How to Clean a Suede Couch

Brown suede couch in living room

Katsia Jazwinska / Unsplash

Overview
  • Working Time: 60 mins
  • Total Time: 10 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

A couch is one of the most used—and abused—pieces of furniture in our homes. It is a playground, snack site, and bed that is subjected to all the spills and stains created by humans and pets. One of the most coveted coverings for a sofa is the soft, supple nature of natural suede. Because natural suede is expensive, companies have introduced the less expensive man-made microfiber suede.

How Often to Clean a Suede Couch

No matter which type of suede is covering your couch, it will eventually need to be cleaned. Spills and stains should be treated promptly and both types of suede should be vacuumed at least monthly to remove dust and loose soil. A thorough cleaning twice a year will keep them looking great.

Before You Begin

If you are not sure whether you have a natural suede couch made from brushed animal hide or a microfiber suede couch, it is vital to make that determination before you begin cleaning.

  • Natural suede is animal leather that has a napped or fuzzy finish. It is a thin, porous dyed or undyed leather and you can see the variations in the hide grain.
  • Microfiber suede is created from polyester and nylon fibers that are woven and cut to mimic the soft, plush feel of natural suede. Thanks to the tightly woven fibers, microfiber suede is more resistant to dust, dirt, and stains than natural suede.

If you cannot determine which type of suede you have, look for the attached care tag that is required for all furniture sold in the United States. This will guide you on how to clean your suede.

  • Code W: The fabric can be cleaned with water-based cleaning solvents.
  • Code S: The fabric requires the use of a dry cleaning or water-free solvent to remove stains and soils. The use of these chemicals requires a well-ventilated room and no open flames like fireplaces or candles.
  • Code W-S: The fabric can be cleaned with either water-based or solvent-based products.
  • Code X: When you see the "X" avoid any type of cleaning agent. These fabrics should only be cleaned by vacuuming or by a professional. Any type of home cleaning product can cause staining and shrinking.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Vacuum with crevice and upholstery attachment
  • Suede brush
  • Bucket
  • Whisk
  • Spray bottle
  • Scrub brush with soft nylon bristles
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Sponge

Materials

  • Baby powder or cornstarch
  • Commercial glue remover (like Goo Gone)
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol

Instructions

How to Clean a Natural Suede Couch

  1. Vacuum Away Loose Soil

    Weekly vacuuming will remove dust and soil that can damage the suede. Use the upholstery brush attachment and the crevice tool to reach every surface.

  2. Treat Stains

    Spills and stains should be treated immediately following the recommended guidelines. Cornstarch is an excellent oil absorber, commercial glue removers can take care of sticky residue, and damp spills should be blotted and allowed to slowly dry. A suede brush will help restore the finish after stain removal.

  3. Call a Professional

    When the couch needs a thorough cleaning, it's time to call a professional upholstery cleaner. They have been trained on how to clean natural suede to prevent watermarks and shrinkage.

How to Clean a Microfiber Suede Couch

Due to manufacturing differences, some microfiber couches can be cleaned with water-based cleaners while others require a solvent-based cleaner. Couches with a W or W-S care tag can be cleaned with soap and water. Water will stain the couches with a S care tag so they must be cleaned with rubbing alcohol.

Both types of microfiber suede should be vacuumed weekly to remove loose soil, have stains treated promptly, and thoroughly cleaned at least twice a year.

How to Clean Microfiber Suede with Soap and Water

  1. Get Rid of Loose Soil

    Use a vacuum with an upholstery attachment to remove any loose soil on the surface of the microfiber.

  2. Create the Cleaning Solutions

    Add four cups of warm water in a bucket or large bowl. Add one-fourth cup dishwashing liquid. Use a whisk or handheld mixer to create lots of soapy suds. Fill a second bucket with plain water.

  3. Scrub with Suds

    Dip a scrub brush in just the soap suds (not the water). Start at the top of a cushion or the couch back or arms to prevent dripping dirty suds onto already cleaned areas. Evenly spread the suds and scrub well.

    Rinse the brush frequently in clean water and make sure it is as dry as possible as you repeat the steps with fresh soap suds. Work on only one small area at a time.

  4. Rinse Away the Suds

    Once an area has been cleaned, dampen a microfiber cleaning cloth with plain water and wipe away the suds. Move to the next area and repeat the suds, scrub, and rinse steps.

  5. Air-Dry and Vacuum

    Allow the fabric to air-dry completely. Use a vacuum upholstery brush to fluff the fibers.

How to Clean Microfiber Suede with Isopropyl Alcohol

  1. Vacuum and Prepare Alcohol

    Thoroughly vacuum the couch to remove loose soil. Pour the isopropyl alcohol into a spray bottle. Fill a small bucket with cool water.

  2. Spritz and Scrub

    Starting at the top of a cushion or section, lightly spritz the fabric with the alcohol. While the fabric is still damp (the alcohol will evaporate quickly) scrub the fabric with a sponge.

    Rinse the sponge out in plain water frequently. Wring well to prevent over saturating the fabric with water.

  3. Dry and Vacuum Again

    Allow the couch to air-dry. When it is dry, vacuum with an upholstery brush to lift any matted fibers.