Stage Curtain Maintenance

Stage curtains are the most visible part of any theatre. Proper care of the curtains is necessary to present an esthetically pleasing backdrop for performances and to keep the flame retardant certification current to satisfy all applicable fire codes.

There are two types of stage curtain maintenance programs available: On-Site Servicing and Total Restoration Servicing.

On-Site Servicing is done while the curtains are hanging in place on the stage. On-Site services typically will include: (1) surface cleaning of the curtains and (2) spray flame retardant application.

On-Site services are quick and cause very little down time for the theatre. The biggest benefit is the ability to get the flame retardant re-certified at a low cost. The labor and equipment necessary to complete an On-Site Service is significantly less than that required for a Total Restoration Service.

On-Site stage curtain cleaning should be performed with a commercial grade backpack vacuum to extract as mush dust and loose contaminants as possible from the surface of the curtains. Both the fronts and backs of the curtains should be thoroughly cleaned. Spraying flame retardant on curtains without prior surface cleaning will seal dust and contaminants into the fabric fibers and expedite color fading and fabric fiber breakdown.

Spray flame retardant application should be completed with a compressor driven sprayer, as opposed to a “pump up” hand sprayer. A compressor driven sprayer will provide adequate pressure to penetrate the fabric fibers. The pressure of a compressor driven sprayer remains consistent so that the amount of flame retardant being applied is uniform over the entire curtain. The pressure of a hand pump sprayer can vary significantly, depending on how much the operator pumps the sprayer, this results in uneven spray on the curtains. Areas of the curtain that get coated with too much flame retardant will show a white residue when dry. This is a common problem caused by hand pump sprayers.

A good vendor will have ladder or scaffolding necessary to allow them access to the entire height of the stage curtains. Spraying flame retardant from the floor with hopes of reaching the top of the curtains will not provide adequate coverage.

On-Site Service does have some disadvantages-repairs cannot be properly done and stains cannot be removed. Tears and stains tend to greatly reduce the overall appearance of the stage area.

Total Restoration Service involves removing the curtains from the stage area in which they hang and transporting them to a curtain dry cleaning/flame retardant application facility.

Once the curtains arrive at the facility they are examined for staining, all stains are pre-spotted for stain removal. The curtains are then dry cleaned in dual action washing machines. The washing machine cycle will thoroughly remove imbedded soil and stains from the curtain fibers. At the completion of the wash cycle the curtains are tumbled dried and then move on to the flame retardant application process.

Total Restoration Service flame retardant application is completed by the total immersion process. The curtains are placed in a large dual action machine which tumbles the curtains in a flame retardant solution. This process provides complete saturation of all fibers on every square inch of the curtains. Upon completion of the flame retardant application the curtains are placed in an extractor, which extracts the excess flame retardant from the fabric. The process is completed by placing the curtains in a tumble dryer where the fabric is completely dried.

The final part of the Total Restoration process involves inspecting the curtains for any needed repairs. Rips, tears, holes, loose hems and missing grommets are repaired in a sewing room by seamstresses. The curtains are then transported back to the school where they are reinstalled.

The reinstallation process should include proper trimming of the curtains so that they hang at a uniform height. All of the associated stage hardware should be lubricated and adjusted for safe and proper operation. All overhead rigging should be inspected for any obvious safety deficiencies.

One of the disadvantages of a Total Restoration Service is the amount of down time for the theatre. Most Total Restoration services require 2-3 weeks to complete. Also, the cost of a Total Restoration Service is considerably more expensive than that of an On-Site Service due to the significant amount of labor and time required for Total Restoration servicing process.

A good rule of thumb when deciding between an On-Site or Total Restoration service is to inspect your existing stage curtains. If the curtains are stained or have rips and tears that require repairing a Total Restoration Service is the best option. Some stages have curtains that have been water damaged by previous roof leaks and contain large white water stains. A Total Restoration Service is the only process that will remove this type of staining.

If the curtains appear to be in good shape and are simply dusty with no visible staining, an On-Site Service can be an economical way to give your curtains a fresh appearance and to update the flame retardant certification.

Some vendors will offer On-Site servicing and provide a separate price to remove, repair and reinstall only those curtains that are in need of repair. The total price of an On-Site service and repairing only curtains that are in need, is in most cases less expensive than a Total Restoration service.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments that you may have regarding the information in this blog.