Drapery Damage

Draperies and other window textiles play an integral part in enhancing the comfort, beauty and luxury of a room. A variety of fabrics are available to consumers for use as draperies. Although fabric selection, installation and use conditions of draperies vary, all draperies in general are exposed to more destructive conditions than either wearing apparel, carpet or upholstery. Draperies may receive direct or indirect exposure to the harmful rays of sunlight. Draperies also interact with the air circulation system of each room. As a result, they accumulate dust and dirt, as well as residues from cooking, smoking, heating and other combustion. Higher humidity and temperature conditions tend to accelerate the damage caused by these destructive conditions. Therefore, various problems or changes in the draperies can occur as a result of use and exposure. Sometimes the changes occur so gradually that they are not even perceived until after cleaning.

The most common drapery problem is yellowing or development of yellow streaks. This occurs because of sunlight exposure, which can cause a yellowing of all fibers and breakdown of optical brighteners, sizings, coatings or finishes. Exposure to light can also reduce the strength of most fibers, sometimes after only a few months of use. The fiber content of the drapery fabric and its construction, and the additives and finishes used all influence the extent of sunlight damage. The weakened drapery and/or its lining may lack the strength to withstand the normal agitation involved in cleaning. Damage or shredding of draperies may appear after cleaning because of this loss of strength. There is no way to prevent light damage, but it can be reduced by having a good lining, and rotating draperies to minimize direct sunlight exposure.

Yellowing and weakening of fibers can also be caused by environmental pollutants. When moisture in the air reacts with gases such as sulfur oxide or nitrogen oxide, weak sulfuric and nitric acid are formed. (This phenomenon can be referred to as "interior acid rain.") These acids attack drapery fibers, resulting in a loss of strength. Again, these effects may not become evident until after cleaning.

Color changes can also occur on draperies. Most dyes are affected or weakened by exposure to sunlight, atmospheric fumes, heat vents, pet residues and the like. The weakened dyes may be removed or may run or bleed during cleaning.

Water marks that appear as tan, yellow or brown stains with heavy irregular edges can also develop. These are a result of condensed moisture or rain transferred onto the draperies. The stain is due to either a weak dye or dirt in the fabric that is carried along with moisture as it wicks into the surrounding drapery fabric. It is not removed during dry cleaning and even special spotting procedures are not always successful.

Shrinkage is another factor to consider. Some draperies can be observed to raise or lower with changes in humidity and temperature but, in many cases, draperies can be resized to their original length.

Abrasion damage or worn out areas can occur in draperies due to rubbing against the window sill, cornice, and walls.

To ensure that your draperies enjoy a maximum attractive life span, it is imperative to maintain them properly and have them cleaned regularly by reputable drapery cleaners.