How to Clean, Store and Refresh Fabric Trade Show Displays

Fabric trade show displays are the go-to favorite for many exhibitors, and for good reason. But despite their popularity, fabric displays are just that — fabric — which means that, just like clothing, they are prone to rips and tears, stains, fading, and even mold if not stored properly. Protect your investment and keep your fabric display in good condition with these easy-care tips from the pros.

Why We Love Fabric Displays

Fabric trade show displays offer bold, full-color branding capabilities, easy mix-and-match graphic panel swapping, backlighting for dramatic effect, and lower shipping and drayage costs due to their light weight. And since most fabric tradeshow displays are tension-mounted, the fabric can be stretched across an endless variety of sizes and shapes for use in backwalls, banner stands, overhead structures, trade show counters, and more. In fact, with all the flexibility and creativity that fabric displays have to offer, every trade show booth can have its own unique look, style and layout.

FabriMural Tension Fabric Pop Up Display
The FabriMural Tension Fabric Pop Up Display above illustrates the versatility of fabric trade show displays. The graphic skins can be wrapped around backwalls, counters, banner stands and more for consistent branding and coloring across all exhibit components.

How to Handle Fabric Display Panels

Fabric display manufacturers often recommend washing your hands to remove all surface oils from the skin before touching fabric graphic panels. It isn’t the oil itself that’s so much of a problem; it’s the fact that oily fabric tends to attract dirt, dust and stains more readily — which will prompt more frequent cleaning and eventually shorten the life of the piece.

Pro Tips: Wear white cotton gloves during display setup and teardown to provide added protection against exposure to skin oils. Unpack your graphic skins onto a drop cloth to prevent exposure to dust and dirt on the showroom floor. And move any stray pens or markers to another table until after the display has been set up.

Refreshing Graphic Panels

If you notice wrinkles or creases after setting up your fabric display, give it a little time. Most often, these will simply fall out after a couple of hours. If you don’t have time to wait, a handheld fabric steamer can work wonders. Just be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions, however, as some fabrics or parts of your display frame should not be exposed to heat.

Fabric Display Cleaning Tips

It’s always a good idea to check the care instructions that you received when you first purchased your display, or consult with your exhibit supplier, to determine the exact fabric makeup of your display skins. Knowing your display’s fabric content and the appropriate cleaning options can save precious time when unexpected stains are discovered right before (or during) a big show.

In general, almost all fabric display graphic panels are made of polyester or a polyester blend, but depending on how the fabric is meant to function in the display — i.e., tension mount, zippered pillowcase, backlit, etc. — manufacturers will use a variety of different fabric blends and fabric construction styles. Because of this, unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all cleaning method that applies to every display. However, the good news is that most fabric displays can either be spot-cleaned or machine-washed, or both, depending on their fabric makeup and construction.


Backlit displays like this VBurst 3×3 Pop Up are often constructed with brushed, napped or coated polyester fabrics, which do not respond well to spot cleaning.

Spot Cleaning. Not all fabric panels can be spot-cleaned, but for those that can, try to choose a cleaning product that will work on the type of stain in question, whether it’s wine, grease, dirt, or something else. Popular cleaning products that exhibitors often use on their fabric displays include 303 Multi-Surface Cleaner, Dawn dish detergent, Shout Wipe & Go wipes, and Tide To Go Stain Remover Pens.

Pro Tips: To prevent the stain from bleeding outward, always start by working from the outside in. Also, bear in mind that spot cleaning is not recommended on brushed or napped polyesters, or coated fabrics, which are most often used in backlit displays.

Machine Washing. Many fabric display skins hold up extremely well with machine washing. Just be sure to use cold water and a mild, preferably liquid, laundry detergent. Hang the panels up to dry or, better yet, attach them to the display frame. Never, ever expose your graphic panels to dry heat, such as a clothes dryer or a hair dryer.

Pro Tips: Mesh fabrics are more delicate, so machine washing is generally not recommended. For those items, hand-soaking is a better option, or you could try placing the mesh panels in lingerie bags and using the gentle cycle on your washing machine. Also, check the exhibit supplier’s instructions before attempting to machine-wash any spandex-blended fabric, as spandex is typically prone to shrinkage.

XSnap 2x2 Tabletop Display
Basic warp-knit, tension-mounted fabric skins like the ones shown in the XSnap 2×2 Tabletop Display above can be easily machine-washed in cold water with a mild liquid detergent.

How to Store Fabric Displays

Fabric display manufacturers suggest three rules for proper storage of fabric graphic panels:

  1. Fold your fabric panels so that the graphics face inward. That way, if the fabric comes in contact with dirt or grease during packing or unpacking, chances are that the stain will appear on the back/unprinted side. Fold loosely to prevent creases.
  2. Store fabrics in a dry, temperature-controlled space away from direct sunlight. The air temperature in your storage facility should always remain between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Exposure to high temperatures can cause moisture buildup, leading to mildew or watermarks, and exposure to extreme low temps can cause the fabric to become brittle.
  3. Ensure that fabrics are 100% dry before storing. If you’ve recently washed or spot-cleaned your fabric skins, ensure that they’re completely dry before packing them away to prevent mold growth.

With their easy, tool-less setup and eye-popping dye-sub graphics, fabric trade show displays provide an amazing visual branding tool for exhibitors at a decent price. And with the proper care, handling and storage, your fabric trade show display can last for many years to come.

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