I have a white couch.

I also have an 11, 9, and 7 year old. My fur babies include: a black lab who is constantly in the water (and rolling in whatever substrate speaks to her post dip- grass, sand, dirt, to name a few of her top choices), a long haired cat who goes on curious walkabouts and comes back absolutely filthy, and a bulldog who….well, more to come on that later. 

But, I have a white couch in PERFORMANCE FABRIC. And its filth had been staring me down for a while now. I know how to handle that filth. I am supposed to attack it as it comes- spot treat it as needed. 

But that is not me. I am not that person. It’s like I don’t see the filth until it gets bad. And then I get overwhelmed. And then I have the GAME OVER mentality. 

So this has been the mental block on this blog post. My dirty white couch upholstered in performance fabric. That is….dirty. But then, something happened. 

This bulldog is, as far as anything human OR fur baby goes, is like the triple black diamond of all living things. So in true, triple black diamond bulldog fashion, Thatcher decided to consume an entire super sized tub of vaseline. Yep. What? Yep. I am not going to go into vivid detail about the after effects were of this binge fest, but let’s just say that petroleum based residue WAS EVERYWHERE. On every surface, both floor and upholstery. Of course I attacked it half heartedly with my usual warm water and mild detergent, but when that didn’t work, I panicked and put my head in the sand. <<insert picture of Ostrich with head in the sand>> It wasn’t until this week when my husband looked at me and said “So are our couches ruined?” That I knew I had to do something.

What is Performance Fabric?

Performance Fabrics are highly durable, stain resistant (and some companies even offer sun resistance) fabrics that have been treated with a solution before weaving to make stains repel from the actual fabric. Brand names such as Crypton™ and Sunbrella™ have been on the market for decades, but there are many, many new companies out there who are putting forth excellent products. First introduced back in the 1950’s, Sunbrella™ was the first company to really commercialize this fabric for outdoor use, specifically for awnings. The boating industry caught on next with how great performance fabrics were, and, from there, the momentum quickly caught on for all outdoor applications. In fact, for us in the interior design industry, a common misconception among clients is that all performance fabrics are boring canvas-types of fabrics. Gone are those days! Today’s selections are amazing and even the most experienced designer is hard pressed to tell which fabric is performance and which is not. Nowadays there are performance cottons, linens, velvets, and even leather.

Where to Use Performance Fabric

Growing up, there was always a No Kids Allowed room. A room with pristine white silk couches, ornate rugs, and delicate fabrics framing the windows. Nowadays, the peak of the open floor plan mania of the 1990’s and the pandemic which forced practically every family to pivot to work from home/virtual school situations, have made these untouchable rooms (thankfully) a thing of the past. Beautiful performance fabrics are also a key factor because it makes ALL messes conquerable, therefore your upholstered furniture can always look nice.. Our favorite applications for performance fabrics are EVERY upholstered kitchen item, dining room item, and of course living areas. We also add it to upholstered headboards because, these days, why not?

How to Clean Your Performance Fabric

So your beautiful new couch gets dirty. Now what? Identify the stain. Muddy paw prints, wine, even marker is EASY- remember each fiber is encased with the solution so most stains will bead up on the fabric. So, if you are right there, you can quickly blot up the mess. If you have expert stain makers in your household like I do, and your stainmakers choose to hide stains and messes from you,  you may have to go in with a mild detergent and a soft bristle brush, then dab away the excess with a soft clean cloth. Also remember, the longer you wait, the more patient you will have to be. The stain will lift out, but you may have to tackle it several times. But I swear to you, persistence will pay off. See below. 

Bulldog vs. White Couch: A Happy Ending

After a few half hearted attempts to remove the vaseline smears in our beautiful new sofa. I decided it was time to get serious. I first covered the stain with baking soda to absorb as much of the oil as possible. After the excess was vacuumed, away, I then tackled the stain with warm soapy water made with dawn dish soap. I am not sure why I hadn’t thought of this before- but dawn is perfect for oil based stains! I let the cushion dry in the sun and voilà! Resplendent couch is now fully restored to her freshly delivered glory!

That is until my stainmakers find a new way to test my skills! Wouldn’t have it any other way though!