How to Restore an Old Sofa

A sofa is like an old friend in your living room. It's comfortable, and it's probably taken a lot of abuse. Rather than toss your old friend out on the curb, consider restoring it to its former glory with new upholstery, new covers or new cushions. Taking the time to restore your old sofa will not only save you money, but it will save the environment from having another couch in a landfill.

Remove stains with a little tonic water or with a stain remover.

Take the covers off the sofa cushions and put them in the washer.

Use a mild detergent and a water temperature appropriate for the fabric.

Allow the covers to dry thoroughly before replacing. Check the label, but you may be able to place the covers in the dryer.

Purchase slipcovers or have some custom-made to simply "slip" over the frame of your sofa and give it a whole new look.

Use a blanket or sheets that you like the pattern of, if you don't want to spend the money on slipcovers.

Place the slipcovers or sheets over the sofa to create a new look. Follow the slipcovers' instructions or secure the blanket or sheets with large safety pins.

Purchase new cushions or new foam for the inside of your cushions at a fabric store or online.

Ask the fabric store to cut the foam to the right size for you. Pull your existing or new slipcovers over the new foam, and your old sofa will look and feel new.

Rip the old fabric off the sofa. Use pliers to remove only the staples that need to be removed. If you've never reupholstered an item before, consider hiring a professional or at least keep the end product very simple -- no pleated skirts or anything like that.

Measure the sofa and find out what dimensions of fabric you'll need. Remember to measure the back of the sofa, the inside, over the arms and the cushions.

Cut your pieces, using your old covers as templates. Make sure your scissors are very sharp, especially if you are using a very heavy-duty fabric such as canvas.

Staple the cut fabric onto the frame using a staple gun. Start in the middle and work your way out to each end. Have a friend hold the fabric tight and wrinkle-free while you staple. As you work, you will need to tuck the fabric in the frame. Leave yourself some excess fabric as you can trim it later.

Sew the covers of the cushions using the old covers, again, as a guide. If you have a serger, use it to secure the edges or double-sew each seam. Hire a seamstress if you are uncomfortable with this level of sewing.

Things You'll Need

  • Tonic water
  • Mild detergent
  • Fabric
  • Slipcovers
  • Blanket or sheet
  • Safety pins
  • Foam
  • Pliers
  • Tape measure
  • Sewing machine
  • Staple gun
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About the Author

Michelle Hogan is a writer and the author of 13 books including the 2005 bestselling memoir, "Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America." Hogan studied English at American University and has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in "The New York Times," "Redbook," "Family Circle" and many other publications.