How NOT to Wash Your Cushions

Tuesday November 12, 2013

cushions on Serendipity

On this boat, neither of us claim to be experts on anything, although it has been mentioned recently that Matt is an Encyclopedia on all boats and every one of their specs (from too much time spent on Yacht World!!), so for simple things we’re  of the ‘try and see’ variety, and if something works for us once, we don’t find a need to change it.  Such is our excuse for how we’ve just tried to clean our settee cushions.  I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post how filthy they’ve been getting, our dirty and sweaty bodies lounging against them day in and day out.

From the time we left up until now we’ve only done spot cleaning in areas that have had noticeable stains,  usually where part of my dinner will roll first onto my lap and then on to the cushion, where upon the Woolite fabric cleaner is immediately exhumed from the depths under our sink and the spot is quickly removed.  I swear, that stuff is magic.  But lately we’ve  been looking at our cushions and realizing they need a lot more than just spot cleaning.  They need about 15 months worth of removal of our day to day living on them.

So, we decided to drag them out onto the docks and spray them down with a hose before scrubbing with some soapy water (from laundry detergent, not dish soap).  I know you might be thinking to yourself, ‘Why soak the whole cushion?, It’s never going to dry!’.  We assumed this would be fine because looong ago when we were still land lubbers and our dog used one of our settee cushions as a piddle pad during a particularly rough ride on Lake Michigan (it soaked through all four inches of foam and left a puddle underneath), we had no other option at the time that to take the now urine soaked cushion out on deck and throw buckets and buckets of fresh water on it along with whatever cleaning products we could find.  It sat up on deck for another two to three hours, and by the time we slid back up to our mooring ball, guess what?  It was completely dry.

So as I popped my head out of companionway present day, and looked at the hot sun above us, I figured, “Nice, this things will be washed and dry before dinner!”.  I hooked the hose up to the fresh water spout, hosed each cushion thoroughly down, and got to work scrubbing any stains that I could see.  Stains that were quite apparent while they were sitting in our salon, but seemed to disappear as soon as the cushion was wet.  I hate when that happens.  Each cushion received about thirty minutes of scrubbing and was then soaked one more time with the hose.  To help the drying process out a bit we folded the cushions in half and put our full weight on to them, letting extra water trickle through the dock below us.  Then for added purging I hopped on each cushion as if it were a trampoline, almost sending myself off the dock and into the river water below.

Sweeping my nose across the finished product I smelled the freshness and was quite proud of myself for finally tackling a project that sorely needed to be done for months now.  All that was left to do was leave them in the sun, and along with the afternoon breezes that wafted through, wait for nature to do it’s part.  I wish it had been that easy.

Going back to inspect the cushions just as the sun was flickering through the lower branches of the trees, we noticed they were still damp.  ‘Ok’, we thought, ‘Guatemala is a little more humid than Michigan, I guess they’ll need overnight to try’.  So we propped them up on the inside of the ranchito, away from the regular storms that pass through at night, and figured that with a few extra hours of sun in the morning, we’d be back relaxing in them by lunch the next day.  Only, that was a no-go as well.  We checked on them every few hours the next day, and not only were they not fully drying, but now they were beginning to smell moldy.  I wanted to fix it with some more sun and maybe a little Fabreeze.  Matt thought they were too far past that and needed another washing.  His argument won out.

Once again the cushions were brought on the dock, hosed down, soaped up, and really really squeezed dry.  They have now been ‘drying’ on the docks and in the ranchito for three days.  I don’t even know what do do anymore.  The things won’t air out.  We tried taking them in last night as we foolishly thought they had finally dried out, although, still smell a little moldy, only to find that after a few hours of sitting on them, little wet spots had risen to the top leaving our butts and legs damp.  We’ll just continue to leave them outside every day and pull them in at night until we’re satisfied that they’re ok again.  Next time, I think we’ll stick to Woolite-ing the hell out of them.

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6 thoughts on “How NOT to Wash Your Cushions

  1. Can you take the covers off and dry them separately? Also, if the covers come off, try putting one in a pillow case and twirling it around your head to use centrifugal force to drive water out (do this ashore and not on the dock just in case it slips out of your hands . . . no, you don’t want to know how I know that). Good luck!

    Oh — one more idea. If you have a Shop Vac or something similar where you can hook up the hose to the exhaust, you might try using it as sort of a hair dryer on steroids to force air over the cushions (assuming you have some shore power).

  2. So did they finally dry? Your post says November so I wasn’t sure if your cushions are still outside :) Does anyone around you have a dehumidifier you could borrow? We’ve had to dry a few thing a that way when the laundry is still a little wet and the sun has gone down.
    -Jody, s/v Mary Christine

  3. Carolyn, it’s possible to take the covers off and wash them separately, but since they’re fastened in with buttons that are sewn from one side right through the foam to the other, it doesn’t make it exactly easy. Although, after this washing disaster, that might actually be the easier way next time, haha. Good idea about the pillow case, I’ll have to remember that with other items!

    Jody, they did finally dry, but it took about two weeks. Plus, not long after we washed them we were plagued with rainy days in Guatemala so it wasn’t the best weather to put them out in. We honestly still stick them out on deck sometimes now just to help with the smell, …. freshen them up a little, haha. Ugh, what a nightmare.

  4. Oh no! I actually learned about Woolite from you guys! Remember that time I spilled wine on your settee (she says with a sheepish grin)? How is the actually padding in your cushions holding up? Ours are getting pretty flat and we’re wondering if we need to just replace them now. I hope your cushions have dried out by now. Oh and Happy New Year you two!
    xx
    Tasha

  5. Good luck with all that ! I was gonna suggest oxy clean. That stuff works good on fabrics to get normal wear in tear grime out. I used it on Linds purse.

    I hope you had a good Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!

  6. Korey, I hadn’t thought of Oxy Clean, but that might be a good idea. We’ll have to pick some up at a Walmart or Target when we’re back in the States. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!

    Tasha, ha, I do remember that night! Good thing for you we had Woolite, or you might have been in big trouble. ;) j/k The padding on our cushions is holding up pretty well, but it was also built incredibly thick, about 5″ to start I think. Over the years it’s probably shrunk down to 4″ now, but nothing that needs to be replaced. I don’t think anyone ever spent much time in the salon of this boat before we bought it, so we’re basically the first ones ‘living’ on it. Happy New Year to you and Ryan as well!!

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