How to Clean Vinyl Upholstery to Reduce Plasticizer Migration

When it comes to investing in new furniture for your behavioral health center, higher education campus, healthcare facility or other organization, it’s important to ensure that the pieces you choose are built to last. However, in some cases, unknowing maintenance staff may inadvertently damage pieces with vinyl upholstery by using harsh chemicals and cleaning agents.

Use of these kinds of chemicals can cause what is known as “Plasticizer Migration.” This condition leads to the deterioration of vinyl upholstery and can damage your furniture beyond repair. That makes it important to follow all manufacturer recommendations when cleaning your vinyl upholstery – to prevent plasticizer migration and ensure that your pieces will last for the long term.

Keep reading to learn more about how you can maximize the life of your vinyl with proper care. At Blockhouse, we are committed to helping you get the most out of your furniture investment, which is why we recommend taking extra care to prevent damage to your vinyl upholstery from plasticizer migration and other factors.

What is Plasticizer Migration?

Plasticizer migration is when the vinyl upholstery on your pieces becomes hard and brittle because of improper cleaning. When chemicals and other agents are left on your furniture after cleaning, they can cause plasticizer migration, which not only leads to cracked and broken upholstery, but also dramatically reduces the lifespan of your furniture. 

If you want your pieces to last for years without the need for reupholstery or replacement, it pays to take the right steps and avoid this occurrence. The good news is that with proper cleaning, plasticizer migration and the cracked vinyl upholstery it causes are 100% preventable!

Why is Plasticizer Migration Bad?

When upholstery begins to show signs of plasticizer migration, it means that your furniture is beginning to wear down, and its lifespan is wearing down, too. Not only does the vinyl look bad and feel worse, but you might also notice an effect on your long-term ROI, too – especially if the upholstery is so damaged that you need to purchase brand new pieces. 

Keep in mind that silicone is different from both vinyl or polyurethane in that it isn’t prone to plasticizer migration. That makes silicone one of the more durable upholstery options available. If you’re unsure about which material is best for you, our team is happy to answer your questions and help you make the right selection for your unique environment.

Signs of Plasticizer Migration

So how do you know if plasticizer migration has occurred? Inspect your furniture thoroughly, including all upholstery surfaces, cracks and crevices. Make sure that areas that aren’t typically touched or cleaned as often such as the backs and sides of the furniture or the space between the back and seat are still pliable and soft to the touch. When plasticizer migration happens, high-contact surfaces and areas that are cleaned multiple times a day will feel brittle, hard and will ultimately begin to crack. If you’ve noticed that your upholstery is becoming worn down and starting to split, crack or peel, the time for reupholstery or replacement is on the horizon. 

Proper Cleaning of Vinyl Upholstery to Reduce Plasticizer Migration

It is a common misconception that vinyl cracking and plasticizing is covered under manufacturers’ warranties – it is not. Nor will vinyl suppliers stand behind their products when plasticizer migration occurs, because it is preventable. Fortunately, at Blockhouse, our recommended cleaning procedures for upholstery are easy to follow – with no special equipment required!

To reduce plasticizer migration and help extend the lifespan of your vinyl furniture, we recommend using a mild detergent or a 90% water with 10% Clorox bleach solution. Most importantly, be sure to follow every cleaning with a 100% fresh water rinse, and then wipe the surface dry with a clean cloth.

By making sure the diluted bleach solution is completely wiped off, you will reduce the likelihood of damage to the upholstery. Think of it like washing your dishes and not rinsing them. The same idea applies to the care and cleaning of your vinyl upholstery. You don’t want to leave residue from cleaning agents on your pieces.

Helpful Tips to Consider When Caring for Your Vinyl Upholstery

To maximize the longevity of your vinyl upholstery, be sure to avoid abrasive cleaners that can scratch the surface, as well as harsh chemicals or solvents that can remove the plasticizers from the vinyl. In addition, we suggest a periodic cleaning to prevent the build-up of contaminants and dirt, which may cause permanent discoloration. Keep in mind that once damage has occurred, the only recourse is to reupholster and, in some cases when the damage is beyond repair, purchase an entirely new set of furniture. 

Ready to Learn More?

Whether you have questions regarding the proper care and cleaning of your vinyl contract furniture or you’d like to learn more about how Blockhouse can help your facility look and feel its best, contact our team today. We can answer your questions and help you determine which of our durable, long-lasting contract furniture lines is right for you. We look forward to hearing from you!