Advanced Tips for Cleaning Your Sofa Slipcover


Everyday accidents to your sofa slipcover are stressful enough, but sometimes you might encounter a doomsday-level catastrophe. No judgment here—we’re not going to question why you were balancing on your couch with a full pot of coffee in one hand—but we can help ease your troubles. Sit back and relax, and let’s discuss some unfortunate situations and game-changing solutions


Mold or Mildew on Your Slipcover

Molds and mildew—fungi that can grow on a wide variety of materials, especially when moisture is present—can appear anywhere, even on supposedly mold-resistant textiles like polyester. They sometimes produce an unpleasant, musty odor, and it’s safe to say their presence in the home is unwanted. The best approach is prevention; avoid humidity, and keep the room aired out. If you’re past the point of prevention, though, you can take these steps to treat your moldy or mildewy slipcover:

  1. Choose a sunny day to tackle this problem. That way, you can avoid using your dryer after you wash your slipcover. (Mold can spread when tumbled around in your dryer and transfer to clothing, linens, and any other items that follow.)
  2. Take the slipcover off your couch and vacuum the surfaces beneath, even if you don’t see any visible mold. To protect your health, make sure to empty the vacuum bag outside and replace any filters.
  3. For the same reason, find a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors if you can, to work on your slipcover.
  4. Very gently, use a soft brush (an old toothbrush will do the trick) to scrape off as much of any visible mold as you can.
  5. Next, wash your slipcover.
    • Cotton: If the fabric is white and the care tag does not forbid bleaching, then you’ve got it easy; just soak the fabric in an oxy bleach and then wash it in warm (not hot!) water with a mild detergent. If you have a colored fabric and/or the care tag forbids bleaching, mix equal parts white vinegar and water. Check the colorfastness of your slipcover by soaking a white rag in the mixture and blotting the rag onto a small, less visible area of the slipcover. If you see any color transferring onto your rag, stop and do not wash your slipcover (You should dry clean it instead, which we’ll tell you about in a minute). If the color does not transfer, then you can soak the entire moldy or mildewy area in your vinegar mixture for 30 minutes. After the soak, wash the fabric as you typically would.
    • Polyester: Cleaning a polyester slipcover is a little trickier, but you can follow the same rules as colored cotton. Just make doubly sure you’re not washing it on high temperatures.
  1. Finally, air dry your slipcover. With cotton materials, aim for direct sunlight, and flip or rotate the fabric as needed.

If you’re worried about damaging your fabric with any of the steps above, you can always opt for dry cleaning instead.


Dry Cleaning Your Slipcovers

Taking your slipcover to the dry cleaners can be a great solution; you can skip the work and responsibilities. (You’re also extra careful on your couch for the first week or two after the cleaning because, you know, you paid so much.)

But how much is it exactly to have sofa slipcovers dry cleaned? It depends. A slipcover dry cleaning can start at $60 and reach all the way up to $300. In our opinion, it’s always best to explore whether you have other options available—not just because you’ll save money, but because your home treatments will be more natural, which can be priceless.

Always check the care label on your slipcover. Some may say “dry clean only,” though the truth is that many of these fabrics can be spot-cleaned at home, if you’re careful. That said, some stains are especially tough or tricky and will require professional attention. Moreover, a few fabrics are so sensitive that you should just take them straight to the dry cleaners rather than play a risky game. These include wool, rayon, suede, leather, and cashmere. If you have a more typical fabric or you feel a bit Scrooge-like daredevil, however, read on.


Home Treatment Alternatives to Dry Cleaning Your Slipcover

When your slipcover is stained, take the following steps.

  1. Identify your stain. Knowing what kind of stain you have will point you to the most effective products and methods for removing the stain. Your stain will likely fall into the following categories:
    • Oil-based stain. This would include lotions and body oils, makeup, salad dressings, butter, and mayonnaise.
    • Food stain. Think red wine, coffee, tea, juice, ketchup, and also mud.
    • Protein stain. Blood, urine, and vomit (also known as the fun stains), as well as meat, eggs, and grass.
    • Ink.
    • Sweat.
  2. Find your cleaning supplies. You’ll likely need a rag that can blot the stain and absorb liquid, or paper towels, cotton balls, or cotton swabs. A scraper (like a credit card or butter knife) or an old toothbrush can also do wonders. Additionally, you’ll need different cleaning products according to the type of stain you have:
    • Oil-based stains: Use baking soda and/or citrus-based degreasing products such as Palmolive dishwashing liquid (and always look for the clear versions of detergents).
    • Food stains: Use white vinegar and/or dish detergent.
    • Protein stains: Use ammonia, peroxide, and/or a high quality detergent that is free of dyes.
    • Ink stains: Use rubbing alcohol or other products with alcohol, such as hand sanitizer or hairspray.
    • Sweat stains: Use enzyme cleaners (oxygen stain remover should work well)
  3. Remove any excess stain. If your stain has a thick consistency, like jam, lotion, or mud, try to scrape off as much excess as you can, using your credit card, butter knife, or other scraper.
  4. Apply water. Next, take a clean, wet rag to the stain and blot. Avoid spreading the stain; if you see it has transferred onto your rag, wet a new part of your rag and use that clean area to continue.
  5. Apply your stain-specific cleaner. If using water is ineffective, it’s time to apply the cleaner or detergent mentioned in step 2. First, test the cleaner on a less visible area of your slipcover to make sure the colors will not fade or run. Then apply the cleaner by dabbing it on with a cloth, cotton swab, or cotton ball. Keep blotting until the stain is gone (this sometimes requires heroic levels of patience). Once the stain is gone, wet a clean rag one more time and blot to get rid of the cleaner. Allow the slipcover to air dry.


For liquid food stains, you can also try these steps: 

  1. Set a towel beneath the stained part of your slipcover and pour cold water or soda water over the stain. (If you act quickly as soon as the stain occurs, you can often use just water to remove it.)
  2. If the stain remains, mix equal parts white vinegar and dish detergent. Use a cotton swab, ball, or clean cloth to dab the mixture onto the stain. (If the towel is soaked, replace it with a dry one.)
  3. Let the cleaning mixture soak for 20 minutes and then rinse with cold water.
  4. Allow your slipcover to air dry.

For oil stains, you can also try these steps:

  1. Liberally sprinkle baking soda on your stain and use a small brush (like an old toothbrush) to work it in. Give the baking soda a few minutes to absorb the stain.
  2. Flip over your slipcover and shake off the excess baking soda.
  3. If you can still see the stain, re-wet the area with cold water and apply a clear, citrus-based degreasing detergent by dabbing. Give the cleaner a few minutes to work, then dab with cold water.


If your stain is extra stubborn and remains on your slipcover after these measures, go ahead and take it to the dry cleaner’s. You can rest easy knowing that you did everything you could—you get props from us!


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