August 26


Cellulosic Browning Problems

Furniture cleaning, as with oriental area rug
cleaning, has some challenges that are rarely
seen in wall-to-wall residential or commercial
carpet cleaning.

And some of these challenges, if not addressed properly, can literally permanently ruin the furniture and cost you thousands of dollars.

Let's take a look at one of the most common types of challenges furniture cleaners face - cellulosic browning.

Never heard of cellulosic browning? Well most people haven't, but every furniture cleaner certainly has (at least the good furniture cleaners) and they take the necessary precautions to avoid this potential big-time problem.

Take a look at the picture below to get a good example of a nightmare scenario when it comes to cellulosic browning in upholstery.

Cotton Sofa Cushions With Cellulosic Browning

This is a picture of two cotton sofa cushions that have a fair amount of cellulosic browning. This could have been caused by improper testing, improper cleaning, and slow dry times. But many times this type of browning can be avoided if the proper precautions are taken.

The picture above is from

Cellulosic browning only occurs in natural plant fibers -such as cotton. The lignin in the fiber basically breaks apart and wicks to the surface during drying.

The tell-tale sign of cellulosic browning is uhhhh - browning!

The brown appearance can be fairly dark brown to just a hint of brown but, in most cases, it makes the furniture piece look really bad. In almost all cases you are really going to notice the cellulosic browning on light colored furniture.

Natural plant fibers that have been heavily processed are less likely to "brown out" when cleaned but they can still have a high degree of visible browning.

Not All Browning is Actually Brown!

Although the issue we are talking about is called cellulosic browning in reality not every case of cellulosic browning ends up with a brown discoloration. Sometimes the discoloration is yellow. Usually a faint yellow, but still a yellow coloring.

So How Do You Avoid Cellulosic Browning?

Well, it starts with testing. Everything in furniture cleaning starts with testing. If the furniture cleaner does not properly test then he/she is eventually going to run into big problems when cleaning furniture.

The cleaner must know what type of fiber they are cleaning. It is stunning
to see cleaners clean furniture and not know what type of fiber they are
cleaning because either they did not test - or they do not know how to test -
for different fiber types. Your cleaner must test for fiber identification!

Once the upholstery cleaner has tested for fiber type then there are two types
of test that MUST be done if the fiber is a natural fiber such as cotton. And
they are the following:

1. A test for browning

2. A bleed test

Just to make sure you understand what a bleed test is we will explain. A bleed test is a test that is performed to see if the color in an upholstery piece (or area rug) moves when the cleaning solution and water are applied to it. This test is super important to perform on upholstery.

Cellulosic browning on a sofa

In the above picture you see the results of a off-white cotton sofa that has browned out. This is basically a nightmare situation for furniture cleaners and is the reason why many upholstery cleaners despise cleaning natural fabric upholstery. But this situation, most of it at least, could have been avoided.

The picture above comes from Prochem Cleaning News.

Let's get back to the testing that should be done.

We will not get into the specifics of these test but, in most cases, they don't
take much time to perform and they can really save the cleaner from destroying your furniture upholstery.

If the fiber is a natural plant based fiber, and shows signs of wanting to brown
during testing, then EXTREME caution needs to be taken.

There are three main factors in the cause of cellulosic browning and they are
as follows:

1. Water. In most cases just too much water. But even tiny amounts of water
can cause cellulosic browning.

2. High PH cleaners. Most cotton fibers should be cleaned at neutrual or below on the PH scale. Higher PH cleaners accelerate the break down of the lignin.

3. Long dry times. It is hard to say what factor causes the most problems related to cellulosic browning but we have found that long dry times are a huge factor.

During prolonged wetness the lignin continues to break down and wick to the surface of the fiber.

This means that getting the upholstery piece dry - really fast - is one of the biggest factors in eliminating or reducing cellulosic browning when cleaning furniture that has natural plant based fibers - especially cotton.

Can Cellulosic Browning Be Corrected?

Yes, in many cases - but not always unless extreme (and expensive)
measures are taken.

The best way to deal with cellulosic browning is for the upholstery cleaner
to avoid this very common problem in the first place.

But if your furniture is cleaned - and it does happen to "brown out" - don't panic.

A good furniture cleaner will know what to do and in many cases can correct it. But time is important.

We have found over the years that dealing with cellulosic browing very quickly leads to the best corrective results.

Any time you hire an upholstery cleaner it is important to ask him/her if they do the proper testing on the furniture before they clean it.

While they might say they do - but they really don't - this question at least puts them on guard that you are paying attention and expect them to properly test and clean your valuable furniture.

If you are not comfortable with the answers they give you when you ask them about testing, or what cellulosic browning is, then it is probably a good idea to hire someone else to clean your furniture.

At Linton's Carpet Cleaning we have over 20 years of experience in cleaning all types of upholstery. If you need any upholstery cleaning done please give us a call.

If you have any questions regarding our upholstery cleaning services in Vancouver give us a call and we'll be happy to answer any questions you have regarding our services.

Furniture Cleaning In Vancouver, Wa.

If you have any furniture you need cleaned, or you just have some questions about furniture cleaning in general, please contact us today. 

We will be more than happy to schedule a FREE NO OBLIGATION quote on any upholstery cleaning you need done. If you just have some questions about our upholstery/furniture cleaning service in Vancouver just call us and we'll do what we can to help you out.

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