you don’t regularly vacuum.
    • Vacuum with your soft upholstery tool and barely touch the surface of the fabric. Being aggressive with velvet can cause damage to the nap (the way the pile stands up) and can leave permanent vacuum marks on the fabric.
    • Make sure that when you vacuum, if you do need to touch the fiber that you were going with the nap rather than against it.
    • Hair is also attracted to velvet and will weave itself well into the fabric if left there to play.

Tip #3:

  • Water and velvet are bad together. Improper setting of the nap will cause irreversible damage to the look and feel of your velvet, so unless you have professional experience, do not attempt to clean this yourself with water.  (Some exceptions do apply to performance, fabrics and synthetic velvet.)
  • If you do spill something on your velvet, wipe it up immediately with a dry cloth first. Do not rub!! rubbing causes damage to velvet pile. If you need to use water, lightly mist your cloth and very gently go across the surface to lift any remaining residue. At no point should I droplet of liquid land on the surface of the fabric.

Tip #4:

  • Regularly check your natural fiber velvet for moths. Moth damage on upholstery is very difficult to reverse, so head it off before it starts. Moths like cozy dark areas like the space between your sofa and a wall. Regular vacuuming will prevent moth damage, but so will spot checking. See here for tips on identifying moth activity.

Tip #5:

  • Always be prepared to call a professional. The price tag of velvet is not exclusive to the initial purchase. You must be prepared to spend money on its maintenance. Have it cleaned every couple of years, and always have it cleaned following a spill. And folks, please vet your professionals. It takes more than just training to clean velvet well. lt is a skill that is only learned over time and with the right person. Not everyone can master this skill.

At Mother Nature’s Cleaning, we do not send our newer technicians alone to clean velvet. Even our senior technicians will frequently recommend to bring velvet pieces back to our facility. This allows us to clean it in a controlled environment for the best results (as well as to train the rest of the team ongoing!)

Call us today at 415-991-0500 and bring an expert to your home to take care of your luxurious and amazing velvet furniture !!

Happy Cleaning!!