Bringing Old Sofas Back to Life

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Give your old sofa a makeover and fall in love all over again.
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Couches are the workhorse of the living room, and wear and tear takes its toll. Frolicking pets, active children, spilled food and years of fabric rubbing on fabric can leave a sofa looking worn, dingy and sagging. You could reupholster your sofa for an entirely new look, but that can be nearly as expensive as buying a new couch. As long as the frame of your sofa is in good condition, you can give it new life with a few easy changes.

Clean It

One of the most obvious, yet frequently overlooked methods of restoring a fresh appearance to an old sofa is giving it a thorough cleaning. Dinginess and dirt can set in without you even realizing it. Many carpet cleaning machines have upholstery attachments that make cleaning a sofa nearly as easy as shampooing the rug. Another option is a handheld steam cleaner. These portable devices use blasts of steam to eradicate stains, grime, allergens and bacteria. Before cleaning your couch, read the manufacturer's tag for cautions. If your couch is silk or antique, it's best to seek professional services, but most fabrics are safe for do-it-yourself cleaning. Start with a hidden spot underneath a cushion to make sure the color is fast and the fabric tolerates cleaning. Mix the cleaning formula according to package directions and follow the manufacturer's guidelines for using your upholstery or steam cleaner on a couch.

Throw Pillows

Once your couch is clean, you might find it only needs a few touches of color to give it a fresh, new look. New throw pillows liven up a couch and can take your decorating style in many different directions. Wool, plaid pillows suit a colonial or country-style couch. Floral prints are traditional enough for most decorating styles. Satin fabric has just enough sheen for interest yet isn't overwhelming or tacky. If your living room has a neutral color scheme, prevent monotony with bright toss pillows. Drape a throw blanket over the back of the couch for warmth on chilly evenings and for an extra touch of color. Choose a throw that sets off your pillows.


Sagging seat cushions make your sofa look old and tired. You can perk the cushions up with new foam or a little extra padding. Look for zippers at the back of the seat cushions. If there aren't zippers, you'll need to use a seam ripper and carefully open the back seams. Remove the old foam inserts and take one to a craft store or upholstery shop to buy new foam inserts the same size. If the cushions aren't foam but are feather or batting, add small handfuls of new batting to fill in the saggy areas. Adjust the batting so it lies flat when the cushion cover is in place.


If cleaning and little decorating touches aren't enough, a slipcover immediately changes your couch into something new. Though you can use a sheet as a slipcover or purchase very inexpensive, cotton couch covers, it's difficult to get a good appearance with unfitted fabric. Stretchy, fitted slipcovers that are close to your sofa's size look much tidier and stylish. To keep the slipcover in place, wedge it deeply between the couch back and the seat cushions, then anchor the fabric by pushing it under the front edge of the seat cushions. Slipcovers come in a huge range of colors and designs, so choose one that complements your living room and cheers you up when you see it.


Michelle Ullman

Living in California, Michelle Ullman is a professional writer with particular expertise in home, garden and pet/nature topics. Her work is published on many websites. She loves crafts and has a deep interest in design and DIY projects.