How to wash sofa covers without shrinking

How To Wash Sofa Covers Without Shrinking

It’s very annoying. You pull out a washable sofa cover, dump it in the washer, put it in the dryer, only to find out that it wouldn’t fit perfectly on your cushions anymore. What has happened? Did the sofa cover shrink in the machine? If yes, how can you prevent such shrinkage from happening with future covers?

You can wash fabric sofa covers in the washer without shrinkage, but you have to make sure you’re following the instructions in the care label to achieve this. Materials like polyester cannot be washed in hot water because they will shrink. So also wool, mohair and other animal derived fibers. Cotton on the other hand can be subjected to high heat without any problems.

Below will discuss more on fabric sofa covers and how you can wash them in the washing machine without running into problems like shrinkage or fading.

What causes the shrinking of sofa covers during washing?


Heat is one of the chief causes of shrinkage in sofa covers. The fibers in fabrics react to heat differently, and some can actually melt or even clump together under heat and become much denser, as a result, produce shrinkage in fabrics.


When some fibers absorb moisture, they clump together (by swelling) and this causes the overall fabric to appear shrunken. 


Some fabric fibers are stretched at the sub level, which makes them look exactly the way they look, and when you subject them to excessive agitation of the washer or by hand, it can loosen the pull or stretch and cause the fibers to return back to their original state, shrunken. This is what makes some sofa covers appear shrunken when washed. 

This type of shrinkage isn’t only caused by agitation. Moisture and heat can also loosen any pull that has been put in place to make fibers stretch out.

How To Wash Popular Types Of Sofa Cover Fabrics Without Shrinking

We’ve seen the factors that contribute to fabric shrinkage in the washer: heat, moisture and agitation, or a combination of all. But truly, experiencing shrinkage in the washer will not be possible unless you’re guilty of the following practice. 

Not paying attention to the fabric care label of your sofa covers. This is what would make you wash with excessive heat, too much agitation, and even use the dryer on your sofa covers! Or worse, putting your covers in the washer when they’re only advised to be dry cleaned. 

Most sofa covers will come with a care label, provided they’re from a reputable and recognised brand, and if you’re unable to find any attached, trace the instructions to the manufacturers website. 

It is critical to go through these instructions so you know the exact technique to employ when washing the specific type of fabric you have. 

The Two Types of Sofa Covers

Two types of sofa fabric covers exist. Those that can be removed and those that cannot. Almost all sofa fabric covers that can be removed are machine or hand washable. 

The non-removables however, cannot be cleaned in the washing machine or even by hand, obviously. And as a result, it’s recommended to spot treat them, or vacuum clean using a soft brush attachment.

When it comes to removable sofa covers, the most popular materials used on them are polyester, cotten, or a blend of fibers. All these have specific ways of cleaning and therefore we’ll go through each one of them carefully.

Washing Polyester Couch Cushion Covers

Sofa covers made up of 100% polyester are perfectly safe to clean in the washer. The highest water temperature and dryer settings to ever use on them however, is warm. 

Avoid using hot water settings on polyester fabric because it will shrink with time. When washing also, you can opt for a delicate cycle or even wash using the normal cycle of your washer and nothing will happen to them. 

What you want to avoid using on them is the heavy duty settings of the washer as that can cause the kind of shrinkage associated with agitation that we talked about in the beginning.


Because cotton is naturally more durable than polyester, you can subject it to more heavy duty settings without shrinkage or tearing. Cotton can also be washed in hot water, but always limit washing cotton to standard settings as well as warm or cold  water unless you need to sanitize or remove specific set-in stains on it. You can also put it in the dryer at moderate heat without running into any problems.


Most corduroys are made up of either cotton or a blend of cotton and polyester, and as a result, you can wash them in the washer under cotton or polyester settings. 

For blended corduroy, use the settings of the less tolerant material in the blend. For instance, if you have a cotton/polyester blend, use the wash settings of polyester instead of cotton.

A word of warning though, some corduroy materials are made up of wool, and we know what happens to untreated wool in the washer: shrinkage and distortion. 

So always check the care label first, to learn the type of material you have and the best technique for washing it. 


When you have a blend of different fibers, then it’s typically a good idea to take a look at all the materials that make up the blend, and follow the wash settings of the less tolerant fiber. Your care label should even do this job on your part, if they’re reputable. 

Leather, Faux Leather & Suede Sofa Covers

Almost all sofa covers made up of leather, faux leather, and suede, will not be removable. And I’ve never come across one that is removable also. 

Leather or animal based fibers like leather like to soak up water and swell, then shrink, so when cleaning leather, do not soak them in water. Use a leather cleaner as instructed on the product packaging, and ensure to polish off the leather using a conditioner to maintain it’s finish and integrity.

Do you wash couch cushion covers inside out?

It really doesn’t matter which side you wash your sofa covers on. It could be inside or outside, but the key thing to bear at the back of your mind is that if you have stains formed through one side of the fabric sofa cover, it’s better to wash with that side facing outside to facilitate the stain removal.

How Often To Wash Couch Covers?

Truth be told, unless your sofa covers are visibly dirty or they emit some kind of foul stench when you sit on them, there really is no need to give them an overall wash. Doing so only increases the risk of problems like shrinkage or fading.

Can You Put Couch Cushion Covers In The Dryer?

When it comes to the dryer, cotton and Corduroy are up to the task, but not wool or other animal based fibers. Polyester is a bad idea in the dryer because it would shrink with time. But overall, if you can, always air dry every sofa cover you wash instead of putting it in the dryer. 

Dry cleaning Sofa Covers

Some sofa covers cannot be washed at home, and so you’ll be required to take them to the dry cleaners. And just like covers exist that can’t be washed but dry cleaned, others exist that can’t be dry cleaned but washed at home. 

That’s why it’s very important for you to pay careful attention to the fabric care label before putting water and soap on sofa covers.. 

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to take sofa covers that have huge or stubborn stains on them to the dry cleaners. That’s usually the only way to clean them properly without ruining them. 

What to avoid doing to sofa covers in laundry

Don’t bleach

Most fabric sofa covers cannot be bleached. When you put bleach on them, it can damage the fibers, destroy colors, and even cause the overall appearance of the fabric to fade.

Wash them separately

You also want to wash sofa covers separately. Don’t wash them together with heavy fabrics like bedsheets or jeans which can cause them to shrink. Don’t wash corduroy covers with lint producing clothes otherwise it will pick up the lints they deposit and that would be difficult to remove! 

Do not tumble dry

It’s always best to air dry your sofa covers as opposed to tumbling them in the dryer. This is because the dryer can produce heat and the heat can cause shrinkage . Remember, sofa covers are produced to fit tightly to cushion, so just a little shrinkage will translate into a problem. 

Iron on low or medium always

If you must iron, know the kind of fabric you’re dealing with and the highest settings it can tolerate. Pure cotton can tolerate very high temperatures, but limit the maximum amount of heat you apply on it to normal. Any other fibers should be ironed at normal to low heat. 

Iron on reverse side

When ironing sofa covers also, always make sure to iron on the wrong side. This will protect the outer face from “frying” or looking worn out. 

Check to see if its dry cleanable

Not all sofa covers can be dry cleaned. Some cannot, and you want to make sure to always check the fabric care label to be sure of that. 

Final Thoughts

If you wash your sofa covers and find out that it has shrunken in the washer, it’s because you subjected them to wash conditions that were against those recommended by the fabric manufacturer, and really, there’s nothing much you can do than trying to fit it back in and hoping nothing tears. 

But next time, with a different sofa cover, always learn the best way to wash it from the care label or the manufacturer’s website!