What is Washability?

What is Washability?

There are numerous factors you have to consider when selecting the right chairs for your restaurant, including the kind of restaurant you’re opening, your floor plan, and what types of seating you want to offer.


However, another important consideration is not just what kind of chairs you’ll use, but how they are cleaned and how easy they are to clean. Let’s face it—when a large number of people are coming through your restaurant on a daily basis and eating food, spills and accidents are going to happen.


With this in mind, it might make sense to opt for a low maintenance chair material, such as wood, vinyl, or even plastic rather than upholstery, which requires more care and consideration. However, upholstered chairs may really be the best fit for the look you want to create.


This is where washability--the ranking of a fabric’s ability to be washed without bleeding, fading, or shrinking--becomes a major factor.


Not all fabrics can be washed the same way, and using a cleaning agent that isn’t compatible with your seating’s upholstery could lead to significant damage, plus extra money spent on repairing the fabric or even purchasing replacement chairs.


Cleaning instructions are typically easy to get. Most manufacturers provide information about what types of cleaners are required either with your order or on a tag on the chair itself.


Knowing what cleaners are the best fit for different kinds of fabric and how easy the fabric can be cleaned are the most important factors in preventing damage to your chairs and ensuring that your seating will last for years.


Advantages of Commercial Upholstery

advantage of commercial upholstery


First, what are the advantages of using upholstered chairs when the cleaning process has so many technicalities? While plastic, vinyl, and wood chairs may require less effort to care for and have standardized cleaning requirements, there are several practical reasons why restaurant owners choose upholstery.


  • The furniture is often more durable.Often, the materials are of a higher quality and last longer than other more mass produced types of chairs.
  • It offers greater comfort.Customers can only sit on plastic or wooden chairs for so long. With meals often lasting for an hour (or more in upscale restaurants with multiple courses), upholstered chairs provide the most comfort, which can lead to a more satisfying experience.
  • It’s gaining popularity.While trends in restaurants previously swung toward industrial-chic metal stools and benches, upholstered booths and chairs are making a comeback, creating stylish vintage and modern looks.
  • It’s environmentally friendly. Reupholstering is more sustainablethan purchasing cheaper, mass-produced chairs that may wear out and be thrown away more quickly.


All in all, upholstered chairs have numerous advantages, and while they might seem on paper like they would be harder to maintain, it’s all about following directions for efficiently cleaning the fabric.


Understanding Washability Rankings and Cleaning Codes

To understand how to clean your restaurant seating, you have to know the cleaning code for the material used on the chair, which is found on the tag for the fabric. You also need to know the ranking of how washable the fabric is.


Using the right cleaning agent for your type of upholstery is critical to preserving your chairs and ensuring that they last. Without the right washability requirements, you run the risk of bleaching the upholstery, causing it to fade, or having the colors run or bleed.

washability ranking

Water-based cleaner (W)

Washability Ranking: 5

These are the easiest fabrics to clean, requiring only spot-cleaning with a water-based shampoo or upholstery cleaner.


Water-free or dry-cleaning solvents (S)


Washability Ranking: 4

and should be applied in a well-ventilated room. Using water-based or other cleaning products could cause the fabric to shrink or stain.


A combination of either water-based or water-free cleaners (W/S)

Washability Ranking: 3 

Either option or a combination of both may be used after vacuuming or lightly brushing the fabric. Be sure to spot test to discover which works the best.


Soap and water on a clean cloth (L)

Washability Ranking: 5

This means the fabric should be cleaned only with these agents as soon as possible after a spill.


Vacuuming or brushing only (X)

Washability Ranking: 1

This type of upholstery can be cleaned only by vacuuming or brushing and is incompatible with other cleaners, giving it a very low washability score.


Referring to the manufacturer’s requirements is a must for knowing what washability is and how to best deal with spills and general cleaning.


Don’t forget to spot test


Once you know what washability is and the specific code for your type of fabric, it’s always smart to double check to make sure you have the right option by spot testing the cleaner. This will allow you to be absolutely certain that it won’t cause the fabric to bleed or stain.


Always spot test on a small section of the fabric that won’t be readily visible to your customers. This is especially critical with upholstery that has a W/S code; since both water-based and non-water based cleaners can be used, it’s important to determine that both are really options or whether the fabric responds better to one or the other.


What about stain repellent?


Most commercial seating manufacturers treat their chairs with a stain guard product to make them more resistant to damage from spills. However, this by no means makes the chair indestructible and shouldn’t lull restaurant owners into a false belief that the cleaning process will take care of itself.


The primary function of stain guards is to buy you more time to clean up the spill and prevent it from setting into the fabric as quickly. Without making the effort to efficiently wipe up the mess, the food or liquid will set into the upholstery and a stain will form.


Another problem with stain repellents is that over time, they become less effective. It’s important to understand that while they are valuable tools for preventing stains, they aren’t meant to be a cure-all for stains.


Whether your seating has stain protection or not, you still need to be aware of what cleaning agents work with the type of fabric on your chairs to efficiently and quickly clean up any spills or accidents.


What else can I do to maintain my upholstery?

maintain upholstery

Knowing what washability is and how cleaning codes apply to your specific chairs is a vital piece of the puzzle. However, there are other steps you can take to ensure that your upholstery lasts for years to come.


  • Vacuum!Regardless of which cleaner is recommended for your seating’s type of fabric, upholstery needs to be vacuumed daily to prevent the buildup of dirt. Some types of fabric may be vacuum-only, but this step is not optional for any upholstered seating.


Using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum, clean both the surfaces of the chairs and all sides of the cushions.


  • Flip Flop the Cushions.If your chairs have removable cushions that can be turned over, flip them to the other side from time to time to more evenly distribute the wear.


  • Be on the ball with cleaning up stains.It bears repeating--waiting to clean up spills increases the likelihood of stains, even with a stain repellent in place.


Clean up all spills and stains immediately after they happen by absorbing it with a clean cloth. The liquid should be blotted lightly without pressing down too hard, working toward the center of the affected area. This prevents the stain from spreading or becoming larger.


If you find that there is still a residual amount of liquid or a stain left over, you will need to spot clean it later using the appropriate cleaning agent for that type of fabric.


Dealing with upholstered chairs is complicated with lots of technicalities and sticking points depending on your seating’s type of fabric. However, knowing what washability is and how to appropriately clean and handle stains and spills can go a long way to making sure your chairs stay clean and well-maintained.


To help you keep your upholstered seating looking spotless, Moda Seating offers the Chair Care Checklist, a list of tips and tricks for maintaining your chairs that you can use as part of your cleaning procedures around the restaurant.


The checklist is designed to not only inform you of ways to ensure the safety and care of your chairs, but also to educate your employees on what to look for during daily maintenance.


If you have further questions about washability or caring for your upholstery, Moda Seating is also here to help. We would be happy to discuss your restaurant project or arrange a free phone call for a quote. Simply visit modaseating.com or call 1-800-275-3266 for more information.


We can’t wait to show you how Moda Seating can take your restaurant beyond the chair.


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