Laundering Sofa Cushion Covers

Wendy’s Blog

Ever take your upholstered cushions off and throw them in the washer?

Anyone who has laundered their upholstered cushion covers, and the covers did not shrink, stretch or distort but is flat out lucky!

Countless times we hear from customers and prospective customers calling about upholstery cleaning inquire about the process. During the conversation they chime in that they have, will or regularly launder their cushion covers.  Taking a deep breathe often, we listen and hear what all the customer has done, and what he or she is asking for.

To take this practice head on, we only reiterate that if you have done this you are merely lucky, and maybe only lucky until the next time.

The reason zippers are placed on upholstered cushions, is so that the cushioned foam material can be replaced. Period.

Zippers sewn into cushion covers, whether it be sofas, sectionals or chairs are not there for ease of removal for washing in the washer. They are there in case the inner foam for whatever reason needs to be replaced. It could be because the foam distorted (say with heavy objects piled on them, also known as foam crush.) It could also be helpful if a cushion has become contaminated, and the contamination has absorbed in to the cushion. For instance, it might be common for the foam to become contaminated from a urine, feces or vomit accident.  The hotter the liquid (exiting the body, whether it be human or pet,) the faster it strikes thru the exterior fabric and absorbs deep within the foam. Or, perhaps another of many scenarios, say for instance a hot pizza is overturned and the greasy hot oil soaks in and thru the fabric. Another common situation might be a major hot coffee or red wine spill.

Removing the cushion covers subjects them to distortion, either stretching, shrinking, or both.

Frankly, cleaning upholstery in general should be thought of as more like cleaning fine clothing. You don’t throw in womens’ gowns or delicates in the washer. And you certainly don’t throw men’s suits in the washer either.  Either of those thoughts are ludicrous.

Fiber type plays a huge part if damage will ensue.

Fabrics are comprised of many different fiber sources, i.e. synthetics such as nylon, polyester, olefin, rayon, chenille and others. Some are blends. Others fabrics can be made of cotton, wool, even silk. Anyone with basic laundering experience knows you treat some fabrics far different than others.

Depending on the fabric you could cause damage the moment the fabric is suspended in the water and detergent, even before the agitation. Hot temperatures could actually also seal the deal. Or you could squeak by if the fabric is more sturdy. Fabrics for upholstery are made all over the world, with no standards for performance whatsoever. So you simply are taking a chance if you try to clean them in your washer yourself.

The agitation and the temperature of the water plays a part as well.

Consider how harshly a washing machine full of water with an agitator working in a semi circular motion is on fabric cover. Flat out, it strips the shaped cushion cover of an “dimensional stability” To explain, “dimensional stability” is a defined shape the fabric is either trained to assume, or by how it is installed or what it covers, it is how the fabric maintains its shape. (In example, when using a curling iron you give your hair a memory, or you give it “dimensional stability, or also known as a shape to maintain.) Subject the fabric to harsh agitation and temperature, the fabric may not be able to maintain its dimensional stability.

When this happens the fabric shape becomes distorted, it could shrink or stretch. Some fibers (say cotton) may respond one way, while others respond another way. So when you try to re-stuff the cushion it doesn’t fit, either too tight, too loose, or its shape is way whacked out of shape.

When having cushions cleaned by professionals it is a perk that the inner surfaces can be accessed.  Some spill content must be handled from within. remediate some spills.

Having access to rinse the contamination from the under side of the fabric is necessary. For instance, rinsing penetrated urine or biological spills may be necessary. Or rinsing other penetrating contamination is also necessary. Hopefully that does the trick, and the piece is restored, but in some cases the inner foam should also be replaced.

To sum it up…

If you dare to launder your cushion covers, you are always taking a chance. And just because it works with one sofa, or chair does not mean it will work with the next. Moreover, just because your friend or family member does it with no harm, does not in any way mean that it will work successfully for you!

It is the express opinion that you avoid this practice. Frankly, the upholstered piece of décor you treasure, or wants, livelihood depends on it!