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How to Keep a White Sofa WHITE over the Holidays

By 12/17/2014February 21st, 201740 Comments

How to keep a White Sofa WHITE During the Holidays


Recently a designer friend of mine called me in a panic! Her client had fallen in love with all things cream in a show house and asked her to order a custom made sofa with a chaise in CREAM for her family room.

When it arrived, her client said “OMG I didn’t realize it would look THAT white!”. I have 3 teenage kids and a red wine drinking husband!

“What do I tell her?”  She wailed.

“Is the room finished? Are there cushions on the sofa? Did you lay a throw down to cover the chaise?” I asked?

“No, the cushions are beautiful but they have not arrived yet”, she replied.

“Well, that is the problem! Right now, it looks like a giant white island, of course she’s cranky!”

I have a cream slipcovered sofa in my family room. Once in a while, Terreeia will say “I’m annoyed that I immediately have to change when I come in from the garden before I can sit on your perfect sofa?!?! Did it have to be cream?”

Yes. I say, in this room there was NO OTHER OPTION.

Here’s what I’ve done to keep everybody happy and then I’m not worried when my 4 & 6 year old nephews come over and flop around on it too!

How to Keep a White Sofa WHITE over the Holidays | Maria Killam

First you need a thin, plush, fleece blanket like this one (above) from the pottery barn. If your sofa is white, get the white one so it’ll just blend in.

How to Keep a White Sofa WHITE over the Holidays | Maria Killam

Then a statement throw like this, there’s lots more colours here.

You can completely cover the end of the chaise with the throw. Just drape it over the whole thing. Underneath my throw I have yet another blanket folded once over and then in half, so I can just crawl in so my legs are tucked in like in a sleeping bag.

Do I fall asleep there often? Um, yeah, but if you want COMFORTABLE. I’m the queen of creating comfy! However, I do draw the line at recliners. My Mom can barely stand to sit and watch a show with us because she would rather do it from the recliner in her living room.

Then, don’t forget pillows!

How to Keep a White Sofa WHITE over the Holidays | Maria Killam

You won’t notice the blanket, discretely covering up the majority of your sofa cushions when you have some fabulous throw pillows to look at!

How to Keep a White Sofa WHITE over the Holidays | Maria Killam


Blue, brown and cream palette.

How to Keep a White Sofa WHITE over the Holidays | Maria Killam


Here’s another collection of pillows in browns and yellows, don’t forget the festive pillow!

One more tip if you have a sofa with a chaise! Always have a throw placed over it, it softens the edges and overall it just looks so much better, and this way, it’s always covered even if someone’s sitting there with dirty socks or whatever!

Find all of the above at the Pottery Barn.

Now you don’t have to worry about your red wine drinking relatives and kids with sticky candy cane fingers. Whip off the blanket, wash it and back it goes. Way easier than washing cushions and slipcovers!

What are your best tips for handling a white sofa?

I’m off to Christmas shop! Eeeeeek, I’m so behind! xoxo Maria

Related posts:

Is White Worth the Extra Maintenance?

White Floors for Instant Happiness

Can White be a Lonely Colour?

If you would like to learn how to choose the right white for trim, woodwork, cabinets and walls, get my brand new eBook, White is Complicated–A Decorators Guide to Choosing the Right White.


  • My white sofa is in my living room. Lots of cushions, but no blanket. I have it gated off, so no stinky, dirty dogs or kids! Just me and/or my husband. Or grown up guests. I had to buy blankets for my family room sofas even though they aren’t white. By luck I was able to match both the red one and the (soft)aqua one. It has stopped out giant yellow lab from ruining our new sofas. He sees it as his duty to rub his entire body along each one, every day!

  • Kates says:

    This is perfect timing because I am in the market for a new sofa and was wondering what colors to get. I am always drawn to the lighter colors but always worried about kids, dogs and red wine drinking friends spilling. Great suggestions!

  • What a great post! I need to send this to a couple of people who would appreciate it!

  • Alison Hodd says:

    Marie, Have you dabbled in either fabrics treated with Nanotex, Aquaclean or FibreShield? This is what my Design Centre recommends. They are far superior to the old days of Scotchguard. Another idea is to use high quality outdoor fabrics (like Sunbrella) indoors. Or to use contract grade fabric in a pale colour inside. Some of them have a hand like natural cotton or linen but clean up really easily.

  • Kathy Connelly says:

    I have a white sectional in my guest house…I have lots of throws there…and encourage my guests to use them…
    In my great room I have a huge off white huge sectional… lot’s of guests all time…I have 3 throws, lot’s of pillows…
    red wine…soda water and kosher salt…works like a charm.

  • Karen Dyck says:

    Get slip coves (maybe in white) until the kids are gone and the husband has given up red wine? Hmmmm…… my dirt brown leather is looking better all the time.

  • Jill Baum says:

    I throw a couple sheepskins on. They are cozy, pretty and comfortable. If you have leather they warm it up too. Plus because they are suede backed they stick better than most throws.

  • Joanne says:

    I have seasonal throws and pillows for my off-white sofa and sofa has survived for about eight years. I really look forward to changing the colors with each season. One piece of advice – don’t go too cheap or you will have little bits of this and that from your throws on the couch. I really like very good wool throws, ones that will endure.

    • Joanne says:

      The link is not for the color I was suggesting – click and look for additional colors and there is a gorgeous green and red.

  • Candy Albano says:

    I only use sunbrella fabrics for clients who want white sofas, perennials being my favorite! They have a beautiful look and feel, and red wine can be wiped right off! If your planning on buying or custom making white sofas using indoor outdoor fabric is the only way to have worry free, guest friendly elegance”

  • sandyc says:

    Recently rehomed the pale yellow queen sleeper sofa that was too wide, too deep and too low and not sure I’m going to get another couch at all. But I’m definitely into throws everywhere. With 3 white cat people, they are wonderful – so easy to swipe/brush off the hair and toss them in the washer and put on a new set.

  • BMZ says:

    Washable slipcovers!

  • Deb Bruna says:

    I went to order a white sofa at Pottery Barn and the sales rep talked me into ordering the true white version, because it can be bleached and washed even though that is not the official recommendation. I have had it for a year and washed it twice with bleach. Even the coffee snd spaghetti sauce stains have disappeared. When it is rainy and muddy outside, I do cover it to keep off the muddy paw prints.

  • megeranski says:

    the throw idea is quite similar to the plastic covers that were abundant in the late 60’s/early 70s.

    as one friend said to me once, do you own it or does it own you.

    i am laughing SO HARD!!!!!

    reminds me of continually tugging at one’s mini skirt.

    • Kathi says:

      hahhaha,Meg,now i realize why ugly plaids and florals were so popular,the moms never gave the couch a second thought and let stuff happen and they lasted approx 25 years-i have been buying a new sofa every 6 years-hmmmm, who is the dummy now? I love my pottery barn white sofa,but it is a big pain in the you know what! Maybe if I kept the couch and got rid of the husband,4 kids, dog & cat,kids friends and my relatives,life would be sweeter with my sofa!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Haha, it’s true, but in the end, it had to be cream for me even though I’m doing what you’re saying 🙂

      • megeranski says:

        others have noted there are fabrics that deal better than others, and it strikes me that white leather is prob a great choice.

        another thought I have, in terms of purchasing a sofa or ANY object is: perhaps you can buy it but can you afford it?

        I have lived with gorgeous elegant delicate worryable things, and it was fun, in a way. It satisfied some ego part and i totally get it.

        In the end, though, I have decided that coffee tables are for putting up ones’ feet, sofas are for drinking red wine upon, and the furnishings/design/efforts are all only to set the stage for laughter, comfort, relaxation and joy.

        if your schtuff does not support those outcomes, well, i just have nothing to say but, “Oh”.

        some folks can buy and re-buy white sofas when they need replacing. and can buy the while meeting above goals. that would be ‘affording’.

        if you are only buying and then living a frozen life, worried about red wine and dog paws, that is in the “Oh” category.

        a (fill in the blank with ANY object) does not define you. the way people FEEL in your home, around you, perhaps, does, though.

  • Tara says:

    There’s no eating or drinking on either my very light khaki sofa or my off white chair. No shoes & my daughter has to wash her hands after meals before she sits down. Basic stuff. Having kids & pets isn’t an excuse for dirty furniture.

    • Carol J says:

      Hmm, when I was a kid my mother wouldn’t let us lean our heads on the furniture because of the natural oils from our scalp. Where does it end? I say live and enjoy.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I have a white slipcovered sofa. But it’s just my husband & me. No kids or pets. And my husband is not allowed on it.
    I also have an extra slipcover. It can be put on while the other one is being laundered.
    But back to your designer friend & her unhappy client. I guess I don’t understand why the designer would have ordered her a white sofa when she requested cream. The homeowner should have previewed the fabric before the order was placed. Don’t you think?

    • KA says:

      I’ve spent the last 6 months with a problem child in Santa Barbara. After we ordered the white cabinets, she changed her mind and we had to add more cabs. Then she told me the island was going under the window which was too low. What does that even mean? Her contractor built walls, took them out. Installed new windows, took them out. She changed her mind 3 times on the quartz counters color. Twice in 2 hours when I was ordering the quote and material. Oy, as they say in New York!

      Sometimes, you’re dealing with someone who can’t visualize things. Sometimes you learn they are nuts. The general contractor refuses to deal with her anymore because he’s lost so much money. I have made money. A lot because I didn’t bid it the way he did. But I’ve been annoyed and needed a few drinks after dealing with her! She knows she’s been difficult.

      Since this was the first job I’ve done for this contractor, I wanted to get future work from him and will get other clients because I had the patience to deal with the insanity.

      My own plan for my black leather sofa is to use throws and pillows to change the look, even though Maria said old sofa, new living room during my consult. But I love that shape and sofa and can make it lighter and brighter with the fabric coverings. Plus, I can wash the black cat fur out! Yay!

    • Maria Killam says:

      It was definitely cream. In the end it all worked out once the throws and pillows arrived and she’s happy, any sofa looks sad with nothing on it 🙂

  • anne says:

    i have had white sofas and chairs in various homes and apartments for about 15 years and still love them. my covers are white denim and they’ve survived teenagers, dogs, messy guests, red wine and my own occasional coffee spills. if custom, make sure the workroom pre-shrinks the fabric and cord for piping before sewing. then bleach, baby bleach! hot water. about once per month. as for hiding dirt — no, they don’t hide it. but i like to know where the dirt is so i can fix it!

  • mairi says:

    For those of you who never enter a fabric shop, there is an absolute treasure trove of throw potential in the faux fur choices sold by the metre. And no sewing necessary for the thicker furs- they don’t fray! Just square up the piece by cutting through the fabric backing and brush out the edge- done!

    For example I have a large soft gray Sherpa-like fleece on my sofa (like a shag on steroids ;), which only cost $15 on sale. It even looks good in a bundle…I also found a piece of a denser fur which I turned into a 5×7 area rug. I placed it over a non-slip rug liner, it looks like sheepskin on the floor.
    Furs are washable on gentle cycle but only hang to dry- most can’t take dryer heat.
    There are so many colours and textures now. I have also used faux fur to make throw pillows. (Hint: If you sew pillows, trim the fur back to the seam allowance so that the under-mesh only gets sewn. Then brush out the fur edge after turning for a seamless look).

    Very practical topic Maria, thanks!

  • Kay says:

    I was very pleasantly surprised when the cat upset my teacup and tea splattered over my newish light-colored slipcovered chair. I thought I’d have to wash the cover, but the tea beaded and wiped right off. The fabric is 100% linen, but apparently it was treated with something that really did the trick. I’m not sure it could withstand dirt being ground into it every day, so it’s a good thing we have no boys or dogs.

  • annie thaler says:

    I love white sofas! We built a beach house 2 years ago, I upholstered 2 sofas, 2 club chairs, and 2 guest room headboards in white outdoor fabric . There are so many beautiful indoor/ outdoor fabrics choices now – you can’t tell the difference between the treated and untreated fabrics. Liquids pill – you just have to blot – everything else requires a soft damp cloth. One rule only… No Red Wine allowed in the living room.

  • Erin says:

    I have a solid stone colored sofa that I use some of these techniques to protect as well. I lay the throw over it if we are eating in there. I have also used a sheet that was the exact same color and tucked it all in so it was not noticeable when I was having a particularly roudy party. But another little trick I learned when researching how to get grease out of suede was to put cornstarch on it. It worked perfectly for my sofa as well. I had a little grease dot on it so I patted some cornstarch on it and left it for a few days. I vacuumed it off and the spot was gone!

  • Mary from CA says:

    I love reading all of the comments and tips for dealing with stain and spills. I love off white on everything…..but honestly, I waited until my sons were older to purchase an off white sofa for the formal living room. I have had good luck with it being treated with scotchgard which I know is old school way. I do have accent pillows for color but no throws and the rest of my color is on the walls. The only one who soiled it was elderly grandma who dropped a chocolate candy on it LOL. Luckily the stain came out. My other problem is my three little dogs have black and brown fur which is not compatible. The pets are allowed on the family room light tan leather sofa, but not in living room…all in all, it is a little nerve wracking having off white couch and carpet, but as the years pass by I have found ways to clean them and make me less stressed..spills happen, just enjoy. I think if I do white again I would find a way to use white/off white leather for my traditional furniture. I am amazed at the durability of leather with children and pets.

  • Maureen says:

    I also have a couple of light coloured sofas, and used to have a cream set when all my kids, dogs and cats were home. We had them for years and yes, they got some marks, where I bought them told me to rub gently with warm soapy water and then use a hairdryer to dry, that worked very well if done quickly. I love the light look, so fresh.

    I recently, for fun and interest, bought a dark aubergine velvet sofa, I love it too but…it is the one I have to maintain a lot. It shows every little hair and bit of fluff there is.

    Throws are the new antimacassars that my Aunts used to use, can’t imagine how those bits of lace did much of a job 🙂

  • Cherie says:

    I have white slipcovered dining room chairs, and three cats. The cats love those chairs for some reason – they sit on the seats and the backs, and they play hide and seek underneath them. If the covers weren’t washable, it wouldn’t work. Even so, they don’t get washed as often as they should be. If only I could figure out a way to put sheepskin throws over all six chairs, and have it not look like ridiculous over-kill, I’d be happy!

  • Diane says:

    I raised three kids with a white sofa and white dining room chair seats. During dinner I would cover the chair seats with beach towels and never worried about the sofa because in our home kids were not allowed to walk all over the sofa. Little handprints or even dye from someone’s jeans can be washed and blotted off once the guests leave. Kids do need to learn to appreciate and take care of belongings so tell your client to enjoy the beautiful chaise and not panic whenever someone sits down…after all, it is just a sofa.

    • megeranski says:

      agree, it is just a sofa.

      also, makes me think of what my favorite color expert would say.

      in the past, she mentioned that custom colors, or tweaking colors, simply meant not choosing the right color in the first place. I found that comment to be very profound.

      suspect that a white sofa, for the wrong client, is in that same category. if someone is going to live in fear of a white sofa, it is simply not choosing the right solution in the first place.

      some folks can afford a new white sofa, some cannot. (i am including ’emotionally’ affording in this). it it is the wrong solution, keep looking for the right solution.

      • KJ says:

        Agree. I also feel this way about people who say they want marble or soapstone counters, but then ask “Should I get them? I’m worried about xyz (i.e., staining, etching, chipping, etc…). The only people who should choose marble or soapstone are those for whom there is no other option. In other words they say “I’m building a new kitchen and it will have marble countertops”. Those are the people who love marble so much that they won’t care what happens to it. All the other people should pick something else!

  • Thea says:

    Excellent post, Maria! My only comment is “beware” of lounging teenagers wearing “over-dyed” jeans! That stuff does NOT come off a white sofa (I have slipcovers)…

  • Mary says:

    Maria, what do you think of off-white leather for a sofa? I am thinking of doing this, we want leather but most of the colors are so dark. I need to replace a 20 year old light tan sofa and loveseat with something, but I am not sure with what. The walls and carpet are tan, so I want something with some contrast and really, I don’t want dark brown leather. For some reason,my husband thinks a cream or off-white leather will not hold up. I think he’s being difficult, ha!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Well it depends on what you are comparing it to. If you compare a white leather sofa to a white fabric one, I think it’s a no brainer.
      If you compare a white leather sofa to a black or brown one well sure. You’d have to wipe down a white leather sofa because dye from jeans gets on it, etc where you wouldn’t with brown but that’s an easy compromise in my opinion.

  • Maddie says:

    With lots of pets and company, I ordered a warm white slipcovered sofa for our apartment near the beach. Best thing I ever did. I use different throws and pillows to change the look and protect the slipcover which I wash about every 6 weeks. After 2 years, it still looks great. In the winter, I use leather chairs next to it and wicker in the summer which I rotate into the master bedroom. It makes me feel like I have 2 beach apartments.

  • Teresa says:

    I had my excellent seamstress make 2 slipcovers for my sofa! Both are made out of practically indestructible painter dropcloths!! TOTALLY washable, and inexpensive at $20 each!! When one gets dirty, just toss in the washing machine and throw the clean one on in the meantime! BUDGET baby, budget!!

  • karen says:

    Great post as usual Maria. Loved reading it, in fact, not sure why, but I laughed out loud with Mary-Illinois comment of “I don’t allow my husband on it” I found it so funny, perhaps because I would like to do that with the hubby and the kids, lol (yes, I know it’s their home too so I don’t).

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