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How to renew an old sofa

Saggy old sofa example

We live in a throw away society, many people will throw away a sofa that is looking a bit tired and has lost its shape, and simply buy a new one.

But, the last several years has seen an increasing trend towards "up-cycling" i.e. the creative repurposing and renewing of used objects, furniture etc. A good example of up-cycling is the creative re-use of wooden pallets. Have pallets leftover from a delivery of paving slabs? Put them on Freecycle and see how many people show an interest, stating that they want to make them into coffee tables and other furniture.

But I digress, in comparison to turning old, splintered and dirty wood into an attractive coffee table, renewing an old sofa is quite an easy endeavour which can be done in just a few steps:

1. Thoroughly clean the upholstery and/or leather with the appropriate cleaning products.

If your sofa is cloth covered, usually the cushion covers can be easily removed and washed in the washing machine (check labels for washing and drying instructions). If the cloth covering the rest of the sofa cannot be removed, it can probably be lightly sponge cleaned as it is and left to air dry (again check any labels for instructions). Leather is a bit more tricky, it should be cleaned with a soft cloth and mild soap (diluted dish soap or baby shampoo can work), dried with a soft towel and then ideally treated with some kind of leather treatment cream or oil. A quick Google search of "clean and feed leather" should bring up an array of products and suggestions. Avoid using alcohol and harsh chemicals on leather as this can cause it to crack.

This step alone may be enough to give your sofa a new lease of life, but if the sofa is looking and feeling a bit deflated and out of shape, move on to step 2.

2. Measure for new sofa cushions

Buying foam cut to size online is now easier than ever, with some foam providers also offering a service to replace old cushions (such as our cushion refill service). If you choose to order foam cut to size, you will need to remove your existing sofa cushions, and then measure the covers (length, width and height, from seam to seam) in order to figure out the measurements of your new cushions (it is best not to measure the actual cushions as they may have become deformed over time). For detailed instructions about measuring, please see our video "how to measure a sofa cushion".

3. Double check your measurements and order your new cushions

As the saying goes "measure twice, cut once", once you are confident with your measurements you can order your new cushion foam. Adding a polyfibre (Dacron) wrap and stockinette undercover will also prolong the life of the new cushions and make them easier to fit.

4. Fit your new cushions

Once you have your new cushions, you have the fun job of fitting them! It can be a bit fiddly to get the sofa cushions fitted into the covers. If you have children, perhaps they can help, having an extra pair of (small!) hands can be a bonus, but not necessary. If your cushions seems a bit misshapen after fitting, don't worry, they should settle down after a day or two and adjust to their correct shape. See our "how to fit a foam cushion into the cover" video.

5. Enjoy your renewed sofa!

Your sofa should now be looking a lot fresher and newer, and all for the fraction of the cost of buying a new one. Plus, you can perhaps avoid a family argument like this one!

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