Cleaning Faux Wood Blinds

Cleaning faux wood blinds using ultrasonic or even hand cleaning methods can be done safely, and fairly easily, in most cases.  While there are manufacturers who don't recommend that their blinds be cleaned ultrasonically (and in a few cases, there are good reasons for this disclaimer) in most situations a properly executed cleaning is safe to do.  So pay attention to a couple of key details in your pre-inspection to see if the faux woods being examined are good candidates for the cleaning method you intend to use.


Slats: What is the composition of the slats? How are they formed?  If they are solid vinyl, or a plastic or resin composite, then water and cleaning in warm temperatures won't cause any problems.  However, if they are fiber board or wood composite wrapped with a wood grain printed laminate film, then immersion in water could cause some irreversible damage.  Those whose grain pattern is actually printed on the surface may also be sensitive to any strong cleaners, abrasive or ultrasonic cleaning action.  Examine the route holes and ends carefully to make this determination as any possibly water sensitive glues, or water absorbing materials are going to result in damage if water immersion is a step in your intended cleaning method.

Sunburn on Faux Wood Blinds

Is there any discoloration or spots due to "Sun Burn"?  Some of the cheaper plastics don't have the UV resistance that better quality materials contain, or develop spots as the sun's UV energy reacts with misc. materials in the blend of what may be recycled material.  Rub the surface of a slat with a damp dark colored towel and see if any discolorations noticed are actually in the substrate or grime on its surface.  If you notice a chalky white residue on the towel or your fingers and create a shiny sheen when it was buffed, the surface is oxidized and  you've just removed a layer of the oxidation.

Header: If the header is exposed to the sun or a lot of heat, it may save you considerable grief to inspect the cradles and tape drums for brittleness or discolorations.  When hanging in the window, everything may appear to be fine; however, in  handling them for cleaning (especially if they are large and heavy), the additional stress may cause fragile pieces to break, and require repair or the replacement of parts.  If they 0-998are Hunter Douglas blinds with fabric tapes (or even string ladders in some models that are more than a few years old), inspect to see if they have the plastic drums and be prepared to replace them as needed with the metal or revised plastic/metal wire part.

Titler:  Does the blind tilt properly?  Plastic stems or all plastic tilters are also suspect if they are old or have been straining to work a large heavy blind.  Does the tilter rotate the blind in both directions smoothly without any catching or clicking that may indicated worn, chipped or failing parts in this component?  If you don't inspect the operation of the blind before you handle it, you may have assumed "ownership" of any existing problems after cleaning, as the client may just assume "everything was working fine" before you touched it.  A careful inspection establishes responsibilities for existing problems, and their solutions before you assume responsibility, should you accept the job. 

Fabric tapes can be tricky.  Older fabrics, especially on the back or near the bottom few slats are subject to dry rot, possible shrinkage, or failures in the glue or stitching that holds the fabric straps supporting each slat.  While in newer blinds the tapes are often polyester fabrics, there are blends and other mixes used by some fabricators, so one must be confident the material can be safely washed in water, before proposing to clean these blinds.  It should be noted that one should not assume that just because the fabric isn't falling apart when it is dry, that it will not fall apart when it is wet.  {Some fabrics are weaker when wet and glues/weak stitching can fail while the blind is on the drying rack ten minutes after you may have thought you were finished.}  If there are any concerns, it is best to note and discuss these with the client before cleaning.  On longer blinds, it isn't unusual for fabric ladders to have stretched with age, or in some cases they may have shrucken so they hang well above, or have several slats stacked on the window sill.

Wands: Check the wands carefully on the blinds.  If the wand is made of wood or plastic with an insert at the top, it is not uncommon for stress cracks or loose glue to result in a broken or nearly broken part.

Cords:  What condition are the pull cords?  Pull the blind all the way up and look at the full length of the exposed cord.  If you see furry edges or spiraling cord, then you may want to recommend replacement.  If the outer woven sheath of the cord has been compromised, or is starting to bunch up, then replacement is necessary as restringing a broken cord requires a lot more work than pulling a new one using the existing cord.   Let the blind down and check the cord down near the bottom at the point at which the cord lock grabs it when the blind is up.  If there is excessive wear at this spot, then replacement also should be recommended.


Label the inside or back of the header with a number or location, and put an identical label on the underside of the flip lid of the box bracket (where it can't be seen).

As with transporting and handling any blinds, don't attempt to carry more than you comfortably can do with full control.  The head rail of faux wood blinds are inherently weaker at each tape ladder due to the punch outs, so on longer blinds it is important that you support them in several places so the weight of an unsupported blind doesn't bend the header, and cause damage to the cradles, etc.  Likewise, rolling them in bundles of two or three blinds together and supporting them in several places along their length as you carry them, is important.  Wrap the blinds up in a sheet (or other fabric or canvas material) to protect the headers, prevent grime from damaging other things, tame the cords and protect the tassels (cloth pins on rolled loops of cord works).  As you wrap them up, be sure the wands are laying flat to avoid breaking the stems of the tilters or top of the wand.  Remove the valance and clips or protect them, as they are often brittle, and they will dent or scratch other valances, etc.


In some cases, pre-treatment by cleaning with a soft brush may be necessary for blinds that are either especially grimy, or those that have a fine sooty film (candle burner's homes) on them.  Unless you have high frequency ultrasonics, this fine film must be physically removed, the easiest way is to use a wash wall and quick brushing before cleaning.  Rinsing off the excess grime first, if you are doing very many blinds, also extends the cleaning life of your ultrasonic tank between change outs.  A soft carwash brush works good with an appropriate cleaner such as Citrabrite, or a dilution of your ultrasonic cleaner.   Pre-soaking severely nicotine stained blinds also allows the cleaning of the cords and components, so they don't require as long in the sonics - while once again extending the number of blinds you can run through your wash/rinse water.  It is faster to change out a rinse tank or spray rinse than drain and refill your ultrasonic cleaner.

Pull cords, when rolled around your hand and sprayed with a degreaser and then massaged to work in the cleaner, will clean up nicely once immersed in the sonics.

During the whole cleaning process, be sure you support the header of long blinds appropriately to avoid bending them, as already mentioned.  The blind should be opened slightly to allow the stack of vanes enough slack to move around.  If a few slats need the attention of a brush, this can also be done while they are in the sonics, though one should allow the sonics time to work (30-60 seconds minimum) their magic.  Move the blind around once or twice to be sure both sides are presented to the sonics.  Also, by insuring the shade moves around a bit, "hot spots" are avoided.  Cleaning in warm water with a mild ultrasonic cleaner is fine for most dusty faux woods.  Spike the solution with a degreaser, Citrabrite or stronger cleaner if they are greasy, nicotine stained, or have heavier layers of dirt.

Hot water can warp the vane of some blinds, and in some instances result in oxidation issues, so a comfortable temperature is best.

Do the finger test (wipe a spot on a slat and see if you get a residue smudge) in several areas of the shade, at least one in the top zone, and see if they are ready to remove.  Close the shade and lift it at an angle to allow the water to drain out of the header and along the slats.  Holding (or setting the shade aside to drain) for at least 10-15 seconds to allow the bulk of the dirty wash water a chance to drain is important to preserving and extending the quality of your rinse water.


Immerse the blind in the rinse tank and slosh it around or allow it to sit, while you do another blind, and then remove it.  Use of a rinse agent will aid in minimizing spotting and speed up drying.  Stand the rinsed blind on end to drain for a few minutes (you can blow it off to remove more water and remove excess water from the head rail components if you like), before hanging it on the drying rack or returning it to the window.



After the blind has had a chance to drain, and perhaps been blown off, it is ready to hang.  If using a drying rack be sure that larger blinds are supported in the middle using clips or clamps, as cord loops around the ends isn't enough in some cases. 

Tilt the slats so the water drains toward the back edge.  If you didn't blow them off, you can rub them quickly with a loosely folded towel to smear the water drops and check the quality of your cleaning.

Inspect them for any spots that may need further attention.  Greasy finger prints, etc. may require attention with spray bottle and degreaser while hanging on rack, to touch up any spots from restaurant clients, etc.

Before pulling up blinds - support the header by the clutch with one hand as you pull the cords, so you don't bend a heavy blind's header.

Wipe any water spots off the header or valance and wrap them for transportation back to the client, or to rehang them inside the client's facility.  Using something to secure the cords and tassels wrapped around the header such as a plastic wrap, saves time (tangled cords) and damage (stepped on tassels, etc.).

Special Note - Old Cotton Fabric Tape Blinds:

The "ten minute rule" is important when dealing with wide slat faux wood, metal or vinyl blinds.  Clean one completely through to hanging it on the drying rack.  If after 10-15 minutes under a good drying air flow, the tapes are fairly dry and the blind hasn't fallen apart, you may be able to safely clean others similarly.  You can also "double hang" them, so that there isn't as much weight pulling on the tapes as they dry.  Though the problems with the tapes falling apart will typically show up 5-15 minutes after you've hung them on the drying rack, and come back from answering the phone to find a surprise.

{Article Under Construction - pictures and content revision pending your input.  Suggestions welcome!}

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