How to: Washing and Re-tufting Boat Cusions

The salon cushions on Gimme Shelter are in pretty good shape, but after three years of dog butts on them, they needed a good washing.


The problem is that they have all of these tufted buttons, and they are threaded straight through the foam on both sides.  I finally bit the bullet and cut them all off.  On the back side they had these horrible metal pieces that had rusted and stained the fabric.


First thing I did was pull these out, and cut them off.  I had to put all my weight on the cushion to create enough slack.


Once you cut them loose, make sure to put the buttons in a safe place.  Unless you have scrap material to match your upholstery, there’s no way to make new matching buttons.

After I had removed all of the buttons I took the covers off and put them through the washing machine.  I used the cold cycle and then hung them to dry to avoid any shrinking. I then took the foam and sprayed it down with Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner, and left them in the sun.


After putting the covers back on (this was more difficult than you’d expect, I broke a sweat), the real fun began.  Although they looked pretty ok without the buttons, we buckled down and started the re-tufting.


First thing you need is a huge needle.  I got mine at Joann’s Fabric in the upholstery section.  Also on Amazon.  Needle


The second thing you need is some upholstery thread (or any kind of heavy weight thread).  It doesn’t need to be UV resistant, but I went ahead and used my UV-92 from Sailrite as I already had a huge spool of it.

For each button you will need a length of thread about two feet long. You can get away with smaller, but it’s a lot easier to just use more. Pull the thread through the needle, but don’t tie any knots.


Sorry for the goofy face.

If you don’t already have your button spots marked, this would be the time to do it.  There are several different patterns to choose from, but the main ones used are the star pattern I have or the single lines. The upside of having rust stains on my cushions is that it left me a nice guide as to where my tufts should be, so I just had to stick the needle through the back and try very hard to hit the correct spot in the front. Sometimes it took a  couple tries to get it straight. 12499592_10101671285547472_1258353963_o

Make sure that you don’t lose the end of the thread in the cushion when you poke it through.


On the other side, pass the thread through the button, then push the needle back through the center of your hole. If you didn’t get the thread exactly in the right spot, don’t worry.  It’s just important that you get it through on the way back. Then you can kind of arrange the button where you want it before you pull it tight.


When you have the thread back through, pull it tight.


Make sure your button is where you want it on the other side…and then tie it in a knot. You could also put it through a plastic button on the back if you like, although I don’t find it makes any difference.


And…tada!  New clean upholstery. We’ll see how many years they can go before I do all of that again!  We’re definitely going to scotch guard them while they’re clean!







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