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Fabric restoration is the process of refurbishing fabric items after they have been affected by fire, smoke, water, or mold. Restoration specialists use technologies and procedures to restore fabric-related items to their pre-loss condition. These processes are specifically designed and tailored to address the challenges posed by particular types of damage. In addition to concerns with an item’s appearance, considerations such as smell and structural integrity are taken into account. The smells associated with fire and water related disasters are often dealt with by subjecting the item(s) to ozone treatments that break down the foreign particles that cause the odor.
Items commonly encountered by restoration cleaners include but are not limited to:
- Wedding Gowns
- Leather and Suede Garments
- Fur Garments
- Stuffed Animals
- Decorative Valances
- Drapes and curtains
In addition to the damage caused by the actual flames of a fire and the immense heat that can reach portions of the structure not directly affected by the flames themselves, household fires usually contain hundreds of noxious chemicals which can saturate the items within the structure - as well as the structure itself. This smell is unpleasant for anyone, but is especially unbearable for anyone who has recently experienced a fire because it will often immediately trigger a powerful recollection of the tragedy.
That is why it is important to remove all of the odor-causing particles from clothing and other fabric items retrieved from a smoke and fire damaged building. An important way in which fabric restoration specialists differ from retail cleaners is that while the latter will charge for any attempts at cleaning - whether successful or not - certain restoration specialists will only charge for their services if they are successful in restoring the items to their pre-loss condition or better.
In addition to the obvious harm caused to dry clean only garments and textiles by immersion - prolonged or otherwise - even fabric items that are intended for machine washing can be damaged by the effects of a flood. Damage can include colors becoming faded or otherwise altered within a particular article of clothing, dye transfer (bleeding) between articles, and the distortion of fabric that causes it to become rough and/or twisted.
The key to successful restoration after a flood is that the situation be responded to and dealt with immediately. The longer items are left submerged, the greater the likelihood that the damage will render the items non-restorable.
While the concept of laundering clothes has been around for eons and dry cleaning has been around for hundreds of years, the concept of a cleaner specializing in the cleaning and restoration of clothes and other fabric items after they have been affected by fire, smoke, water and mold is a fairly recent development. In the United States, such companies have been around for approximately 20 years.
Over that lifespan, the industry has made great advances in technology and in techniques in order to effectively and efficiently restore a victim's items to their pre-loss condition.
Most of a restoration cleaner’s business comes either from an insurance company or a restoration contractor, but victims of a fire or flood are able to contact them directly as well.
The services offered by a restoration cleaner are almost always covered in a homeowner’s insurance policy.
- "Textiles" (PDF). Caring for Cultural Material. reCollections, Australia. 1998.