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Buying furniture is like buying shoes: What feels right for 30 seconds in the store often becomes an uncomfortable mistake once you get it home. A couch is a fundamental part of the living space—it’s where we relax, read, watch TV, even eat dinner. There’s nothing more comforting than being able to drop into a comfortable couch that envelopes you and supports you through whatever activity you’ve got cued up.

On the opposite end of that spectrum is a hell couch that hurts your back, slowly slides you onto the floor, or makes you feel like you’re sitting on a burlap sack. A bad couch can bring down the rest of your life, but couches tend to be expensive, bulky purchases that can be difficult to return or replace. If you’re living with an uncomfortable couch, don’t despair: There are several things you can do to transform a terrible couch into a comfortable one.

Problem: Scratchy fabric

Upholstery fabric can be very difficult to evaluate in a showroom—and if you’re shopping online, it’s impossible. You can look for data like rub counts, but spending a few seconds touching the fabric in the store will never be the same as actually sitting on it regularly for weeks and months. And you can literally be allergic to the upholstery of your furniture—“sofa dermatitis” is a thing, and symptoms won’t always show after a very brief encounter.

Solution: If your couch makes you itchy, is unpleasant to the touch, or causes allergic reactions, a simple couch cover can solve the problem pretty economically. Properly applied, a couch cover will completely hide the offending fabric, and you can probably find one that mimics the original color pretty closely. If you don’t have any extra cash to throw around on fancy covers, a blanket or two draped over the couch and pushed neatly into the cushions will get the job done.

Problem: Too hard or soft

Determining whether a couch is too hard or too soft takes time. Couches that feel like dreamy clouds in a store can become uncomfortably mushy over longer periods of time, and a super hard couch might feel supportive at first but take a toll on your spine over the long haul.

Solution: The most comprehensive approach would be to swap out the foam cushions inside the covers (assuming you can easily unzip the covers and remove the foam). Pull out the cushions and measure them, then either order some replacement foam and cut new cushions yourself or visit a company that will cut custom cushions for you. Once you have your replacements, just push them into the covers, re-zip, and replace.

If that’s more of a project than you want, there are some easier strategies to try:

  • For couches that are too hard, you can try a little patience, rotating the cushions every few days. Over time, flipping them around may soften them up evenly, getting rid of that uncomfortable stiffness. You can also try layering a thick blanket on top of the seat cushions, and soften the back with some throw pillows or another thick blanket.

  • For a couch that’s too soft, you can try putting a thin layer of firm foam on top of the existing cushion; this may give you just enough support.

Problem: Not deep enough

You get your new couch home and discover that sitting on it forces you to lean forward slightly because it’s not deep enough to lean back comfortably. You’re doomed to a life of literally leaning in to every TV show you watch.

Solution: You can try a few things to adjust the experience:

  • Unzip the back cushions and investigate the foam cushion. If it’s layers of separate pieces, try removing one layer at a time until you reach the desired depth. Alternatively, replace the foam entirely with a thinner batch. Or, if you’re desperate, remove the back cushions entirely and use some larger throw pillows instead.

  • Add some footstools or ottomans. These can act as extensions of the couch, letting you stretch out more even if the seat of the couch is a little narrow. Pro tip bonus: Buy a storage ottoman and deal with your clutter at the same time.

Problem: Sagging or sliding cushions

Sometimes a couch is stealthily uncomfortable. Brand new, it feels great, and it remains that way for a while. Slowly, however, the cushions slide, folding you in half in unnoticeable increments, or the whole seat starts to sag until climbing out of your couch doubles as a core workout.

Solution: These are pretty common problems with couches, and modern capitalism has jumped into the fray. For sagging cushions, a product like a SagsAway insert can help. Placed inside the cushion cover, this stiff foam insert can bring your cushions back to firm, supportive life. If your seat cushion is one long piece or you can’t or don’t want to open them up, you can also purchase products designed to slide under the cushions that can offer the same stiffening effect—in fact, a piece of scrap plywood cut to size can have a similar impact.

For cushions that seem to enjoy slowly disgorging you onto the floor, some nonslip padding under your cushions can provide enough friction to hold them in place (if you have rug pads lying around, those will work just as well). If that’s not sufficient, some hook-and-loop (aka Velcro) adhesive tape can hold your cushions in place very effectively.

Problem: Wrong height

If you feel like you can never get comfortable on your couch but can’t figure out why, it’s probably the wrong height. We often don’t think about height when picking out a couch, and many modern designs have embraced a low-to-the-floor, sleek profile that is not always the most comfortable.

Solution: A simple, cheap solution is to pick up some furniture risers and raise your couch a few inches. Make sure you purchase adjustable risers that can go higher or lower so you can experiment with different heights to see at what level you’re most comfortable.

If the couch seems too tall, you can remove the legs and place the couch directly on the floor (be cognizant of staples or other metal parts on the bottom of the couch that might scratch your floors—placing a mat of some sort underneath is advisable). You can also replace the legs with shorter versions if you can find some that match your furniture’s style. If the legs won’t come off, you could consider sawing down wooden legs, but that could impact future use of the couch and you’ll only get one chance to guess the right height, so proceed with caution.

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