Frequently I am asked if velvet upholstery is practical for homes with kids and pets. Homeowners are reluctant to invest in “delicate” velvets for frequent use, though they love the warm look and feel they provide.

Fear no more. With a few precautions, you’ll find velvets enjoyable even in heavy-use areas, such as your den.

Fiber Facts

First, understand that velvet isn’t a fiber, it’s a weave. Original velvets were made of cotton, which easily stained, faded, and distorted. Therefore, the word velvet became synonymous with cotton – and problems.

Today, velvets involve every synthetic fiber produced (nylon, polyester, acrylic, and even olefin or Herculon). These fibers are warm and soft like cotton, but their chief advantage is that they retain color and texture better, and they are far easier to clean than cotton counterparts. In fact, acrylic and olefin velvets are virtually immune to stains, even when subjected to a 5-year-old’s birthday party.

Cleaning Considerations

From the homeowner’s standpoint, velvets may be maintained with two procedures. First, treat spills as rapidly as possible by blotting, followed by sponging with a mild detergent that is safe for fine fabrics. Finally, blot with towels. Never scrub a spot or irreversible pile damage will result. Instead, wipe or sponge with the velvet’s nap-lay.

Second, velvet piles collect dust, dirt, and abrasive soil. Therefore, each month, assuming regular use, use an upholstery attachment to vacuum thoroughly – a great job for kids with “nothing to do” during weekends.

Now, about overall cleaning: In a word – don’t. At least, not you. True, I am a professional, so I’d better explain why you should leave the cleaning to a pro.

First, it’s doubtful you’d have access to the specialized agents that remove oily arm and headrest soils – particularly the dry solvents. Next, care must be exercised to avoid texture distortion. Finally, careful nap-setting with a velvet finishing brush is imperative, both before and after cleaning.

Velvets? Recommended – but only when selected and maintained with care.