When I was in college, I borrowed my mom's minivan for part of a semester when my own car wasn't reliable enough to make the eight hour trip from my parents driveway to the dorm room anymore. And in return for the exceptional generosity of my mom, I spilled a cup of curdled, milky hot chocolate all over the floorboard of her car.
I had never smelled anything so awful in my entire life. And while I attempted to clean it up and rid the car of that horrible scent, nothing seemed to work. I took it to professionals, tried my own concoctions of fragrant "fresheners", drove around with the windows down in the midst of the winter chill - to no avail. I think my mom eventually had to sell the car.
So, today when my son sheepishly peeked his head around the corner and shared that he'd had a little "spill", I was horrified to see that he'd overturned his entire bottle of chocolate milk onto the cushion of my new sofa. My mind recalled the odor of that minivan so many years before, and I just knew that I needed to take care of this mess fast (or we'd have to stick a "For Sale" sign in the front yard).
After a few minutes of trying to soak up the spill with a dish towel, a bottle of stain spray, and a few prayers (there was no time to test an inconspicuous spot for color-fastness), I decided that I needed to be a bit more aggressive. I removed the cushion from the couch, then removed the cover from the cushion. Unable to find ANY paperwork on the washing/cleaning instructions for the fabric, I just threw the cover into the washing machine, turned every knob to "gentle" and hoped for the best.
This could have been a gigantic mistake, as I considered all the horrible things my washing machine might do to my couch cushion's cover, but I was committed. When the washer completed it's cycle, I bravely tossed the wet fabric into the dryer (again, everything set to "gentle"). At the sound of the buzzer, I nervously made my way to the laundry room, wondering what might be in store (loss of color, change of shape, shrinkage, you name it).
Tonight, I am happy to report that I'm not crying over the spilled chocolate milk! That couch cushion looks GREAT; so nice and clean, and it zipped right back into place, no problems. So... I'm thinking of throwing all the cushion covers in the wash tomorrow. And making my kid some clothes out of this fabric!