by James McCafferty, Awning Rejuvanation Systems
Awnings, tents, banners, flags, canopies, patio furniture cushions, swimming pool liners, and tensile fabrics — or to be more professional sounding, the “Industrial Fabric Aftercare Market” — all have to be cleaned and sealed on a regular basis to keep them in warranty.
Everyone changes the oil in their vehicles regularly to get it to go the distance. Well, industrial fabrics have to be maintained too. A $35,000 awning maintained has a lifespan of 7-10+ years. Without proper maintenance – and just letting mother nature act on it – could give it a degraded lifespan of 3 to 5 years. That’s throwing $15 to $20,000 down the drain.
Educated industrial fabric owners will gladly pay you, the cleaning contractor, to keep it structurally sound and looking good.
And what do you get for doing this? An educated awning cleaner can generate $150 to $175 an hour. Your out of pocket expenses for the correct cleaners and sealers will be $15 to $40 per hour based on the job. That can leave you with the problem of buying a bigger wheelbarrow to go to the bank!
Now for a little fabric education:
All industrial fabrics fall into only 3 basic types:
- Plastic Laminates – These are two layers of vinyl, sandwiching a fishnet support known as the SCRIM. On a hot day, the scrim keeps the vinyl from getting so soft it sags.
- Open Weave – This is simply heavy duty woven In the old days – 1920 to 1980’s – these were usually made from a cotton, or later, a cotton/ polyester blend. And, yes, they rotted in the sun. Nowadays, 95 percent of awnings are made from colorized spun acrylic plastic threads. This, with proper maintenance, makes them almost indestructible.
Combination Fabrics – These are hardly seen They were an effort back in the 1960’s to 1980’s to try to solve the problem caused by cotton. Examples: Imagine a white sheet dipped in latex house paint. Imagine, a cotton duct tarp coated with vinyl paint on the topside.
Industrial Fabric Aftercare:
This is broken down into 2 simple parts, cleaning followed by sealing.
Cleaning – Inspect the material to determine the type of fabric and look for any structural problems. Choose a professional cleaning solution for that type of fabric. These solutions should be safe for the material, safe for the user, and safe for the You cannot get these cleaning agents from the local grocery store, hardware center, or the lawn and garden store. They will waste your time, could damage the material, and totally upset the client, who will then never call you back.
Modern industrial fabric cleaning products clean by making the surface so slippery that dirt and grime no longer have the ability to stick to it. Thus, they rinse off. Cleaners that remove the dirt and grime by eating away the dirt should be avoided. How does this type of cleaner know when not to eat the fabric?
After inspection and cleaning solution selection, simply spray the cleaner onto the dry fabric from the bottom up. This will prevent streaking. Take a soft bristle brush and do some light scrubbing. Water rinse from the top down. Don’t forget fabrics have an underside too. You’ve just cleaned an awning. Now let it dry.
Pressure spraying awnings and other industrial fabrics is a “no-no.” All industrial fabrics are hydrostatic pressure tested. The manufacturers of the materials know exactly what the maximum amount of pressure their fabrics can stand before failure ensues. The highest pressure on the toughest of materials is 360 PSI. Going above this can etch and erode the material. Who hasn’t seen V’s and W’s etched on a vinyl awning or a cloth awning that leaks like a sieve because the threads were stretched apart.
Sealing – Fabrics, if sealed properly, do not have to be resealed every time they are cleaned. The sealers used should stick to the materials and not wash off in the next rain storm. On open weave cloth materials the sealer is simply sprayed on from the top down, slowly. Make sure to let the fabric soak it up through capillary action. Vinyl awnings usually have their sealers wiped on with a lent free cloth.
With the right knowledge, the cleaning and sealing of industrial fabrics can:
- Add increase of revenue to an existing cleaning
- Keep other cleaning competitors away from your existing
- Get you a bunch of great before and after pictures to get you in to speak to your next new client.
About The Author
James McCafferty is the Director of Operations at a company that specializes industrial fabric care, Awning Rejuvantion Systems International, www.awningcleaning.com