I’ve made several cushion covers in the past but rarely bothered to sew in a zip. This left me with a problem when it came to washing. With two children and pets in the house, washing was something I couldn’t avoid. Fortunately, I knew that I could bung the whole cushion in the washing machine.
Washing cushions with no zip isn’t always possible. Some cushions simply can’t be tossed into the machine. If you’ve spent your hard-earned cash on some beautiful scatter cushions they deserve more attention when it comes to getting them clean.
A cushion with no zip can be tricky to wash. The good news is that in most circumstances you should be able to just toss it in your washing machine unless the cover is made from a material that shouldn’t be immersed in water. In that case, always attempt spot removal first then opt for a freshen-up or hand wash as a second line of defence.
Why don’t some cushions have a zip? Most commonly, cushions are comprised of an inner pad and an outer cover which you can remove using a zip. Sometimes the cushion cover might simply be folded like a pillowcase/slip.
It’s also common to pack materials such as hollow fibre or foam directly inside the cushion cover. These types of cushions don’t have a zip because if you unzipped them the insides would fall out!
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So if you have a cushion cover that can’t be removed, what options do you have to clean it?
The first thing you need to be sure of is what the outer cover is made of because that will determine how you can clean your cushion.
If your cushion has a care label, always follow that first. If it doesn’t, here is a handy guide on how to get each type of material cleaned.
The different types of cushion cover material and how to clean them:
|Cushion material type||Method of cleaning|
|Leather||Wipe with a damp cloth|
|Polyester||Hand or machine wash|
|Cotton||Hand or machine wash|
In all cases, the safest option is always to dry-clean your non-removable cushion cover. The next option is to hand-wash the whole cushion. If you are confident the outer material won’t be damaged then consider a gentle machine wash.
If all you have is a small stain consider spot removal instead.
How to spot clean a cushion cover
If your cushion has a stain and you don’t want to wash the whole cushion, spot cleaning the stain could be your answer.
- Remove excess solids/liquids from the cushion with a blunt knife.
- Blot the stain using a dry microfibre cloth to absorb as much of the stain as possible.
- Apply a suitable stain remover such as Vanish Carpet and Upholstery cleaner. Alternatively, dissolve some dish soap in a bowl of water and agitate it to make some foam. Apply the foam to the stain and gently rub it in.
Here is some handy advice for removing each type of stain:
If your cushion material is washable, rub in some dish soap or rub it with Vanish stain remover bar and then wash the cushion in the washing machine or rinse in cold water. For dry-clean only material such as silk you should seek professional help.
Apply some rubbing alcohol to a clean cloth and dab over the stain taking care not to dab the ink-stained cloth on clean areas of the cushion. Use a different section of the cloth each time you dab to avoid the transfer of ink.
Sprinkle cornstarch over the grease to absorb the oil and leave it to sit overnight. The next day, use a small brush or a microfibre cloth to remove the cornstarch along with the grease.
Use some mild detergent and water on the stain and gently rub. Dab off with a wet cloth.
How to wash pillows without a zipper
If you have decided that for your particular cushion it is safe to wash it, here are tips for cleaning your cushion.
Vacuum your cushion first
Before you attempt to wash your cushion always vacuum it first. The less dust there is within the fibres the easier it will be to clean later.
- Set the suction level on your vacuum level to low.
- Use the dusting or upholstery attachment.
- Vacuum both sides.
- If the cushion has hair on it you can remove it quickly by wearing a rubber glove and wiping it over or by using some sticky tape.
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Always spot test the cushion fabric first
You can’t be 100% certain your cushion won’t be damaged unless you perform a patch test first.
Here’s how to safely spot test:
- Choose a small area of the cushion
- Apply your chosen cleaning solution or detergent using a clean cloth.
- Leave the solution to sit for up to 30 minutes and note any adverse reactions.
- Remove the cleaning solution with a damp microfibre cloth.
- Allow to dry.
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How to hand wash a cushion with a non-removable cover
Always consider hand washing your cushion instead of machine washing because it is much safer for delicate material.
- Fill up a large bowl or bucket with lukewarm water.
- Add mild detergent.
- Gently agitate.
- Gently rub any stains.
- Rinse in cool water.
- Repeat rinsing until all the soap is removed.
Never let the cushion soak for too long in the washing water.
How to machine-wash a cushion with a non-removable cover
Only machine-wash your cushion if you are sure it is safe to do so without damaging the outer cover. If in doubt always dry-clean your cushion instead or hand-wash it.
- Choose a gentle cycle with a high water level (avoid using the ECO setting).
- Select a cool to warm washing temperature.
- Always wash your cushion on its own.
- Choose a gentle detergent.
- Choose a low spin speed.
How to dry your cushion
Once your cushion is washed it is important to get it thoroughly dry otherwise you risk mildew growth and your cushion will be in a worse state than when you started.
If you have hand-washed your cushion you could speed up the drying process by putting your cushion through a gentle spin cycle on your washing machine. Make sure you choose a low spin speed.
If you can, put your cushion outside to dry in a sunny position until it is completely dry. If the fabric has the potential to fade pick a shady spot instead.
How to refresh cushions with baking soda
If your cushion only needs to be refreshed consider using baking soda to ‘dry-clean’ your cushion. It is much safer than washing the whole cushion in water.
Baking soda is great at absorbing smells. If your cushion has an odor then baking soda could be all you need to bring it back to life.
- Sprinkle baking soda on your cushion and gently rub it into the fibres.
- Allow the baking soda to sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Vacuum up the baking soda with a small brush or upholstery attachment.
- Repeat on the other side of the cushion.
How to freshen throw pillows in the dryer
If your throw pillow just needs a freshen up, this can be done easily in a tumble dryer without damaging the pillow.
I recommend you use a vinegar spray for this together with some essential oils. Vinegar is perfect for this job because it is a natural deodorant and sanitiser. Don’t be put off by the smell of vinegar because it will quickly dissipate leaving your cushion smelling fresh. Optionally add some essential oils to make your cushion smell gorgeous.
- Vacuum the pillow with the upholstery attachment.
- Make up a spray bottle of white distilled vinegar.
- Optionally add a few drops of your favourite essential oil.
- Spray both sides of the cushion.
- Set the tumble dryer to ‘low heat’ or ‘no heat’.
- Tumble for 15-30 minutes or until completely dry.
Now your cushion is gorgeously fresh it’s the perfect time to plump it up!
How to steam clean non-removable cushions
You can buy or hire a steam cleaner online or from most hardware stores. Steam cleaners are a great way to sanitize and deodorize upholstery including cushions.
When you have steam cleaned your cushion make sure you dry it thoroughly.
Frequently asked questions
The safest answer is ‘no’ you should not machine wash spot clean only pillows. Dry cleaning is the best option for you. If your pillow has a stain try removing it with a stain remover. If your pillow smells stale, freshen it up in the dryer or steam clean it.
Always check the care label first. The safest option is to dry-clean. If dry-cleaning isn’t an option for you, always try spot removal in the first instance. If the pillow is very dirty always choose hand-washing over machine washing. Make sure you thoroughly dry pillows that have been washed to avoid mildew developing within the fibres.
Yes, you can wash cushions in a washing machine. But, you should always check the label and the type of material first. Washing machines can damage some fabrics. Always choose a delicate or hand-wash cycle, a low temperature and a gentle spin setting. Make sure you completely dry the cushion to avoid mold and mildew.