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How to Clean Nicotine-Stained Upholstery

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    LESLIE: Now we’re going to talk to Rich in Delaware about steam cleaning some upholstery.

    Rich, what’s dirty?

    RICH: I have a chair. It’s an upholstered chair.

    LESLIE: OK, and what kind of a stain is it?

    RICH: Basically, some cigarette smoke in the room, over time, has turned it all yellow.

    LESLIE: Alright, so you’re looking to steam clean the entire thing just to sort of freshen it up.

    RICH: Right.

    LESLIE: Well, because it’s the entire chair, it’s probably best to find a professional cleaner. Because if you unevenly place water or cleaning solution, the water can actually damage the fabric; especially if it’s a good-quality or a very expensive fabric. So you want to make sure that you are very careful about how much water and how much cleaner you use.

    TOM: And I’ve also noticed, Leslie, that when you’re trying to remove tar and nicotine, that it tends to get the cleaning solution rather muddy and then it can sort of build up and then even stain more deeply in other areas and lead to that unevenness that you’re talking about.

    LESLIE: It’s true. You know, the Bissell PowerSteamer has an upholstery attachment and it works pretty well if you’re doing a small area or a specific stain. But because the entire chair has been discolored, it’s something that needs to be treated professionally. And often, with smoke or tar stains, it needs a special cleaning sort of element that you might not be able to get yourself; that a professional might only have their hands on as well.

    RICH: Well, the other alternative was there’s like a powder that comes with another – Oreck, I think makes a powder that you brush into the fabric and then vacuum it off.

    TOM: I doubt that that’s going to do it. I really think you’re going to need some heat and some water here and carefully applied. Because that nicotine and that tar is so thick that I don’t think a powder’s going to take that off. The powder is good for freeing up just dirt and dust and things like that, but not in this case. You’re going to need to clean it.

    RICH: Because I’ve noticed with windows just plain ammonia water dissolves it very good; if you spray a little clear mix of ammonia and water.

    TOM: A window is not absorbent. You know, a good-quality, upholstered chair is going to be incredibly absorbent and that’s why you want to do it carefully.

    RICH: OK.

    LESLIE: And also because you’re not sure what the fabric is, that’s also going to change your approach on how to clean it because a cotton is going to clean differently from a velvet or a silk. So that’ll also change exactly what it is that you’re using to clean it, so it might be best to just sort of leave it to the experts.

    RICH: OK, we’ll do that then.

    TOM: Alright, Rich. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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