Fabric experts? I'd like some input

mtnrdredux_gwApril 28, 2014

I have slipcovered off white sofas and/or armchairs in my family room, living room, two bedrooms, and our little stonehouse. I liked light-colored furniture and, for me, being able to have it washed has been a huge benefit.

For our beach house, I am custom slipcovering all of the living room furniture. I just picked up the fabric last week.

All along, my plan was to wash the fabric before I had slips made, so that they would then be de facto "washable slips". I tested large samples in my washer and dryer, using hot water and high heat (which was a stress test, as I would not usually do that). The shrinkage was very minimal, about 3% (this is a linen cotton blend, hand printed batik). The color loss was not even noticeable (I retained unwashed samples to compare).

So ....

Now, the moment of truth. It is time to wash the fabric, 18 yards for just the sofa, and I feel totally chicken! It is germane to this story that the fabric alone costs 2x the cost of the sofa, and had a 6wk lead time. Hence my palpitations.

What is giving me pause is the following. Aren't all high end upholstery fabrics treated to repel stains? So if I wash it, I am getting rid of that? But if I don't wash it, the slips can't be washed in the future. Should I wash it, then scotchguard it? What happens when I wash it in the future? Could I say, wash it seasonally and scotchguard it each time?

Thanks in advance.

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Why can't it be washed in the future? That's the point of slip covers, to be able to be taken off and washed. We used to send ours out to be washed.

Also keep in mind that today there are so many great cleaning products. You can always take the cover off and hand wash a spot. Key is to not put anything with a stain/spot on it in the dryer until the spot is gone.

Red wine spills: put table salt on it immediately to soak up the wine, then soda water.

Get a bottle of Zout. Great stain remover.

Keep soda water on hand to put on any fresh spills. Cleans them right up.

Oxyclean is GREAT for getting stains out.

Dawn for grease stains.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:03AM
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Before I did anything, I would call the fabric manufacturer and pose all the questions you have. Or at least talk to the people at the store where you ordered the fabric....they may also be able to contact the manufacturer on your behalf. I do think that the Scotchguard they put on at the factory is much heavier duty than the spray cans we can purchase.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:09AM
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I can understand your hesitation. That's a lot of time & $$ in those 18 yards!

I guess I'd call the manufacturer to be sure that pre washing was necessary. I pre washed the matelasse I used for my sofa slipcover and it did shrink a bit.

If you do not preshrink, you do run the risk of the slips not fitting after washing - and to me that's a much bigger risk!

On the other hand, I've heard of people washing slips and putting them back on when they're damp to insure they fit properly.

If it were me, I'd call the fabric manufacturer and ask their advice, or I'd call the person making the slips and ask them. The other issue I'd be concerned about is washing 18 yards of fabric - can't be done in one huge piece. You need to have your slip maker tell you how big they need the pieces to be so they can make the slip properly but the machine can handle washing the fabric without damaging it by twisting and turning it into a huge twisted ball.

I'd love to see the fabric you picked. Do you have a pic?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:17AM
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What Joaniepoanie said.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:21AM
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So do you think I could wash it seasonally, and scotchguard it, then wash it again, scotchguard it again.


My question is really more in re the value of the "scotchguarding" the factory does versus what I can do, and whether you can wash, then guard, then wash, then guard etc etc

I am keeping all of my fabric samples so i can test cleanign products on them too, in my experience many "great" cleaners take out color, and this is heavily patterned. FYi I recently read, maybe in Consumer Reports, that soda water is no different than regular water for stain removal !? I would swear it works, but then I am not doing a double blind test I suppose~

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:21AM
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I'm so leery of Scotchguarding because of the chemicals. Healthwise, I think I'd just watch out for spills and deal with them directly.

I agree with the others, though, that it's probably smart to contact the manufacturer and get the info. straight from them.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:29AM
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I am looking at the roll of fabric, and wondering that too, can i fit it?

I have no idea!

These are the fabrics and the wallpaper. It is very new for me to use pattern, but I went whole hog! The batik is for the sofa, with striped bolsters, the paisley is for two of the chairs, and the wallpaper goes above the panelling, so there is not a ton of it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:32AM
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It is to the trade only, they are not helpful (at least in NYC) when you call directly, as they rather firmly directed you back to your ID. The ID is just not on the ball, but I need to buy through her so I do.

That said, I will lob in a call today and ask. Can't hurt!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:35AM
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That's a remarkably small amount of shrinkage for a cotton/linen fabric. I would have expected it to be at least 10%.

One possible solution would be to have the slipcovers made in a relaxed fit, which would allow for that small amount of shrinkage when they are laundered.

I don't think I'd even bother with the Scotchguard. Maybe it's just me, but I've never experienced SG as a particularly miracle protector. Many of the stain lifter and detergent recommendations will work at least as well.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned: You are not going to be able to wash 18 yards of fabric in a home washing machine without making a mess of it. I'd take it to a laundromat where they have those really huge machines. You might run an empty bleach load through that washer first.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:38AM
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Hey, Best, I mentioned that!


Agree w/u about going sans Scotchguard as well.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:54AM
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I was very surprised at how little shrinkage and how color fast.

I'm a little worried about a laundromat machine being more harsh, kwim? Or god knows what. What'll they do, refund my buck if something goes wrong?

I'm assuming that by "making a mess of it" you mean wrinkling it? I planned on having it pressed. Our washer in the basement is supposed to wash eighteen towels. So , 18 yards of a relatively thin cotton ...? maybe

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:59AM
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Wash the fabric, absolutely. Then have the covers treated with Microseal or ultra seal before you ever use the furniture. The makers of Microseal guarantee it for years, (either 7 or 10 cannot remember) even through washing and cleanings. And it is completely safe and environmentally friendly. Threeapples was about to have her velvet settee treated, perhaps she will see this and let us know how the treatment works.

We're having all our new upholstered stuff treated at the receiving warehouse in Atlanta where it is being stored before installation. I want it protected before it crosses the threshold, lol.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:00AM
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Yes, twisting and wrinkling -as long as you don't have to iron it yourself, go for it. The other issue is raveling threads from the cut ends of the fabric. When I wash fabric, I stitch the two ends together (to form a tube) and serge the ends, but you may not have access to sewing/sergers.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:03AM
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I absolutely would wash and dry the fabric, prob in a commercial machine as has been mentioned. A linen cotton blend should hold up very well in the wash, and pre shrinking is a necessity IMHO.

You'll want to somehow keep the ends from raveling in the wash and causing the fabric to bunch and tangle. I'd probably serge the unfinished ends, or ask your seamstress to do it. Otherwise you'll wind up with a wrinkled tangled mess out of the dryer. Ask me how I know :)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:05AM
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I, like you, spent a fortune of the fabric for my slipcovers. I was told there was very little shrinkage so I chose not to pre wash the fabric. The first time I took them off to clean I only did a seat cushion as I was nervous but, lo and behold, it was fine and very clean. Now I wash them every spring and it's been five years. No problems at all. I don't put them in the dryer but let them air dry a bit and then put them on the sofas and, when totally dry, I give them a good coat of Scotchguard. It works like a charm.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:12AM
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Thank you thank you Yaya, that anecdote makes me feel better!

Jackson, Thank your for the serging recommendation. That is one of the ways I can tell my washed sample from the unwashed; the threads! Good to know.

Best, I will ask the slipcover mfr to do it for me. I used to have a sewing machine but after years of neglect, gave it away.

Thank you KSWL, I will look into that. My family actually is very good about taking care of things, but I would just feel better knowing that things can't be easily ruined.

Thanks again, everyone, it is very helpful to hear from people who have experience with this.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:29AM
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I don't know if this works in real life, but has anyone tried shrinking their cushions with a vacuum and sliding them inside the slip covers while they are deflated or using the plastic bag to slip them in and then removing the bag. I understand if there is any difficulty due to slight shrinkage, one of these methods will work but then I had my slip covers made a big loose and big so that I had to tuck a little more when applying them but I was able to place on the furniture without any difficulty.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:32AM
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I think once you wash it once you are good to go for subsequent washings. I would probably wash in Woolite or another gentle detergent....cold water.....line dry....just to be safe...then put them back on slightly damp. I don't think Scotchguard could hurt it.....of course, try it on a washed sample first. Oh....and as I have seen in other posts...add vinegar to preserve color.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:33AM
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You should be able to determine whether your washing machine can hold the entire bolt of fabric by calculating the cubic feet of fabric and comparing that to your washing machine capacity in cubic feet. A "large" load is usually 3/4 of the machine capacity. Length in feet x width in feet x thickness in feet of bolt (subtract the cubic feet of whatever the bolt is wrapped around).

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 12:09PM
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Imhappy&Iknowit IOWA zone 6b

Personally, I would not attempt to wash 18 yards of fabric in MY washing machine. Would you put 9 pairs of dress pants in a load?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:03PM
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beautiful choices, blue is my favorite color, how lovely for a beach house.

These fabrics were likely preshrunk and pretreated. why not mess a swatch up with mustard, ketchup, grass stain, dirt stain, wine, and let it soak in overnight, then wash on warm with Woolite ... see how it acts with no coating first? there are teflon sprays for fabric that make you lovely couches act like plastic coated fabric and bead off stains.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:39PM
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When I wash our slipcovers they are never dried in the dryer, as that makes the seams look white and old. I just hang them on a door or drying rack or drape over the dryer or washer doors, and when they are almost dry but still the slightest bit damp, put them back on the furniture. They sort of shrink dry to fit, and if you smooth the seams and fabric down with your hands, you shouldn't have to iron. I have four parsons chairs with slips, and used to have two slipcovered sofas, and treated everything the same way.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:55PM
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OK, several points need to be addressed. (And as a former upholsterer and slipcover maker, I feel capable of pontificating, LOL.)

I'm delighted you washed a sample and kept the records of how and where it shrank, and how much. Go you! It washed well, didn't bleed, and shrank minimally. It sounds great for a slipcover.

However, you can't simply dump 18 yards of fabric in a home washer. You can't dump that much fabric in a commercial washer either! That's an enormous amount of fabric!

Were I you, I would cut oversized pieces for each of the slipcover sections, serge or zigzag the edges and wash those smaller pieces.

If you think the fabric will bleed at all, put a Shout Color-Catcher in with the pieces.

Then have the slipcover constructed. Do give it a boost with some more Scotchguard, after it's completed, if you're worried about stains.

Some have said to contact the manufacturer about the "washability" of the fabric, and the durability of the stain protection. It will not happen! If you choose to wash a fabric labeled for dry- or solvent- type cleaning, you void ALL warranties for the fabric.

Sure, it IS washable. Cotton is washable. Linen is washable. So is the silk blouse you may have. All of these are washable, but the manufacturer is NOT going to warrant against shrinkage or fading or bleeding. IF you choose to wash that silk blouse or your 18 yards of slipcover fabrics, you're on your own.

I would still do it for myself.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:14PM
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So, I spoke to my seamstress. She cut the material into 4 nine-yard pieces. She said it was not necessary to serge them. She says her clients do this all the time and was unfazed, especially since I had tested the samples.

I washed each of them at home in my front loader, using the same setting and temperature and detergent as used on the samples. I used warm water and dried the fabric in the dryer, even though i would typically wash in cold and put on damp. But I wanted to make sure, if it might shrink, that it would shrink now, before the slips are made.

Well the batik came out fine. No issues. The other fabric bled! Not horribly, but kind of like when new jeans rub against something. I am so frustrated, but I know I have no recourse. It was very expensive fabric (hand printed) and has a long lead time.

I am probably going to use it anyway; the vibe is casual so I dont think its the end of the world. Not sure everyone would notice it immediately.

Anyway, I suppose this is a cautionary tale!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 11:48AM
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Oh, no! Did you use the color catcher in the wash??

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 12:22PM
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Imhappy&Iknowit IOWA zone 6b

Is it too late to do them over with the color catcher. I'm not familiar with that product. We used to soak it in salt water or vinegar to set the color. I'm old ;-)

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 4:08PM
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Good to see you are up and kicking! Hope the pain is tapering off for you.

I did not; but I did not do that with the samples, either. And they were fine.

Lov, I am a big fan of vinegar too. But, again I did not use it on the sample and they were fine. I didn't use it because, with the batik, I might have liked some fading or bleeding, adding to its intricate handmade character.

Well,I've got character now!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 6:03PM
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Would you be willing to wash it one more time? It might wash out. Throw in a Color Catcher, while you're at it.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 9:58PM
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"Not sure everyone would notice it immediately."

People are so oblivious to stuff like that that a good friend and I have a saying: no one will notice except you, me, and our mothers. If anyone mentions it tell them it's a custom treatment. (And it is, lol)

I am getting up, feeling creaky and cranky and am BORED senseless. I am haunting other GW fora, reading the NYT word for word, have planned next vacation and am watching old Cesar Milan Dog Whisperer reruns to try to figure out what is wrong with two of our dogs who have turned against each other. Thank you for asking... :-o

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 11:25PM
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Surprised no one mentioned dry cleaning.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 9:09AM
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Just saw this thread, so sorry if this is too late. I would rewash the fabric that ran using one -- or even two - Color Catcher sheets. I had a patchwork Christmas Tree skirt that had been washed, the red areas bled. It was probably air dried at that point. I had other pieces it went with so I didn't give up on it right away, but it did wind up getting packed up and put away for a year -- or maybe two, when I first saw the Color Catchers. Washed it again with one and it took the run right out. Try it -- might help but won't make it any worse with the color catchers in there.

Like your fabric choices.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 11:03AM
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Lascatx, Thanks for posting! I will try that.

BBSTX, thansk

KSWL, so where IS your next trip?

Vedazu, I am prewashing the fabrics before slipcovers are fabricated specifically so that I will have washable slipcovers in the future. I prefer washable to dryclean-abel.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 11:51AM
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