Job Photo – 08/20/15

Requested Service: Cleaning

This quaint home on the South shore of Loxahatchee River boasted 18 honeycomb shades throughout. 

Four very large shades on the enclosed rear lanai were heavily soiled. This one over the kitchen sink showed food and grease spatter across its bottom half.

All were returned to “like new” appearance using our exclusive cleaning process.

ADVANCED ON-SITE‘s specialty is drapery and shade cleaning, though we offer a range of other services related to window coverings. Contact us to discuss your needs.

Black Soot: Bane of Household Fabrics

candle flame

A History of Black Soot

Before modern marvels like the light bulb and central heating, homes were plagued for centuries by black soot from open flames. Candles, oil lamps, fireplaces – they all spew microscopic carbon particles, easily carried along on even the most feeble air currents.

The problem reached critical mass during the industrial revolution when outdoor air quality, too, was threatened by soot-belching factories and locomotives. Just as dirt found its way into homes during the Dust Bowl, Londoners learned that “the black” knew no barriers.

The soot hangs on the curtains, the books and the little cracks of the ceiling; and the ladies wonder how it is that they cannot keep their finger ends clean.”   – Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth

As they had for millennia, wool and linen remained the most widely used textiles of the time. With its loose weave and high absorbency, linen, especially, trapped the tiny black particles like a filter feeding sea fern traps plankton. Hopelessly locked in its fibers, as much as twenty percent of the stuff defied attempts at removal.

Times Changed, Black Soot Remained

Air quality standards and environmental regulations have drastically reduced the amount of black soot in our lives. But it hasn’t disappeared from the home, completely.

The warm, rosy glow of candles is an irresistible diversion to some, who often do not realize that even modern fabric blends with stain resistant properties can be tainted by their emissions.

As stated in an article by BEC Engineering, a leader in indoor air quality services, certain widely available candles can produce as much as 100 times more black soot that others. These include aromatic varieties poured into glass or ceramic containers, candles containing unsaturated hydrocarbons (most soft wax varieties), and any candle placed in an air draft caused by a fan, air conditioning vent, open window or other source.

In addition to avoiding the foregoing, the article goes on to suggest that users consider burning candles with thin, braided wicks trimmed to ¼” before each use. Further, they should be snuffed after an hour and allowed to cool before re-use.

Other sources claim that candles made with bee’s wax, or vegetable oils produce significantly less black soot than those with petroleum bases. It is, however, important to remember that all candles produce some black soot, a natural byproduct of the incomplete combustion that occurs in a yellow flame.

Black soot, DURING and AFTER removal
Black soot, DURING and AFTER removal

What We Can Do for You

Thankfully, ADVANCED ON-SITE‘s exclusive cleaning process is capable of removing black soot from draperies and shades, where they’re often deposited most heavily through a process called convection. Still, one should be aware that there can be no guarantee of complete removal from certain materials such as those found in Graber Crystal Pleat® honeycomb shades and the vertical vanes of Luminette® shadings by Hunter Douglas.

Curious Case of the “Rush Job”

Luminette Damage

By way of expanding on an earlier post, we see in the photo just one result of a failure to observe details when placing window coverings.

The homeowner in this case purchased an $800 motorized Luminette® by Hunter Douglas. Then, after it was installed she commissioned a top treatment to conceal its track and associated hardware. The new upholstered valance covered the entire header above the opening as well. Meaning that it extended all the way up to the ceiling, which was not level.

In such cases shim material is often placed above one of the valance’s mounting brackets (pictured) in order to align it with the ceiling. Alternatively, in tight spaces the bracket’s position on the cornice can be moved. But that’s more work, so the individual installing the valance shimmed it instead. This left a mere sixteenth of an inch between the bracket and the Luminette’s traversing mechanism.

Now, though they were not touching at the time, when the shade was later drawn, torque from its motor caused just enough vertical movement to bring its plastic components into contact with the unforgiving metal bracket. Several snap tabs holding carriers in position sheared off, jamming the scissor drive and separating five or six carriers from the main body. The expensive window shading was rendered utterly useless.

Fortunately, ADVANCED ON-SITE has the parts and the know-how to correct such issues. The Luminette was repaired and the valance bracket adjusted so the shim could be eliminated. But the homeowner had already been terribly inconvenienced.

When purchasing window coverings, it’s okay to insist that the dealer’s installer be present to measure for them. In this way you can observe his or her manner before the sale. Do they seem hurried? They may place more importance on the sheer volume of installations they can perform, than on customer satisfaction with the quality of their work. Do they seem harried? Well then, maybe the dealer is putting pressure on to increase production in the interest of more profit. Either way, it can add up to heartache for you.

And by all means, have the installer demonstrate that everything functions correctly when the installation is complete. In the aforementioned case, the installer of the valance clearly did not test for freedom of movement before the Luminette’s mechanism failed on the homeowner’s very next attempt to operate it. Alas, by then the installer was long gone.

Correct Control Cord Use (Retractable)

Cord Connector

Never let go of a cord until you know it has come to rest. Shades and blinds with modern retractable mechanisms typically use control cord assemblies. These incorporate hard connectors (pictured) capable of damaging delicate components on impact.

Additionally, an unchecked recoil may cause the cord to jump one or more contact points inside the headrail. Some are inaccessible, and may require costly factory repairs to restore functionality.

With traditional cord-lock mechanisms, the cord should not be released until its “catch” is engaged. This prevents the bottom-heavy shade from crashing down onto the sill.

For long life, correct operation of functional window coverings is the most important factor. But they will eventually fail. When they do, ADVANCED ON-SITE provides a full compliment of drapery and shade services, including repair.

Correct Control Cord Use (Looped)

Always use both hands when drawing drapes, or any window covering that utilizes a cord loop passing through a fixed component at its lowest extent. An equal amount of pull on both the ascending and descending portions of the cord loop prevents too much stress from being placed on either the headrail above or the tensioning mechanism below.

For long life, correct operation of functional window coverings is the most important factor. But they will eventually fail. When they do, ADVANCED ON-SITE provides a full compliment of drapery and shade services, including repair.

Attention to Detail is Critical

depth measure

When a shade, shutter or blind ends up functioning improperly, or not at all, it’s usually due to having been placed in an opening for which it is not suited. Avoiding such problems involves taking note of so much more than just width and height at time of measure.

As an example, but by no means the only one, an opening’s depth has a lot to tell about whether or not the desired product will enjoy unobstructed movement when installed. Will it come into contact with a protruding frame component (mullion, lifting rail, crank, etc.), preventing full functionality? The time to switch to a product that works within existing parameters is before a desired selection is ordered and custom made.

The reality is, a given product is not necessarily suited for just any opening. All openings have their own unique set of features and tolerances.

Be assured – we’re trained to make you aware of anything that may have an impact on your selection. Even if it means recommending a less profitable item, but one that will not suffer from poor functionality.

ADVANCED ON-SITE provides a full compliment of drapery and shade services, including cleaning.

Avoiding Damage to Vertical Blinds

To avoid damage to carriers, as well as the traversing mechanism itself, always be sure the vanes of a vertical blind are tilted to the open position before traversing them.

The photo indicates when a vertical blind is ready to be drawn to the side on which it stacks, and when it is not.

The same applies to privacy sheers.

For long life, correct operation of functional window coverings is the most important factor. But they will eventually fail. When they do, ADVANCED ON-SITE provides a full compliment of drapery and shade services, including repair.