Basic Cleaning Requirements
Test cleaner on an inconspicuous area then allowing it to dry to make sure the solution does not react with the surface, is the best way to ensure there are no surprises as to its effect, but be cognizant that it may not react in exactly the same way as a heavily soiled area or that has been subjected to UV-B radiation (faded)
Providing the cleaning product selected is suitable, apply several drops of the selected cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area and rub gently with a clean, white micro fibre towel. Do not over wet. Use small amounts of the product and blot frequently, do not rub or use too much pressure. Do not use the product if it adversely changes your fabric's colour or texture.
Cleaning products (with the exception of glass cleaners) should be sprayed on to a folded 100% microfibre cotton towel, do not spray any cleaning product directly to the surface, as this may cause ‘spot or streak’ clean patches on the surface
As with all detailing tasks; surface preparation is the most important first step. Products will bond to a substrate and therefore be more durable if applied to a properly cleaned and prepared surface. Most automotive fabric seats are synthetics acrylic or a polyester nylon as they are a durable fabric, but they react to cleaning solvents very differently than organic fabrics like cotton
Three types of energy are required;
1. Chemical energy- provided by the synthetic cleaner
2. Kinetic (abrasion) energy provided by machine or hand
3. Thermal energy -provided by warm or hot water
To clean fabric seats and obtain the desired outcome;
· Use an upholstery brush to loosen dust and fibres
· Vacuum to remove loose dust etc
· Identify the material/fabric you are working with
· Identify the type of stain and/or soiling
· Use an appropriate pre-spray and allow sufficient time to work
· Use an enzyme type cleaner to remove odours
· For stains, first blot to remove any liquid and then use an appropriate stain remover
· Use a heated water extraction machine to remove excess moisture
· Rinse with clean water
· Dry thoroughly
· Apply a fabric protector
Use a high-quality cleaner, formulated without strong solvents and one that has a pH value between 4 and 10 (neither strongly acidic nor overtly alkaline).
Stains: The first thing you should do upon discovering a stain is to act immediately. Don’t wait because heat and/or time will just cause the stain to set in deeper, which will make it much harder to remove. Before deciding upon treatment, you should first access what ‘type’ of stain it is, before a stain can be removed the surface tension that bonds it must be released, then the stain encapsulated and held in suspension to be removed.
a) Organic stains- these include proteins and fats, body oils, mould yeast, bacteria, bugs and carbohydrates. Most of the stains found in the vehicle interior are of an organic nature and require an alkaline type cleaner. Some organic stains (i.e. blood, vomit, urine) should be removed with an enzyme type cleaner and a disinfectant applied to the area
b) Non-Organic stains- mostly found on the exterior of the vehicle, hard water scale (calcium) lime deposits, Road tar, grease and oil film, and require an acidic type cleaner.
c) Petroleum soils - substances that do not contain water, nor are they miscible, these soil types include, motor oils, and crease and road tar, and require a solvent type cleaner.
a) Water Soluble Stains- These stains can be dissolved in cool water or loosened with water based cleaner, coffee; soft drinks, cocoa and chocolate are good examples.
b) Oil soluble stains- These are stains that are comprised of oily or greasy substances, which include cooking, oil from fried foods and suntan oil.
c) Combination Stains- These stains contain both water-based and oil-soluble properties. Cleaning these stains require treatment with a petroleum solvent followed by water-based cleaning solution.
d) Unidentifiable Stains- Sometimes stains cannot be identified. Treat these stains like a combination stain. Clean with a petroleum solvent followed by a water-based cleaner.
Always select a chemical/cleaner that are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and safe to use by observing any precautions recommended so that they won’t harm you, your vehicle or the environment
Specific fabric stains
a) Red Stains- Try to find out the source of the stain (Koolaid, Gatorade, Red wine, etc.) It is important to know the source of many old coffee or tea stains can look like red dye stains and many stains if treated improperly can "set" and then be a major task to remove
Removing Red Stains is one of the toughest to remove because usually a red food dye is used and if spilt on fabric or upholstery it will dye it. Use Red Stain Remover (topoftheline.com) is a unique formulation that removes super tough red stains. Spray the solution on the stain and agitated with a brush to make sure it has penetrated the fibre. Allow it to sit a few minutes to ensure the chemical "action" dissolves the dye.
Place a dry towel over the area and press with a hot iron, as the heat draws the dye to the towel so it can be lifted from the fabric. http://www.fabriclink.com/fabriccare.html
The process may take a couple of applications especially if the stain is old, or has been allowed to set for some time. Follow with a thorough by hand-cleaning using Woolite® Heavy Traffic Carpet Cleaner, or with a carpet extractor. Once carpet is thoroughly dry protect it from future stains (using 303 Fabric Protector)
b) Blood- remove the stain as soon as possible; if it sets it will be more difficult to remove, As a rule of thumb, you should never scrub a blood stain. Instead, you blot it to minimize the spread. As soon as you see there is a blood spot, blot the area and soak up as much as you can. Your car might have a tissue bag so burst it open and use the tissues to soak the blood up.
Do not press hard since it would push the blood down, instead work very slowly on the spot and try to remove as much blood as possible from the area. A smart way is to start from the edges and work your way towards the centre.
Sprinkle parts of cold water and club soda on the affected area. Do not apply hot water as that would dilute the blood and it might seep deep. For blood stains that are dry, you need to mix laundry detergent, cold water and glycerine to form a solution, 80% of which should be water. Glycerine and detergent should be used in equal proportion. Spray this solution on the blood stain and sponge it. Once the spot is removed, spray cold water to remove the solution.
Once the stain has been removed the area should also be treated with a disinfectant (Lysol™ Disinfectant). Take all necessary precautions when dealing with blood (latex gloves, and etc) and when disposing of blood-stained items.
Wipe down the area with a damp micro fibre towel and then remove blood stains using a 2:1 solution cold distilled water / Hydrogen peroxide, this will eliminate the stain and provide a disinfectant.
Finally rinse the area with a damp micro fibre towel. Take all necessary precautions when dealing with bodily fluid stains (latex gloves and etc) and when disposing of soiled items.
c) Wax (candle or crayon)- to remove melted wax from carpeting, place an absorbent paper towel folded 4-5 times over the wax and with a hot iron run it back and forth on the towel (renewing as required) this will re-liquefy the wax and the towel will absorb it. Repeat as necessary.
d) Pet Stains - Enzyme is specially formulated using enzyme action to eliminate odours caused by pet urine vomit to digest the stains and odours left behind by pet urine and faeces. (PETsMART)
· Do not rub or use pressure on the affected area. Pat with a dry rag to gently wipe the paint away if the stain is very fresh.
· Clear away any excess paint by abrading the surface of dried paint with a plastic (ScrapeRite blades) or single-sided razor blade
· Do not use paint thinner as it will cause the paint to migrate and ‘bleed’ producing a larger stain
· Place a small amount of isopropyl alcohol or a non-oil-based nail polish remover, such as Acetone solvent on a sponge and blot the paint-stained area.
· Use a clean sponge to blot the previously stained area with P21S® High Performance Total Auto Wash, a Limonene (citrus based) cleaner to remove paint residue.
· Wait a few minutes. This will break up the compounds of the paint and make it easier to wipe off using any of the aforementioned methods
· Thoroughly rinse the area with clean water.
f) Bituminous Asphalt Stain Removal
a) A solvent (Stoner™ Tarminator) can also dissolve a variety of oil and petroleum-based products, it's safe to use on all types of paint, plastics, synthetic fibres, carpet and upholstery. If used on vehicle paintwork re-apply a protect rant after use. Something else you can try is isopropyl alcohol (IPA) using a sponge or towels gently blot until the stain is lifted. Blot again with cool water to rinse. Dry with a thick towel.
b) A dry cleaning solvent will also remove asphalt, as with the alcohol, pour onto a sponge or cloth and blot. Keep blotting until the stain is lifted and then blot with cool water until all traces of the chemical is removed; blot dry with a thick towel.
g) Road Paint / Asphalt Remover- lay the smooth side of the wipe over the contamination to saturate the surface. Let it sit for about one minute to soften the paint. Use the textured side of a new wipe and rub vigorously. Use firm pressure and a lot of action. Particularly difficult cases may take a second application. Once you have removed the road paint, wash off the chemical with shampoo or glass cleaner. A quick spot polish should bring back the original shine. (Do not use on paint jobs less than 90 days old)The same technique can be used for old tar removal. If the first application doesn't remove it completely, apply a new wipe and repeat the process.
i) Grease / Oil – use a terry cloth towel to soak up any residue and then use a degreaser (Optimum Power Clean™) or a spot remover (303 Cleaner & Spot Remover™) work product into material with an upholstery brush. Once fabric is dry apply a fabric protection (303™ High Tech Fabric Guard) If you have access to a steam cleaner it will readily remove grease / oil
h) Coffee -remove from the surface as soon as possible as a coffee spill in the car may leave a permanent stain if left untreated, but coffee stain removal methods may help you restore your car seat fabric to its original colour.
With all cleaning products, always test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it won't discolour or stain the surface, and ensure that the pH of the product is suitable for the material. As can be seen, stain removal requires some knowledge of basic chemistry.
· Absorb excess coffee from the area by blotting with a clean terry cloth towel
a) Spray the stain with a mixture of one part white distilled vinegar to two parts warm water then blot the liquid with a clean terry cloth towel. Repeat this until the stain lifts.
b) Mix a 1:1 solution of P21S® High-Performance Total Auto Wash with warm distilled water, if the vinegar treatment is ineffective, and dampen a sponge or white towel with the solution.
· Blot the stain with clean terry cloth towel to remove it, and then rinse the soap from the seat with a sponge and clean, cool water. Absorb any remaining liquid with cotton towels.
· Clean the stain with 303 Cleaner & Spot Remover™) following the manufacturer's instructions if the stain persists.
· Once fabric is dry apply a fabric protection (303™ High Tech Fabric Guard)
i) Protein Stain Remover (including blood)
Protein Stain Remover- the HT-67 will remove blood, urine pet, and food stains, but what makes it unique is its formulation. The stain remover is a highly concentrated, biodegradable powder that is designed to be mixed with an all-purpose cleaner. It will boost the cleaning power of a regular cleaner to a powerful, spot blasting level. A level breaks down the most stubborn, stains.
Mix 1/4 cup to a gallon diluted, HT-49 All-Purpose Cleaner. Spray on the stained area and let set for a few minutes. Scrub with a carpet/upholstery brush. Spray/rinse with water, let dry and vacuum.
j) Water Marks (Browning)
Clean and extract as normal. Follow with a sprayed mist of a 'souring agent' to prevent browning, colour bleed and those awful 'watermarks'. Extract with plain water (no detergent). Pro's Choice "Browning Treatment" (formerly known as Brown Out) is an excellent treatment for water stains on upholstered furniture, caused by wet cleaning, and treatment of brownout on upholstery or carpet due to over-wetting. Simply apply full strength to the problem area. Wait to dry and then evaluate.
Pro's Choice - https://www.proschoicesupply.com/products/?cat=Stain_Removal
Different cleaning methods to remove two different types of contaminants
1. Hot water and liquid soap to remove water-soluble contaminants:
2. Wax and Grease Remover to remove solvent soluble contaminants:
Grease and Oil (Stoner’s Tarminator)
Road Tar ditto
Tree Sap ditto
Bird Droppings ditto
Wax and Polishes (DuPont Prepsol)
With all cleaning products (especially solvents) always test a small inconspicuous area first to ensure it won't discolour, stain or etch the surface, and ensure that the pH of the product is suitable for the material After the paint surface has been subjected to a chemical cleaning its protective layer (s) have been removed and the paint surface left without protection, so it is very important that a wax or polymer protection be applied immediately.
As can be seen, stain removal requires some knowledge of basic chemistry. Read the product labels and manufacturers material safety data sheets (MSDS) to obtain a basic idea of contents, pH levels etc. Always select a chemical/cleaner that are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and safe to use by observing any precautions recommended so that they won’t harm you, your vehicle or the environment. (See also Vehicle Interior Detailing, Solvents)
Fabric Upholstery Cleaning Methods
Alternative fabric upholstery cleaning methods
· Hand application
· Dry steam vapour
· Extractor System
· Tornador air/liquid cleaning tool
Using dry steam vapour
A system that produces a high temperature, low moisture vapour that contains only 5% to 6% water and is much less dense than air, a steam vapour system is equipped to safely produce thousands of gallons of live dry steam using only about 1.5 quarts of water per hour. It is mess free with temperatures hot enough to kill bacteria and germs, emulsify grease and oil as well as other surface contaminants. These units are best suited for light cleaning (covered leather or fabric upholstery) maintenance and spot removal.
Apply a cleaner to a sponge, work up foam and apply to the surface, then pass the steamer just above the top of the area just cleaned and lightly agitate with a micro fibre towel, then wipe dry. Steam vapour helps to emulsify the grime, while the foam encapsulates it. Steam, when it cools, turns to condensate (water) which helps to re-hydrate the hide
Using an Extractor System
An extraction system process is the choice of professional detailers due to its cost-effectiveness, performance efficiency and time-saving over conventional methods. Extractors work by using a cleaning solution dispensed from a tank that heats the solution to 200oF+ and is sprayed at medium pressure (50 PSI +) and a high volume from the machine via a cleaning wand; it is then filtered and re-circulated.
The water is heated and pressurized, which produces a dry vapour. When the vapour leaves the nozzle it is then subjected to atmospheric pressure and expands (a phase change), vapour micro-molecules are able to penetrate the pores on any permeable surface. When the molecules come in contact with a surface they expand forcing any dirt, debris, and bacteria to the surface (steam vapour also kills bacteria) Dry vapour has a water content of about 5%, so the surface dries extremely quickly
Extraction also allows the ability to remove cleaning residues due to its high suction power (100-inch water gauge +). Rinsed fabrics look and smell cleaner and resist soiling better. I know ‘lesser’ machines may give the appearance of a clean interior, but in reality, the soil is being migrated the bottom of the carpet, this dampened soil will cause mould/mildew formation as the suction lift on lesser machines is pretty much non-existent. Mould uses enzymes to digest nutrients from organic materials, the mould forms on top of the material and also down into its fibres leaving circular or black spots in an irregular pattern Dirt and moisture are essential to mildew propagation.
a) Organic stain removal- quarter (1/4) cup Protein Stain Remover (topoftheline.com) / 1-cup 303™ Cleaner & Spot Remover / one gallon hot water let react for 5-10 minutes to enable cleaners to react
b) Other stain removals- 10:1 solution of P21S® Total Auto Wash and distilled hot water, let solution react for 5-10 minutes to enable cleaners to react
· Use a rubber bristle brush to go over the material to raise the fibres
· Vacuum area very thoroughly (Metro Vac N' Blo®) to lift all the loose dirt from the carpet Remove any stains with 303™ Spot Remover & Cleaner
· Spot treat really bad stains (303™ Cleaner & Spot Remover)
· Use a pre-cleaner solution, 10:1 solution of P21S® Total Auto Wash and distilled hot water, let solution react for 5-10 minutes to enable cleaners to react
· After sufficient react time agitate pre-cleaner solution with an upholstery brush to ‘scrub’ surfaces
· Use an extractor to clean and remove liquid and dirt. (Vapour Clean Products T5 Extractor / Spotter®)
· Use a 16:1 solution clean distilled hot water 303™ Cleaner & Spot Remover
· Use a rubber bristle brush go over the material to raise the fibres
· The next step would be to use a high-volume vacuum, in one direction only (do not scrub) to remove the excess moisture and grime, immediately recovering it.
· Allow to thoroughly dry before use
· Once fabric is dry apply a fabric protection (303™ High Tech Fabric Guard)
Alternative products - Duragloss #451 FC (Fabric & Carpet Cleaner) This aerosol foam is a blend of surfactants, which gently foam away soil, oil and grease from fabric and carpet surfaces. Spot cleaning can be done without leaving rings on fabric and velour.
1. Use a heated extractor on the newer ‘sport fabric’ seats as they use a fire retardant that will easily stain (sweat, water, etc)
2. Use the hottest water available it also helps to pre-spray the carpet with hot water when hand cleaning carpets / mats
3. Run a 2:1 solution distilled water / distilled white vinegar thru the extractor either weekly, or after every ten fresh fills. Vinegar, contains Acetic acid, an organic carboxylic that will help eliminate scale, mild mineral deposits etc. from clogging your extractor.
4. Odour removal- add 4 ounces Door Terminator to each gallon of extractor solution. Clean interior glass after use to prevent spotting. (Automotive International - Valugard Product Line)
Upholstery Specialist Tool
Another alternative if you have access to a compressed air supply is the Tornador air/liquid cleaning tool- this product is totally unique; its air driven oscillating tip and nozzle creates a venturi (tornado) cleaning action that tackles some of the most challenging jobs. Save time and product costs. Clean dirty car interiors faster and better, for cleaning hard vinyl, plastic, storage pockets, cup holders, door jambs, seat belts, any nooks and crannies, consoles, dashboards, and other hard to reach areas of automotive interiors.
It uses a unique pressurized air process to spray a mixture of water and soap onto a dirty surface. After wiping area with a towel or brushing area simply turn a lever to air purge and help dry the cleaned surfaces. Requires a minimum air pressure of 5.0 CFM @ 60 to 90 PSI, for optimum performance (max 110 PSI)
To clean any surface, dilute a cleaner (1:10 - P21S® High Performance Total Auto Wash) as necessary; turn the liquid valve straight up and use an overlapping motion as you pass the gun over the surface.
If necessary, allow the cleaning liquid to react for 10-15 seconds. Use a microfiber towel to absorb excess liquid. Then turn the liquid valve off and use the compressed air to dry the cleaned area. Makes interior cleaning more efficient and easier but the expense of the tool and the required air supply just may make it a little too expensive for hobby detailers.