Picture this frustrating scene: Your trusty professional cleaner just began cleaning your favorite easy chair – you know, the one he tested so carefully and found to be colorfast. You’re in the kitchen cleaning up breakfast dishes, when suddenly you hear a scream from the vicinity of the work area.

You rush to the rescue only to find your cleaner in a prone position clutching at his heart and turning an unnatural color. He feebly points to a vivid red line on the face fabric of your chair, extending from top to bottom on the inside back.

Naturally, you administer CPR to revive the poor fellow, but chances are, he’s beyond help. As you sit in the middle of your den wondering what to do with the body, you ask the only obvious question, “How’d that red line get on my chair back?”

Great question.

So, What Happened?

Frequently, manufacturers and upholsterers draw pattern-centering lines or write instructions on the underside of fabrics or on the top of cushion foam with non-colorfast marking pens, chalk, or crayons. The cleaner attempts to identify these markings and eliminate the opportunity for bleed-through during cleaning. On cushions with zippers, markings are easily identified; however, when the fabric’s underside can’t be inspected, problems beyond the cleaner’s control may arise from marking transfer.

An ounce of prevention is worth the proverbial pound of cure, so, when buying new furniture, check the insides of cushions for markings, and, if present, complain vocally, asking the retailer to pass the word to the manufacturer.

If you’re having furniture reupholstered, then tell your upholsterer to write his or her instructions on paper – not on the fabric or cushion material. Incidentally, be sure to tell the upholsterer to remove all the old fabric, because that, too, has been known to bleed through new fabric during cleaning. Finally, specify colorfast platform covers (material on which the cushions sit), dust covers, and skirt linings.

Remember, the life you save could be my own.