Finding a capable professional blind cleaner to properly care for expensive custom window treatments can often be a bit of a challenge. Who does one TRUST? All sorts of companies say they clean blinds, shades or draperies. You don't honestly know even what the safest or best cleaning methods for any particular window treatment! Here are a few things, as a professional blind cleaner, I wish all consumers knew BEFORE they hired a particular "professional".
Blind cleaners come from a variety of backgrounds and have varying degrees of experience or competence for the services they may advertise. Just as reading this article is evidence that you have some concern; do a little research and ask a few questions before hiring someone to clean window treatments. It may end up saving you both time and money if you avoid having to replace improperly "cleaned" treatments or learn how to connect with a knowledgeable service provider. How long a company has been in busy isn't necessarily an indication of their experience, training or expertise. A trained novice blind cleaner using the right chemistry may be better prepared to handle your job than the old codger who's been doing it "this way" since ultrasonic blind cleaning was the rage in the 1980's. Nor are the prices charged for service necessarily a reflection of the quality of service that will be delivered. Those that charge the most and pose as experts are some times using subcontractors to do the actual cleaning, while those whose prices are "too good to believe" may be what we in the industry refer to as "cash and dash" or "dunk and run" operators.
By becoming familiar with some of the terms commonly used in the industry you will be more discerning in your selection of vendors. Below is a summary of terms commonly used by blind cleaners to build credibility in their websites and in their materials. Many are honest, sincere individuals who take pride in their work as professionals. Others however are loaded with terms or claims that are copied (from other sites or materials) and used to give themselves a veneer of respectability or credibility that their inexperience or poor service will reveal was a sham (unfortunately discovered too late by the unsuspecting customer).
1) Realized use of the word CERTIFIED doesn't mean one is qualified. There are currently no industry wide professional standards in the field of custom blind cleaning. (Blindcleaners.biz Network is working to develop one with their associated professionals). There are several "certifications" awarded by individuals or companies to those who complete their (paid) training programs (1-3 days). Hiring the services of a cleaning technician, who has demonstrated the professional interest and a commitment to better their skills and knowledge by actually attending a formal training is more likely to provide you with a better outcome than using someone who has no formal product or technical training in cleaning with equipment they use.
One may check some certifications easily enough through the company or organization that provided the training in many cases. The following are commonly abused ones in the blind and drapery cleaning industry:
> "IICRC Certified Fabric and Upholstery Technician". One can simply ask to see the cleaning technician's card (renewed annually) and endorsements or check with the IICRC. Some companies put IICRC Certified (Clean Trust service mark) or use the IICRC logos (Clean Trust service mark) on their website or materials deceptively. Those who have taken the specialized classes and passed the tests to earn the endorsements have knowledge (not necessarily experience) that is very beneficial to their work. If the company advertises IICRC Certified Technicians, ask if the person actually doing the work is IICRC Certified in fabric or upholstery cleaning?
> "On-Site Certified Technician" The On-Site training and certification was a three-day course in cleaning custom blinds and draperies sponsored by the On-Site Corporation. Since the On-Site Corporation went out of business in 2008 any technician with this certification hasn't been to a refresher course in a long time. Beware of companies whose websites mention they are a "Certified On-Site Dealer" or to have "Certified On-Site Technicians" and yet haven't been working in the industry long. The same training program offered by On-Site as later offered by SquibCo Solutions and susequently Adco who later was purchased by Equinox.
> "Certified Fabricare Specialist" are those who have completed several days of extensive training on injection-extraction cleaning methods just as was offered by On-Site (same trainer, same format). To retain their certification status technicians are required to attend a refresher course every two years and pay the required fees. Technicians are required to do hands on sessions along with the class time, cleaning a variety of Hunter Douglas products, valances and other custom treatments. It should be noted that some blind cleaners who have been to the training and who may be experienced cleaners choose not to maintain their certification due to the annual fees/costs involved or for other reasons. If a blind cleaning technician however has never been to the actual class or been certified they are likely working for a company that considers "hand me down" training (and its associated omissions and poor procedures, techniques etc.) as "good enough". These companies are NOT in the same league professionally as those who view the expenses of training their employees as an investment.
> "North American Certified Ultrasonic Cleaners" Marc Miller of Dirtyblinds.com provides training classes for those that purchase their blind cleaning machines through them or paid for access to the online video materials. Again, some who have taken this training will claim their employees are "certified" without having invested in the actual training, so their knowledge is a second or third person version ( or perversion) at best.
Another commonly abused claim one will see or hear is that of being a "Hunter Douglas Certified Blind Cleaner". Hunter Douglas offers certificates for completion of several levels of professional training to installers or decorators who have taken and passed educational programs on installing, repairing or the sale of their products. Corporately their materials recommend ultrasonic cleaning or injection/extraction cleaning for many of their products. Their customer service representatives often refer Certified Fabricare Specialists for injection-extraction cleaning as they know these cleaners have had exposure to the safe cleaning methods appropriate to their various window treatments. Due to the differences in the services offered by independent companies NONE of the fabricators officially endorse any particular cleaning company due to liability concerns.
LICENSED or INSURED or BONDED means they are covered legally by the appropriate entities. It reflects a professional commitment to operating legally and protecting themselves corporately, but is not a reflection on their professional cleaning skills. Check to see if "insured" means a liability policy or coverage of your goods when under their "care and control" if they leave your home. If something gets broken or if they ruin the treatment who will pay for it?
SPECIALISTS? In what service(s) does this company specialize? If blind and shade cleaning is just one entree in a menu filled with a wide range of cleaning services their expertise may not be as focused as that of a company that offers cleaning as their primary activity or in support of other blind or drapery related operations. A lady who sells blinds probably knows more about cleaning the product (and fixing them) than the local carpet cleaner. If the company cleans everything from air ducts to drapes, check to see how well qualified or experienced their cleaning technician is when it comes to the type of treatments you have. In the janitorial industry hourly employees frequently come and go. Their experience and second hand training may be rudimentary at best.
SATISFACTION GUARANTEE? What exactly does that mean? No shrinkage or damage claims? Be sure to ask for an explanation of what this means or why they claim this. Will they stand behind their work. For instance, while an on-site cleaner may clean drapery fabrics too fragile to survive and industrial dry cleaning process, sun rotted fabric or threads may still shred under even the light stress placed upon it during the cleaning process. A knowledgeable cleaner will carefully inspect every treatment and pre-qualify or even exclude items that are not good candidates for a particular cleaning process.
EXPERIENCE? How long have they been cleaning blinds, shades or draperies? How long have they been in the industry? Twenty years of repeating the same tired habits is little different than dealing with a novice. Do you see evidence of professional interest and involvement? Are they able to talk knowledgeably about the items to be cleaned, the proposed cleaning methods and to answer any questions simply and directly?
REFERENCES? If a decorator or designer referred them it should be given more credibility than a source like Service Magic or Angie's List Ads (Paid ads don't mean they know anything about cleaning - just promotion). A referral from another professional service person is also better than a coupon clipper ad. Read any testimonials on websites - taken with a grain of salt if several share a common writing style, sound like professionally written promotional pieces or perhaps even share common misspelled words or grammatical errors.