How to Reupholster a Gross Couch

First, how gross is the couch in question? Has it been sitting outside, getting rained on and moldy? Have the filling or cushions rotted out or disintegrated? If we’re talking about a couch that it is gross because it is moldy and rotten, or because Heaven forbid it has bedbugs, I’m going to say throw it out. Sorry. Some things are not salvageable. Remember the episode of Portlandia when Daniel and Meg go dumpster diving? I’m all for upcycling, but there’s a limit, and that limit is any food that is unsanitary and couches that are literally rotten. Okay?

If your couch is merely gross because the upsholstery fabric is ugly or dirty, then by all means take a stab at reupholstering it. First of all, it could be worth it to take your couch to a professional upholsterer. If that’s out of your price range, then follow these tips, many of which I got from Amy of While Wearing Heels and All Things Thrifty.

1. Start by taking photos of the couch with its gross upholstery on it. You’ll need them later. Take note of all of the details of the couch. Which parts of the upholstery are sewn? Which parts are stapled? Document the way the the couch is constructed well so that you can recreate it. The upholstery on the cushions will most probably be sewn. Do you have a sewing machine? Do you know how to make patterns? The most challenging piece will be recreating the cushion covers, as it will require sewing.

2. Next, slowly and carefully, remove the upholstery from the couch. OK, this is more easily said than done. Gently pry off the upholstery from the back and bottom of the couch. Try not to tear the fabric, as it helps to have it as a guide for cutting the size and shape of your new upholstery fabric. Save every single part of the couch that you remove from it.

3. Get out your vacuum cleaner and clean the couch. There will be treasures in there like food, dust, maybe money, and hopefully not bugs. Avoid tearing or otherwise damaging the filling while removing the old upholstery fabric and while cleaning.

4. The next step is cutting the fabric. You’ll need to trace around the pieces that you removed. DO NOT cut the pieces exactly the size as the ones that you removed. YOU MUST cut them bigger. Now please do not say that I didn’t warn you.

5. You are going to staple the fabric onto the frame of the couch. Use an electric staple gun. Again, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

6. It would be dishonest to say that I actually know how to sew couch cushions. However, they covered it in detail on Design Sponge.

Have you successfully reupholstered a couch? Do you want to share your tips with others? Please comment.

Chaya Kurtz writes for about everything from Portland plumbers to remodeling.

By Chaya Kurtz, Networx


Ernie Miller
william Miller4 years ago

seems like a lot is missing here?

Edvanir L.
Vanie L4 years ago

Thank you.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson4 years ago


John Ditchman
John Ditchman4 years ago

This is not a project for the faint-of-heart. And don't expect your first attempt to look anything like the original - it's not easy, that is why there are professionals. I tried to just redo the webbing on a chair once. I wound up wasting a lot of time and money and buying a new chair.

Maria Barbosa
María Barbosa4 years ago


LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

Terry V.
Terry V4 years ago


Carol Ann O.
Carol Ann O4 years ago

There is an easier way to to do this.. Place double sided iron on batting between the old and new fabric and iron on. It will bind and a little fabric glue to secure edges and you`re done!

Jodi Hendon
Jodi Hendon4 years ago

I have a red floral couch I've always loved, but the side where I sit to watch TV was getting worn out. The plastic tubing inside the decorative edging around the arms was completely exposed. I couldn't find fabric exactly like the upholstery, but I did find some that blended nicely--same colors, striped, so I made an arm cover with pockets for remotes. I measured and traced the front and sewed it all together, using upholstery pins to hold it in place.

I rescued a white wing chair that was bound for the curb because it was so filthy (donated to a church). I found an upholstery cleaner recipe from a "Helpful Hints" book. Then, outside, I soaked it, scrubbed it, rinsed it, and let it bake in the hot July sun (Texas) for a couple of days until it was completely dried out. It looked so nice that we put it in the church foyer. The zippered cushion cover got washed in the washing machine.