Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Red Chair

Recently, I had a great good fortune. For a long time, I've imagined myself with a huge, comfortable arm chair (to fill my huge, comfortable, dream house, naturally). There have been many times that I've imagined how I might make this dream come true, but they all involve money that would be more wisely spent elsewhere, and rearranging all of the furniture in my living room - likely eliminating seating rather than increasing it. Imagine my shock when, two weeks ago, I went to Ginny's where she was having a garage sale and I found a chair that would match my things perfectly. Is it as huge and overstuffed as I'd imagined? Not quite. But, it's nice to sit in and pretty good looking. Maybe once I get my mansion, I can upgrade!

While Harry (Ginny's husband) and I made valiant efforts to squeeze the chair into the back of my Corolla, it just wasn't happening. The next day, I borrowed my dad's van (and my dad, as it happened) to go pick it up. He helped me haul it back to the apartment. Here it is on the first day!
Isn't is wonderful? You can just barely see them, but I think the chair's an awesome match for the curtains in the dining room, at the far right of the frame. Do you think this furniture arrangement looks a little awkward? You might be right... ;)

I decided that, before moving everything around and making changes, I would spend a little energy cleaning the chair. While it was in very good shape when I got it, I thought it could use a little freshening up. I knew that mine would be (at least) the chair's third home and I thought a little work might make it look practically new. I was right!

I did some research on the internet about how to clean upholstery. I learned that it's very important to save the tags on your upholstery, and believe me, if I ever by new upholstered furniture, I'll be sure to do so. The tags give you lots of important information about how to care for the fabric, so they're nice to pull out later. But, I also ran across some webpages created by people like me, who really didn't know anything about the content of their fabric. Of course, you'll want to try whatever method you use in an inconspicuous spot to see how it works.

I decided to start with plain water. This wasn't very effective for me. I didn't notice that anything was looking cleaner, and I noticed that there was almost a watermark where I'd used it. The fabric remained darker in that area even after it had dried. Bummer. The internet research continued. One suggestion I saw multiple places was to whip together dish detergent and water.
 Though most of the recipes I read suggested using an egg beater, I used an electric mixed and it worked out fine. I decided to buy some clear dish detergent because I typically use Dawn, which is blue. I know it's unlikely that Dawn would have dyed the fabric, but I didn't want to take any chances. This little mini bottle of detergent was about $1.50, which was money very well spent. In the photo above, you can see that the detergent is whipped together. You want it to look nice and foamy, like its ready for you to dive in and wash your dishes. I didn't follow a particular formula to determine how much detergent to use. I'd use more water than detergent and then add more water if you're having difficulty getting good foam.
I then used a white rag to lift up just a little bit of foam and rub it into the upholstery. It seems to me that the trick here is to use only the foam - not the liquid beneath it. The foam allows you to put just a teensy bit of detergent on the upholstery without getting it too wet. I found that with my little bowl, I was often able to work for only 5 minutes or so before all the foam had either been used up or dissolved. The simple solution is just to pop back to the mixer and give it a shot for another minute or two. It took several applications, and I was reluctant to keep going once I could feel the fabric getting wet because I was worried the water would cause staining. So, I took frequent breaks to go to work and sleep and do my usual activities. I noticed some dirt coming off on my white rags, which I took as a very good sign. After several applications, I declared the project done, and rearranged the furniture as necessary. Here's the finished product!

One other quick note for you about this project: this cleaner recipe was often billed as "organic" or "non-toxic" when I read about it on various websites. That wasn't a particular focus for me (sorry, Mother Earth), though I was very excited about the fact that it would be simple and cheap to do. I don't know whether the version I used was actually organic or non-toxic. I would imagine it would all depend on the contents of the detergent you choose. The great news is that I believe this will work with whatever detergent you prefer!

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