Before and After: $8 and a Strong Scrub Made this Grungy White Sofa Feel New Again

published Oct 3, 2019
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Credit: Ashley Poskin

Here’s the skinny on this sad lookin’ sofa: I bought it second hand off Craigslist from a very nice dude and it looked just like it did in the store when it was purchased. I didn’t think to ask how long he’d had it because the price was right and I was very excited, so I quickly paid, ordered a Dolly, and brought it home. It was (still is) the most comfortable sofa I’ve ever sat on in my life, and it looked great in our living room—so everything was all good… for a while.

Fast forward to six months (and lots of dark-jeans-wearing lounge time, toddler snacking, and Netflixing) later, and it looked like these “before” photos you see here. Filthy, out of shape, and covered in fabric pills.

Credit: Ashley Poskin

The product reviews for this sofa are totally correct. Most state that the sofa is the most comfortable ever, while others have the same issues I have had: massive pilling, difficult to keep clean, loses its shape easily—but still the most comfortable sofa ever! My conclusion is that people who actually use the sofa to lounge (and lounge often) have seen it wear out quickly, while people who use it as an occasional sofa in a more formal room can probably keep it looking pristine for longer.

Either way, my second-hand sofa was gross and bound for the alley—but the alley wasn’t an option, so something had to be done. 

Credit: Ashley Poskin

And I did!

I took on a four-step fix that involved some simple ingredients: my fabric shaver, a few household cleaners I already had on hand, and a pair of inexpensive $4 bed pillows.

Here’s how it went:

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Step 1: Soak the Covers Overnight in OxiClean

The photo above shows the dirtiest part of the sofa next to the cleanest part of the back cushion. It was so filthy.

I was really fortunate in that I was able to remove the cover from both the seat and back cushions, so after one really thorough vacuum, I took the covers and soaked them (separately) in a tub of OxiClean-saturated water overnight. The next morning, the water was, as I suspected, the grossest ever—but the covers were miraculously clean.

I also scrubbed the upholstered frame with an upholstery cleaner and was able to lift some, but not all, of the dirt from where our shoes hit and where the dog had laid up against it. The upholstery cleaner didn’t work as well as the OxiClean soak to get the fabric clean, but it was an improvement.

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Step 2: Remove Pills With a Fabric Shaver

It was hard to see just how clean the covers were because the little pills were still dingy and bluish, so I got out my electric sweater shaver and went to town. I charged ahead, removing the pills from every inch of the sofa in short bursts over a few days of work.

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Step 3: Fix the Saggy Sofa Seat with Cheap Pillows

Next up, I had to tackle the sag. We’ve had the sofa for just over a year now, and I’ve flipped the cushion many times, but no matter what I do, it always sags in the middle. So I went to Target and picked up two of their $4 Room Essentials brand pillows and placed them under the seat cushion, right in the middle where the bench cushion was sagging. It helped immensely.

Credit: Ashley Poskin

So after those four steps—with just a little elbow grease and some smart techniques—I had a brand new sofa.

If you have pilling on your sofa I highly recommend removing it using a sweater shaver, the results are astounding—it literally makes your furniture look new again.

Credit: Ashley Poskin

And the pillow-under-the-saggy-cushion tip is huge, no one should have to deal with saggy sofa cushions when the fix is less than $5! You can also look for Poly-Fil (used for crafts and quilting) if you have a few problem areas in your cushions that need a boost, just unzip the cushion and stuff.