I’m a Big Believer in Slipcovers for Your Family Sofa — Here’s Why

updated Sep 20, 2022
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Kid walking on living room furniture
Credit: Laura Fenton

Talk to any decorator about the best sofa for families and they’ll rhapsodize about the wonders of performance fabric upholstery, telling you that the textiles have gotten so much softer you can’t tell they are synthetic. They’ll swear you can spill a glass of red wine and it will roll right off.

But in my humble opinion a couch upholstered in performance fabric doesn’t hold a candle to one slipcovered in a machine-washable fabric. Yes, buying a couch with a slipcover is more expensive than purchasing one with fixed upholstery, but when you consider the benefits, you’ll see why I think it’s a worthwhile investment for families.

Credit: Laura Fenton

Why I Am Devoted to Slipcovers for My Family Sofa

The main reason I love a slipcover is that it can be taken off and laundered. Period. Because even if performance fabrics resist stains, I don’t believe they’re immune to sticky fingers and the myriad substances kids will get on a couch (slime, pizza grease, glue). Likewise, even if you are vigilant about tackling stains as they happen, fabric eventually starts to look dingy over time. Interior designer Lauren Liess, the author of three design books and a mom of five, has pointed out that a sofa with a white(!) washable slipcover might actually be the most kid-friendly option because you can wash it and bleach it. 

Washability is the chief reason a slipcover is a must for your family sofa, but slipcovers also extend the life of your furniture, saving you money over time. I’m proud to say that my 12-year old three-seater looks nearly as good as new thanks to its washable slipcovers, which we only recently replaced. Buying a second set of slipcovers last year was costly, but not nearly as expensive as buying a whole new couch would have been. If you’re the type who redecorates frequently, a slipcover gives you a whole new look without having to replace your furniture.

Credit: Laura Fenton
Our old slipcover, before we upgraded last year.
Credit: Laura Fenton
Same sofa, new blue slipcover!

Where to Buy Slipcovers For Your Sofa

You can have a slipcover made for any existing sofa, but it will be more cost effective to buy one that’s sold readymade. Start with your sofa’s manufacturer: many brands, including IKEA, Pottery Barn, and Room & Board, sell replacement covers for their most popular couches and armchairs. I bought my replacement slipcover through Comfort Works, who makes covers for sofas from IKEA, Room & Board, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, West Elm, CB2, and other brands. Bemz specializes in slipcovers for IKEA furniture. Surefit offers universal slipcovers, but they won’t look as neat as one designed specifically for your sofa (and I’d recommend avoiding the stretch models and sticking to the simpler cotton duck or canvas). 

Credit: Laura Fenton

One More Tip!

If I’ve persuaded you to go the slipcovered route the next time you buy a sofa, let me go one step further and suggest you buy your second slipcover at the time of purchase. My mom called me up just this week frustrated that IKEA had discontinued her slipcovered chairs and it had become impossible to affordably purchase a replacement cover for her still perfectly good chairs. It’ll be a big additional cost, but it’s like buying an insurance policy on your biggest furniture investment.

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