Removable sofa covers were invented for a reason – you can take them off and wash them, to keep your living room pristine. But what to do if you’re concerned about the fabric shrinking?
Sofa covers made of natural materials may shrink. Some fabrics are more likely to shrink than others, but all of them are typically machine washable.
To avoid shrinking, always follow the instructions on the cover’s label. If you don’t have the label anymore, washing the cover in cold water by hand or a short washer cycle is your best bet.
Understanding Fabric Care Labels
In the United Kingdom, fabric care symbols are standardised to provide guidance on how to properly care for different textiles. These symbols are typically found on fabric care labels attached to the textile products, including sofa covers.
The table below shows an overview of the common fabric washing symbols used in the UK and their meanings:
|Washing machine||This symbol resembles a small stylized washing machine.||It indicates whether the fabric can be machine washed or not. If the symbol is present, it means machine washing is allowed. If there is a cross over the symbol, it indicates that the fabric should not be machine washed.|
|Temperature indicator||This symbol depicts a basin of water with a numerical value inside||It indicates the recommended maximum wash temperature. For example, “30” means the fabric should be washed at a maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. If the symbol has a line beneath it, it signifies that a delicate or gentle cycle should be used.|
|Hand washing||This symbol features a hand in a basin of water.||It indicates that the fabric should be hand washed instead of machine washed. The recommended water temperature and specific instructions may be included within the symbol.|
|Bleaching||This symbol represents a triangle.||If it is empty, it means the fabric can be bleached using chlorine-based bleach. A cross through the symbol indicates that bleach should not be used. If the symbol is shaded, it suggests the use of non-chlorine bleach.|
|Tumble drying||This symbol resembles a square with a circle inside.||If there are dots within the circle, they indicate the recommended tumble drying temperature. One dot signifies low heat, two dots mean medium heat, and three dots represent high heat. If there is a cross over the symbol, it means tumble drying should be avoided.|
|Ironing||This symbol depicts an iron.||The dots within the iron represent the recommended ironing temperature. One dot signifies low heat, two dots mean medium heat, and three dots represent high heat. If there is a cross over the symbol, it indicates that the fabric should not be ironed.|
|Dry cleaning||This symbol resembles a circle.||If the circle is filled, it means the fabric should be professionally dry cleaned. If there is a letter within the circle, it indicates the type of solvent that should be used by the dry cleaner.|
|Line drying||This symbol features a horizontal line with a loop on top.||It signifies that the fabric should be air-dried by hanging it on a clothesline or a suitable flat surface.|
Understanding Common Sofa Cover Fabrics
Sofa covers can be made of a variety of materials, and not all of them are at risk for shrinking. The most common sofa cover materials include:
- Cotton: A natural fibre that is breathable and comfortable. Pure cotton sofa covers are prone to shrinking if not washed properly, especially when exposed to heat and agitation. Thus, you should wash them at low temperatures and avoid final spinning.
- Polyester: This synthetic fabric known for its durability and wrinkle resistance. Polyester sofa covers are less likely to shrink during washing, as the fabric has good resistance to heat and stretching. However, extreme heat or improper care can still cause some shrinkage.
- Linen: This is a natural fabric made from flax fibres. Linen sofa covers are prone to shrinkage if not handled with care during washing. They should be washed using gentle cycles and cold water to minimise the risk of shrinkage.
- Velvet: A luxurious and soft fabric with a pile texture, velvet is typically made from silk, cotton, or synthetic fibres. Velvet sofa covers, especially those made from natural fibres like silk or cotton, can shrink if not washed with caution. Dry cleaning is often recommended for velvet covers to avoid potential shrinkage.
- Microfiber: This synthetic fabric is made from fine polyester or nylon fibres. It is known for its durability and stain resistance. Microfiber sofa covers have minimal risk of shrinking during washing, as the fabric is designed to withstand frequent cleaning. However, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing to maintain their quality.
- Leather: Leather sofa covers require special care and should not be washed like fabric covers. This material doesn’t shrink during washing, but it can be damaged if exposed to water or harsh cleaning agents. Instead, leather covers should be cleaned and conditioned using specific leather cleaning products.
How To Wash Sofa Covers Without Shrinking
The first thing to do when washing sofa covers is checking the type of material the fabric is made of. Then, follow the steps below.
1. Read the Care Label
Check the care label on your sofa cover for specific washing instructions. It provides valuable information about the recommended washing method and temperature.
If the cover has no label, search the internet for the sofa cover you have and try to find out what type of fabric you’re washing. Knowing the fabric type could give you an indication on the shrinking probability.
2. Pre-Treat Any Stains
Before washing, treat any stains or spots on the sofa cover using appropriate stain removers or mild detergent.
Follow the instructions provided on the detergent label and allow the pre-treatment solution to work for the recommended time.
3. Choose the Right Washing Method
Determine whether your sofa cover is hand-washable, machine-washable or dry-clean-only. If it’s machine-washable, proceed to the next step. If it’s dry-clean-only, consider seeking professional dry cleaning services or spot cleaning minor stains.
Alternatively, if you have to wash by hand, soak the cover in lukewarm water and scrub with a mild detergent. Rinse thoroughly before drying.
4. Prepare for Machine Washing
If the cover is machine washable, you should shake off any loose dirt or debris. Close any zippers, buttons, or fasteners to avoid snagging or tangling during the wash.
As a side note, you should pay particular attention when removing the sofa cover. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent tearing or damaging the material.
5. Select the Proper Washing Cycle
Set your washing machine to a gentle or delicate cycle, which minimises agitation and reduces the risk of shrinkage.
Typically, you should use cold or lukewarm water instead of hot water to avoid shrinking.
Moreover, you should select a mild, non-bleaching detergent specifically formulated for delicate fabrics. Avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach, as they can damage the fabric or cause shrinkage.
6. Load the Washing Machine
Place the sofa cover in the machine, ensuring it has enough room to move freely. Overcrowding can lead to excessive friction and shrinking.
If you have a slim washer and the cover doesn’t fit properly, consider washing at a laundry facility or at the dry cleaner.
7. Wash with Care
Start the washing machine and let it complete the chosen cycle.
Regardless of the type of fabric and cycle, minimise spinning time or choose a low-speed spin cycle to reduce stress on the fabric.
8. Air Dry
After washing, remove the sofa cover from the machine promptly. Avoid using a dryer, as heat can cause shrinkage. Instead, you can hang the cover on a clothesline or hanger, ensuring it is evenly spread to maintain its shape.
Alternatively, lay the cover flat on a clean surface, flipping it occasionally for even drying.
Regardless of the drying method, always keep the sofa cover away from direct sunlight to prevent colour fading.
9. Iron or Reshape as Needed
If necessary, iron the sofa cover using a low-heat setting or as indicated by the fabric care label. Always use a pressing cloth to protect the fabric.
If the cover is slightly misshapen after drying, reshape it while it’s still damp by gently stretching or smoothing the fabric.
Once the cover is completely dry and in its original shape, reattach it to the sofa according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
How To Unshrink A Sofa Cover
Reversing the shrinkage completely can be challenging if you’ve accidentally shrunk a sofa cover.
However, you can try the methods below to potentially regain some of the lost size.
1. Soak in Lukewarm Water
Fill a sink or basin with lukewarm water and immerse the shrunk sofa cover in it. Gently agitate the water to ensure it penetrates the fibres.
Allow the cover to soak for about 30 minutes to relax the fabric fibres, then let the cover air-dry.
2. Stretching Method
Remove the cover from the water and gently wring out the excess moisture without twisting or pulling the fabric.
Lay the cover on a clean, flat surface and start stretching it slowly and gently in all directions. Pull it horizontally and vertically to stretch the fibres back to their original shape. Be careful not to tug too forcefully, as it may damage the fabric.
If possible, place heavy objects, such as books or weights, on the corners or edges of the cover to provide additional tension and aid in stretching. Then, leave the cover to air dry while still stretched.
This process can take some time, so be patient and allow the cover to dry completely.
3. Steam Treatment
Using a garment steamer or steam iron, apply steam to the shrunk areas of the sofa cover.
The heat and moisture from the steam may help relax the fibres and allow you to stretch and reshape the fabric more easily. Remember to maintain a safe distance and avoid direct contact with the fabric to prevent scorching or damage.
4. Seek Professional Assistance
If the above methods don’t yield satisfactory results, consider consulting a professional fabric care specialist or tailor.
They may have specialised equipment or techniques to help restore the size and shape of your shrunk sofa cover.
Tips To Prevent Shrinkage
Washing a sofa cover without shrinking can be easier if you follow the tips below:
1. Read the Care Label
Always check the care label on your sofa cover for specific washing instructions.
The label provides valuable information about the recommended washing method, water temperature, and any specific precautions to prevent shrinkage.
2. Follow Fabric-Specific Guidelines
In the absence of a label, remember that different fabrics require different care. For instance, you should wash cotton covers in cold water and avoid high heat settings to prevent shrinkage.
Polyester is less prone to shrinkage, but it’s still important to follow care instructions and avoid excessive heat.
For linen, you should use gentle cycles and cold water, as hot water and agitation can cause shrinkage.
3. Use Cold or Lukewarm Water
Another trick in the absence of a label is to opt for cold or lukewarm water when washing sofa covers.
Hot water can cause the fibres to contract when drying, which results in shrinkage.
4. Avoid Excessive Agitation
Overly vigorous washing can lead to shrinkage. Be mindful of the water level and load size to ensure there is enough room for the covers to move freely without excessive rubbing or twisting.
You should also make sure to select a gentle or short wash cycle.
5. Use Mild Detergent
Choose a mild detergent specifically formulated for delicate fabrics.
Harsh detergents can damage fibres and contribute to shrinkage.
6. Air-Dry Instead of Tumble Drying
To prevent shrinkage, air-dry sofa covers instead of using a dryer.
Hang them on a clothesline or lay them flat on a clean surface. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can cause discoloration.
7. Avoid High Heat
Heat is a common factor in shrinkage. Avoid high-temperature settings during washing, drying, and ironing.
Opt for low to medium heat or air-drying methods to maintain the shape and size of the sofa covers.
8. Test a Small Area First
If you’re unsure about the fabric’s response to washing, perform a test on a small, inconspicuous area of the cover before washing the entire piece.
This will help you assess the fabric’s sensitivity to shrinkage or other potential issues.
9. Seek Professional Cleaning for Delicate Fabrics
If you have delicate or valuable sofa covers made from materials like silk or velvet, it’s best to consult professional cleaners who specialise in handling such fabrics.
They have the expertise and equipment to clean them without risking shrinkage or damage.
Most sofa covers have the potential to shrink while washing, but you can avoid it by following the instructions on the label. Alternatively, use fabric-specific recommendations and always air-dry the covers. Hopefully, this guide can help you avoid unwanted surprises.