How to Clean Your Pottery Barn Slipcovered Sofa

Find out what my husband secretly did to clean our white Pottery Barn slipcovered sofas. At first, I was horrified but then it forever changed the way I clean them. I'll show you, step-by-step, how I now clean our white slipcovered sofas.

pottery barn slipcovered sofas in a living room

By now you probably know how much I love our Pottery Barn white sofas. I love that they allow me to change the living room decor with just a couple of inexpensive throw pillows. I’m a big fan of color, so having white sofas allows me to use so many different colors in my decor, and not be committed to just one! You can read more about this in my post Why White Is the Best Choice When You Love Decorating With Color.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure.

So why would I have white couches with a house full of kids and pets? (Don’t ask who makes a bigger mess!)

When people see our white couches they always think we’re nuts since we have 5 kids and too many pets to count! Well, we are a bit nuts, but that’s another story. As for having white slipcovered couches, it’s genius if you ask me!

The key is they are slipcovered.

Every single visible part is washable!  Another important fact is they are high-quality sofas.

Most Durable Couch Brand

Now, I know that Pottery Barn may not be within everyone’s budget, but I really feel that buying quality furniture for your home is a good investment and it can actually save you money in the long run. Every single piece of Pottery Barn furniture we own has performed tremendously well in our home of 7 (plus pets!) We used to have to switch out furniture every couple of years until we decided to just buy quality things that would last, even if it meant getting them little by little.

Pottery Barn Slipcovered Sofas

I have two of the Pottery Barn Comfort Roll Arm Slipcovered Sofas in Warm White Denim. Like I mentioned above, I realize that these are not budget couches. It took me quite a while to save up for these beauties but I feel this is a case where you definitely get what you pay for. They are very well constructed and extremely sturdy. Plus, they can be washed!! These are the kind of couches that will last a lifetime.

All the couches I’ve had in the past were from big box furniture stores and they’d only last for a few years before either breaking or being so filthy that you’d feel gross just sitting on them. The fact that I can wash my couches is just amazing!!

If you’re in the market for a slipcovered couch but Pottery Barn is not quite in your budget, there are other options available. I know that both IKEA and Birch Lane have more affordable options. I can’t vouch for how well these sofas hold up since I’ve never had them but I have heard a few people mention that they love theirs.

Now back to cleaning the sofas!

How Do You Keep White Slipcover Couches Clean?

I always get asked if they’re easy to clean and take care of. They are white, so yes, they do get stains and they do get grimy. The beautiful thing is those stains and grime can be washed out! Since I get so many questions about the couches and how I keep them clean, I’ve been wanting to show you how I do it. Well, after this summer the couches were in dire need of a good cleaning! So I documented the whole thing so you can see how I clean my PB slipcovered couches.

Best Sofas for the Money

How The Slipcovers Looked After Eight Months of Grime

Down below, you can see Exhibit A, also known as Luna. Luna was quite shy and skittish when we first got her. She was scared when approached by anyone and she certainly wouldn’t dare climb on a couch when she first came into our home. Well, it seems we may have made her feel a little too comfortable and at home, and lately, this is what we come to when we walk downstairs in the morning! A quick “Luna!” from me and she quickly gets off, but of course, the damage has been done, after sleeping like a princess on my white couch all night.

Dog Friendly Sofa
Luna likes to sneak onto the sofas in the middle of the night. I don’t blame her, they’re so comfy.

This little gem below had me worried. This stain came from a plant that is sitting close to the couch. Surprisingly enough, the plant is still alive, which is a miracle since I kill plants.

That’s my hobby apparently… Killing plants.

Hey, I have 5 kids and they’re all still alive, so I’m doing something right. Can’t win ’em all!

Anyways, the stain looked like it was going to be a tough one!!

How to Clean White Denim Slipcovers
A nasty-looking spot on the arm of the sofa.

You can really appreciate the griminess (is that a word?) in this photo. That’s about 8 months of grime right there. Yuck!!

How to Wash Denim Slipcovers
What 8 months of sweaty, dirty, stinky kids rolling around on my sofas looks like. Very gross!

Before I finished cleaning all the covers, I wanted to make sure and show you the huge difference in color between a clean cover and a not-so-clean one. So read on to see how I went from grimy to sparkling clean!

Washing White Slipcovers
Wow! What a big difference between the clean cushion and the cover draped over it.

Washing Pottery Barn Slipcovers

I must put a disclaimer in here: Pottery Barn has specific instructions on how to care for their slipcovered couches.

I don’t follow them to a “t”, I know I’m a rebel!

How You’re Supposed To Wash Your Pottery Barn Slipcovers

So, if you want to be absolutely sure they won’t get messed up, you’ll definitely want to follow their advice. I’m sharing with you what I do to clean them, it has worked for a few years and I’ve never had a problem. But like I said, I don’t do exactly what Pottery Barn recommends, because I’ve had to get rid of some tough stains that just weren’t budging with their recommendations. You can read the Pottery Barn recommendations below:

Pottery Barn Fabric Guide

OMG! My Hubby Bleached My Couch! And How It Changed the Way I Wash My Slipcovers

I usually wash our slipcovers every few months. By that point, they are usually pretty gross. I had used the cleaning method above numerous times with great results. However, we’ve had some extended periods of craziness around the house for the last couple of years and there have been times when I didn’t get around to washing the slipcover and cushion covers for over 6 months.

My daughter loves finding her spot on the couch to watch her favorite shows in the afternoon.

Just picture those beautiful white couches being used as a kid playground and pet bed for six months and you can imagine how they looked. The amount of smudge and dirt build-up was excessive.

I don’t allow eating on the couches but Jacob can be sneaky sometimes.

After this unusually long period of neglect we, again, used the suggested cleaning method from Pottery Barn but some of the stains remained. It was just too much gunk for a normal washing to get out. I was a little bummed but put the slipcovers back on because the remaining smudges were minimal and could be easily hidden by flipping a cushion or strategically placing a throw.

The big boys will sometimes crash on the couch for hours after a long night of video games.

The next time the couches were washed, it had been yet another long period of neglect and there were even more significant stains. This time I was dealing with a big chocolate smudge, a muddy shoe print, and several other unidentified, nasty-looking stains. My hubby said he was going to try soaking them for a while to loosen the stains before washing. What I didn’t know is that he had secretly soaked them in bleach. Gasp!! He knew I would have freaked out had I known before seeing the finished result.

How did they turn out?

Washing a Pottery Barn Slipcovered Sofa
My Pottery Barn slipcovers after bleaching.

They turned out amazing!!!

They looked brand new. Now, this is the only way I wash them. I’m not recommending this method by any means, and if you do follow this method you are doing so at your own risk. All I know is that this is what works best for me. Our couches are Denim in Warm White. I have no idea how this would turn out for other slipcover materials.

The denim material is very sturdy and has held up well to this cleaning process. I’m always a little hesitant when using the bleach on my slipcovers but I haven’t noticed anything negative with this process, no rusting around the zipper or blotchy spots in the fabric. After bleaching them, the slipcovers do come out a little whiter than the original Warm White, which I actually prefer. Of course, all I have to do is wait for a couple of weeks of gunk build-up from the kids, and Luna and I have Warm White slipcovers again!

How I Wash My Pottery Barn Slipcovers

Word of Warning: As I mentioned before, the method I use works for me but I cannot recommend it to anyone else. I am posting it for informational purposes only and if you decide to use it, you’ll be doing so at your own risk.

So, here’s the process I use, step-by-step:

Spot Cleaning and Removing the Slipcovers

First, I thoroughly vacuum up any pet (and human) hair from the cushions. I also lift the cushions and take care of all the hidden goodies like all the remnants left over from snacking sessions with Goldfish, M&Ms, and a variety of cookies, crackers, and chips. I usually will uncover a long-lost lego or other toys we’ve been searching for months. The point is, I want all the covers as clean as I can get them before removing them to be soaked (I don’t want a bunch of crumbs and hair floating around in the water).

Best Couches for Families
Vacuuming pet hair, dirt and crumbs, and all the grossness that gets lost under the cushions.

Second, I spot treat any really tough spots with Shout Triple-Acting Stain Remover Spray. This is the stain I had mentioned came from a plant that is sitting next to the couch.

Slipcover Cleaning
Spot cleaning tough stains.

Third, I remove all of the covers and stack all the cushions on the couch.

Completely Washable Couch
Removing the slipcover.
Sofas with Removable Washable Covers
The slipcover and all the cushion covers are removed and ready to be cleaned.

Soaking the Slipcovers and Cushion Covers

I then fill the tub with 16 gallons of hot water.

Quick Tip

How to Easily Measure Water in a Tub

You may be asking: How do I easily figure out how much water I need in my tub so that it equals 16 gallons?

Here’s how:

  • Grab a 1-gallon pitcher or jug.
  • Fully open the faucet. (Since I filled the tub with hot water, I did the measurement with only the hot water side of the faucet open)
  • With a stopwatch or the timer on your phone, time how long it takes to fill up the pitcher.
  • However long that takes, multiply that number by 16 and you will have the amount of time necessary to fill your tub with 16 gallons of water.

In my case, it took 15 seconds to fill a 1-gallon container. So, I had to leave the faucet on for a total of 4 minutes to fill the tub with 16 gallons of water.

Bleach Couch Slipcover
Filling the tub with 16 gallons of water.

I add 1 gallon of bleach to the water (a 16:1 water to bleach ratio).

Bleaching Slipcovers White
This is a 2-quart bottle of bleach in the photo. I used two of them to give me a gallon.

So that there are not too many pieces soaking in the tub at one time, I split everything up into 4 groups.

  1. First, I place only the cushion covers of the first couch in the tub.
  2. After those have soaked for a few hours, I remove them and then take them to the laundry room to be washed and dried.
  3. I then add the couch slipcover for the first couch to the tub and let it soak for a few hours as well.
  4. After I remove the couch cover for the first couch and take it to the laundry room, I then start the same process for the second couch.
Bleaching Sofa Covers
Placing the cushion covers in the tub. I always make sure to wear protective gloves when dealing with harsh chemicals like bleach.

I make sure to fully submerge everything.

How to Clean Pottery Barn Couch Cushions
Pushing the covers down into the water so that they are fully submerged.

I let each group of covers soak for 3 to 4 hours, moving them around periodically. After an hour or so, I switch everything up by placing the top cover on the bottom and jostling everything around really well. This ensures that everything is getting a good soak.

How to Bleach a Couch
These cushion covers have been soaking for a few hours and are just about ready to be removed.

Washing and Drying the Slipcovers and Cushion Covers

I then remove the covers from the tub, ring them out a bit and bring them in a laundry basket downstairs to the laundry room to be placed in the washer.

How to Wash Pottery Barn Slipcovers
Placing the cushion covers in the washer.

I make sure to unfurl the covers and zip up the zippers so that they get fully washed.

How to Wash a Slipcover
All the cushion covers for one couch are ready to be washed. Oops!! I forgot to zip them up this time but it didn’t cause a problem.

I add the liquid detergent and also add more bleach to the receptacle in the washer filling it to the MAX line.

Bleaching a Pottery Barn Slipcovered Sofa in the Washer
Filling the bleach receptacle to the MAX line.

I then set the washer’s water temperature to HOT. Yes, you read that correctly.

Yikes! Will the covers shrink? Find out below.

Washing Couch Covers in Washing Machine
These slipcovers were heavily soiled so I set the washer to a Heavy Soil Level and Hot Wash Temp. In my experience, the denim does not shrink with hot water.

Once out of the washer, I set the covers to dry using the sensor on my LG dryer. The sensor always turns the dryer off before the slipcovers are fully dry. I’m not sure if this is an issue with my dryer but it works out perfectly because I need the covers to be slightly damp when placing them back on the sofas.

I explain why below.

Placing the Slipcovers Back on the Sofas

Like I mentioned above, the covers are slightly damp when I take them out of the dryer. Placing the covers back on the couch when they are slightly damp will prevent them from wrinkling so much.

So, did they shrink? 

I’m always afraid that the slipcovers may end up shrinking in the hot water but the denim always holds up well. The fit is always perfect.

How to Wash Couch Covers Without Shrinking
Placing the clean slipcover back on the sofa.

And voila!!!

Beautiful Clean White Slipcover Couches

As usual, the couches came out looking beautiful. No more grime and that ugly spot from the plant disappeared.

Most Durable Sofa
No more unsightly spot on the arm of the sofa.
Pottery Barn Slipcovered Sofa After Bleaching

Now, it’s time to for the fun part! Start decorating!

Pottery Barn Slipcover Couch

So there you have it! That’s how I clean my couches! I imagine there’s a person from Pottery Barn reading my blog post and crying because I soak my covers in bleach and then on top of that, I have the audacity to wash them in hot water!

I’ve had the couches for years, if I wasn’t washing them like this, then they would be ruined because of all the stains on them. So I was willing to take a chance because I really couldn’t lose! Who knows, they may start falling apart in a few years because of the bleach, but as I said, they already were looking pretty yucky!

Would I wash them like this if they were brand new? Probably not.

I’d probably wait until they reached a point of do-or-die. In any case, my apologies to Pottery Barn for rebelling against their cleaning instructions!

I hope you found this post helpful in some way! Do you have slipcovered couches? I’d love to hear how you clean them in the comments below!

how to clean a pottery barn slipcovered sofa

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82 thoughts on “How to Clean Your Pottery Barn Slipcovered Sofa”

  1. Hi Valerie, Thank you for your helpful post! I have my cushion covers soaking in the bathtub right now. Question – do you replace the water & bleach for each batch, or do you use the same same/bleach for successive batches?

  2. THANK YOU! I was just about to spend hundreds for a new slipcover that would just maybe fit when I saw this post and thought I would give it a go. Our loveseat is at least 10 years old and has been a dog “bed” for years and I was eager to revive it. It was GROSS. We have a Speed Queen top loader, so I did the soaking in there. Two cushions needed double soaking because I think they were too squished to soak properly. I used super hot water and nothing shrunk and everything is amazingly perfect and somehow spotless. THANK YOU!

  3. Valerie, I just read your article and had planned on washing mine when I read the PB tag that said Don’t Remove the covers to wash them, have them professionally cleaned. My covers are also 100% cotton, but my sofas are the York Sloped Arm….100% cotton, I’m thinking of going ahead with it…..

    1. Hi Robin! That is strange that it would say that on a slipcover. They even have a care guide for them on their website and when purchasing them they say machine washable. I wonder if you have a different material that wasn’t washable?? You may want to call PB about it and see what they say. Thanks for stopping by!

    2. Not all PB sofas are slip covered….some are just regular sofas which have cushions covers with zippers. (The whole sofa frame cover removes on a slip covered sofa, not just the cushions, that is how you can tell the difference.) Non-slipcovered sofas may be made from fabrics which should not be put in the washing machine for various reasons. They may be dry clean only fabrics or they may be treated with special finishes for stain resistance, flame retardance, etc. In that case, you would probably damage the fabric by putting it in the machine.

  4. I too have covers for my sofa. What is the capacity of your LG washer and dryer? I am purchasing new appliances and up till now have gone to a laundry mat to clean…….

    1. Hi Vicky! I looked up my washer, it’s an LG, and it’s 3.6 cu ft. I usually wash the big cover separately, and then the seat cushion covers with the back cushion covers. The model of my washer is WM2650HWA in case that helps. Thanks for stopping by!

      1. I pretreated all my stained and grimy areas and then washed on warm with an additional rinse. I added 2 scoops of powdered Oxiclean to each load. I dried them on low heat and put back on slightly damp. I did scotch guard everything once they were dry.
        They’ve held up really well for months. Seems the armrests get dirty faster then the rest of the sofas. I wish they had separate slip covers for them.

  5. Carole Carlson

    Do you think this method will “bleach” my very faded yellow slip covers? I’m contemplating trying to make them any shade of white. I have a love seat, arm chair and armless chair that have lived many places with varying amounts of sun beating down on them; some are more faded than others.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Carole! I would say only use this method as a last resort. My covers were warm white and after this, they did turn white. That being said, I don’t know what would happen with yellow covers. If you’re ready for new ones and just want to give it one last go, then you could consider trying it. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Wow, thank you!! I have tried many other things to try to get stains out but this worked. I was so over it that I was going to get rid of my couches because new covers cost as much as a new couch elsewhere.

  7. Did you bleach the Pottery Barn warm white? I want to get Pottery Barn couches but the denim on their site only says “warm white” not a pure white. Just curious.

    1. Hi there! I only bleached it after having it for several years and when the regular cleaning steps suggested no longer worked. It is warm white, but of course, once bleached, it will be whiter. Bleaching is a last resort for when regular cleaning no longer does the job and you want to get more years of life out of the covers. Hope this helps!

  8. Hi Valerie, Thank you Thank you, for this post!!!! It’s always been my dream to own a white couch but, I was always too afraid to even consider it. Reading your blog made me take the leap! I bought the PB carlisle slipcovered sofa, chair and, ottoman in denim warm white and. I LOVE them! (Pottery Barn should give you a huge discount on your next purchase IMO). I’m wondering if you have/will buy white slipcovered sofas next time; and how often you washed yours compared to how often you felt they needed washing?

    1. Hi Teresa! I’m so happy the post was helpful! Mine are finally on their last leg after almost 7 years of abuse! We definitely need new covers, and they will probably be white again! Though my kids are older and make fewer messes, we still have dogs who like to jump on them once in a while. Being able to wash them has been key! I used to like to keep them spotless, so if they had a stain or if they were looking grayish I’d wash them normally. After a few years I started doing the deeper cleaning I described above. Right now, they look pretty bad because I don’t wash them as often because they have some tears. We are definitely ready for new ones but as you know, they’re not inexpensive, so we’re holding out as much as possible. Thank you for stopping by the blog!

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