Things You'll Need
Laundry detergent and water
Sponges and rags
New throw and pillows (optional)
Fabric for reupholstery (optional)
A sofa or couch is a big investment for most homeowners, and in many homes, the sofa takes hard and heavy use by the family, including the dogs and cats. Rather than replace the couch when its appearance is shabby, some homeowners choose to give the old piece a new lease on life, especially when an old sofa may be sturdier than a new one. A sofa with attached or fixed cushions is different from any other sofa only in that the cushions cannot be turned over to extend the life of the upholstery. The process of refurbishment involves making judgments about how seriously the furniture is damaged and how much it will cost to renew its usefulness.
Work With the Old Upholstery
Inspect the old sofa in bright light to find rips, holes and worn areas as well as spots and stains. If the upholstery is torn or worn through, cleaning probably will not be enough to save the sofa. Consider covering it after the cleaning is complete.
Vacuum the old sofa's front, back, sides and bottom surface. Much of the soil may actually be removed with a thorough vacuuming.
Clean the sofa, giving the spots and stains special attention. Soil may be removed with a sponge or rag and a mixture of warm water and laundry detergent. Change the cleaning solution frequently as it becomes dirty. Add white vinegar to the mix for stubborn stains, and select a commercial upholstery cleaner if necessary.
Inspect the appearance of the sofa when it's clean and dry to determine if further steps must be taken to restore the piece's beauty and function. Nothing more is necessary if the sofa looks satisfactory. If not, consider covering it.
Recovering the Sofa
Purchase or make a throw to give the sofa a new appearance. These loose covers are not fitted to the furniture and may require being tucked into spaces between the cushions, back and sides of the sofa. New pillows or pillow covers will add to the fresh look. This is probably the least expensive way to recover the sofa. Choose washable fabrics.
Acquire a slipcover for the sofa, being sure to buy a cover intended for a sofa with attached cushions. Slipcovers are available at many retail outlets, both online and in stores, at many price levels. The slipcover is fitted to the furniture, may be equipped with zippers, and generally remains in place. A slipcover should be washable.
Choose the most expensive option: reupholstery. Hire a professional upholsterer, or secure the services of a vocational school or a student upholsterer at a reduced cost. You might choose to reupholster the sofa yourself, purchasing the fabric and consulting online instructions or instruction books.
Karen W. Waggoner is a retired teacher and lifetime scribbler. She has published short stories, essays in anthologies and periodicals. Waggoner is the author of the memoir, "On My Honor, A Navy Wife’s Vietnam War." She is a graduate of Stetson University, the University of Connecticut and Christian College for Women.