Moquette seat cover care

12 April 2019

Use of Moquette for rail and bus seat covers is well-established, but how you maintain and clean it can determine how it looks and how long it lasts. Some thoughts about seat cover care from TBM… 

Chances are, if you’re on a train and the seat cover is one of the older style materials, feels tough and looks as though it’s been around a few years, well, it will probably be Moquette.

The word “Moquette” comes from the French word for carpet. In fact, it’s no insult to describe Moquette seat covers as looking like carpets. They often feel luxurious to the touch, are comfortable and good looking.

The woven pile fabric has cut or uncut threads that form a short and dense cut, or loop pile. A velvety feel, the material’s construction means it is durable and ideal for use across public transport environments.

For many years it was the seat cover choice for London Underground. At its peak (pre-Beeching cuts to the railways in the 1960s), there were ten Moquette manufacturers in the UK.  

Keeping seat covers looking good

Moquette seat covers should last for years. Loose covers should enjoy a working life of seven years or more. The main reason that covers become shabby, worn and damaged is often down to inappropriate cleaning procedures.

It’s the same with most things in life. If there’s an easy, quick and cheap method to do something then many will follow that path. Longer-term implications are disregarded.

For seat covers, this poses a problem. The material is expensive, and if covers have to be removed and replaced that can be costly, and also see passenger carriages put out of action while refits are carried out.

On a simplistic level, when the paying public board a train the last thing they want to see are dirty, tatty seats. Nobody wants to sit down when facilities are shabby. This can be reflected in National Rail Passenger Survey scores (January 2019 figures HERE) when people vent their frustrations with the rail franchise operators.

Seat cover care

The first thing to understand about loose Moquette seat covers is that they DO NOT like to be wet cleaned. You can’t just hose them down, or throw them in the washing machine. It’s a specialist material that needs to be handled correctly. It’s one of the things that TBM’s skilled team know all about.

There’s a temptation to “over clean” especially when seat covers get soiled. After all, public transport is a brutal environment. Food, drinks, greasy bags, oily cases and dirty feet. Every day, 24/7 in some cases!  

But there are many ways to remove excess spillages and stains, not by putting the covers on a hot wash. So TBM has a range of first fixes to remove surface dirt. That could be careful scrubbing, spot cleaning or blasting with an airline. Then it’s into the dry-cleaning machines, but always ensuring that the material is not wet in any areas and stains have been allowed to properly dry.

That’s the key. Like quality suits and dresses, Moquette deserves respect. A cleaning process fit for one of the kings and queens of seat fabric. TBM’s Renzacci commercial dry-clean machines are perfect. With a dash of the appropriate rail industry-approved detergent, the machines gently work their magic on the Moquette material.

Yes, it’s a slower process. But much of the TBM offering is time-consuming, much of it done by hand. That ensures quality, and also less damage to the materials. Fabrics that are wet-washed can be effectively destroyed in two or three washes. Carefully inspection, removal of larger stains and loose dirt by hand, followed by dry-cleaning, ensures that Moquette enjoys a longer life.

TBM processes leave the seat cover fresh and clean and also hygienic.  

Testing by The Materials Technology Group showed that when Moquette was dry-cleaned every six months it would last at least seven years. That’s around fifteen cycles. Where the material hasn’t suffered excessive soiling, the cycle could be pushed back to every twelve months. This would see the seat covers last much longer.

Quality never goes out of fashion

For anyone who travels across the UK and has seen the different operators’ fittings and standards, many different types, materials and styles of seat covers will have been experienced. These days, some feel very thin, flat and uncomfortable.

It’s all about cost, keeping project budgets down and delivering more for less. But how long will these seat covers realistically last? And for passengers using the services, what is the first impression when they see badly worn and stained seating?   

For Moquette, although no longer the first choice when TOCs commission new fleets, the material that still exists on older vehicles will probably be around when other coverings are on their second, third and fourth refits.

Quality material never goes out of fashion – especially when you look after it. Somehow, when other seat covers are long gone and consigned to the rubbish bin, we reckon that some of the original Moquette covers will still be serving UK rail passengers up and down the country.

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