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Advice on cleaning traveller curtains

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by pianoman55, May 2, 2009.

  1. pianoman55

    pianoman55 Member

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    Hey all-

    So I've started a cleaning project of my college's small theatre. It has no resident technical director because it is so small. It's often used as a kind of "patch and run" theatre... meaning directors and techies will come in, fix up the lighting and backstage areas for the show, then load out and leave it a mess. And since there is no technical director.. there is no one to make sure things get cleaned properly.

    ANYWAYS.. today was the first evening I popped in to start taking inventory and assessing what needed to be done. I was astonished to look up at the rear black border drape and see that the top half was so dirty/dusty it was a light brown. All the other curtains (travelers.. other borders) are in similar shape. What's your recommendation for cleaning them? Keep in mind, these aren't hard borders, they're black fabric curtains dead hung to rails and tracks. The borders seem to be the only truly removable ones as they are simply tied to a dead hung batten.

    Let me know what you think. I know this isn't a conventional issue, seeing as theatres with a TD would never let the curtains get this disgusting.

    Thanks again!
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    You would be surprised how some peoplelet their spaces get. I highly doubt that the brown you see is actually dirt. Odds are it is the fading of the curtain. There are probably some florescent lights nearby that shine on the soft good and it has faded over time. I can not tell you how many spaces I have seen with this exact thing. As far as actual cleaning, it really depends on how dirty the goods actually are. You don't want to wash them, but a damp cloth can help. Usually though, a good beating gets out most of the dust tha can build up.
     
  3. pianoman55

    pianoman55 Member

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    Yes I didn't even think about the fluorescent lights fading the material. There are worklights that hang right above the curtains. I'm going to see how soon we can get them replaced anyways. Thank you!
     
  4. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn't do anything involving any liquids. Might decrease the fire retardancy of the fabric. Two things you can do are vacuum them and try to find the mfg and ask them the best way to clean them.
     
  5. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    General rule of thumb is if they are so old and faded you are asking the question, they probably need to be replaced. The fire retardant treatment doesn't last forever. Can you find a small scrap somewhere you can cut a piece to test? Here is a link to instructions of how to do a basic fire retardant field test from the good folks at Rose Brand.

    Never use any sort of liquid, it will draw the fire retardant chemical out of the curtain. I've heard it may be possible to get the curtain cleaned and retreated but odds are it would cost more than a new curtain.
     
  6. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    It's possible that it is just dust. If you have a lot of construction going on on-stage you;d be ammazed at how quickly the filth builds up. I completely agree with what has been stated already. Your best bet, if it is just dust, is pulling down the curtain, or just flyinh in the batten and attacking it with a sho vac and a wisk broom. If it is fading the last thing you want to do is to beat the heck out of it as the fabric may have gotten quite brittle. Several of the larger theatrical suppliers do offer washing services, but it is imperative that the curtains be re-flame treated. It may be possible that a large commercial drycleaning company in you area offers bulk cleaning services as well. We once had a hamper of 24'x12' white legs dry cleaned locally after a Food fight at Nike, < long story>
     
  7. tech2000

    tech2000 Active Member

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    Interesting...


    Our main red curtain looks like it has water stains near the top, what could we do about that?
     
  8. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    When you say "water stains" do you means white streaky things or darker spots ?
    If they are white streaks then they are most likely places where the curtain damp and the Flamex ...Errr....... Fire retardant leached to the surface. This salt can be removed by brushing with stiff brush or a brass Suede brush. Sometime the application of a light mist of water will help remove this crust < rime is the more accurate description being that it's a salt.>

    It will be necessary to re-treat with Flamex or a similar Theatrical Flame retardant solution, as what you are removing is the active ingredient in the flame retardant.
     
  9. tech2000

    tech2000 Active Member

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    More like darker streaks
     
  10. pianoman55

    pianoman55 Member

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    It's funny... I got up there on a ladder to just take a look at how bad it was in person.. and I realized that even though the rest of our curtains are Rose Brand.. someone has taken an old BROWN border curtain... painted the bottom part that is seen from the audience black.. and kept the rest brown. From the ground this just looked to me like the most DISGUSTING dirt and dust clot I had ever seen haha. Oh well.
     
  11. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Any advice on retreating curtains? I have some old salvaged curtains that are in great shape, just old and past their date. I'd hate to toss them.
     

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