Go Green: Easy ways to make your sofa last

Allecia Vermillion

For many of us, the family sofa –– and its attending armchairs –– function as a place to relax, watch television, nap and, let’s be honest, eat. However, all this activity can take its toll on a piece of furniture.

Replacing a sofa is expensive and uses a variety of resources like wood and metal for the frame and synthetic materials for the stuffing. The average life expectancy for a good quality sofa is roughly 10 years, according to Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of the American Home Furnishings Alliance. Today, some manufacturers offer furniture with stuffing made from biodegradable material.

If you’re in the market for a new couch, Hirschhaut suggests wiggling the frame to make sure the construction is sturdy, examining the workmanship of the seams and bringing a diagram of your room and dimensions of your current couch to make sure you buy a model that fits in your home.

But if you’re interested in keeping your existing sofa as long as possible, here are a few simple measures that can add years to its life.

Routine maintenance

The days of plastic slipcovers on sofas are long gone (hopefully) but Hirschhaut recommends vacuuming upholstery or brushing leather sofas down with a cloth to remove dust and crumbs. Clean up any spills or spots quickly before they cause long-term marks on the fabric.

Use your sofa as a sofa — and a chair as a chair

Sitting on chair arms, sofa backs or anywhere other than the designated seating area can strain the joints and compromise your furniture. So can throwing your legs over the side.

“A typical sofa is not designed to be a bed,” says Hirschhaut. If you enjoy sprawling out on the couch to watch TV, try not to lie in the same position every time to avoid developing a permanent indentation.

Care for your cushions

Cushions are generally first to wear out on a sofa, says Hirschhaut, and a little care can help keep them in good shape. Flip over reversible cushions every time you clean the couch to keep them from getting misshapen, and encourage kids to treat them gently — no jumping.

Place it carefully

If you’re going to position your upholstery in a room that is filled with sun, you need to be prepared for the fabric to fade,” says Hirschhaut. “It happened to me and I was furious.”

Another common-sense rule: Keep seating away from heating vents, which can dry out or damage leather and fabric.

When you’re done, give it a new life

If it’s time to upgrade your sofa, someone would likely appreciate having your old one. Find a college student, younger family member or an online buyer to keep your couch in service and out of the landfill.

Did you know?

Slipcovers can give new life to inexpensive couches for relatively little money.

The term “couch” comes from the old French verb “coucher,” meaning to lie down or sleep. The term “sofa” stems from “suffah,” the Arabic word for bench.