How to Clean a Suede Couch

Cleaning Natural and Faux Suede Materials Safely

Brown suede couch in living room

Katsia Jazwinska / Unsplash

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hr
  • Total Time: 10 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Suede—both natural and microfiber, or faux suede—is a popular couch material. And cleaning a suede couch is a fairly straightforward process.

Natural suede is a delicate, porous material and microfiber is more of a workhorse fabric, but you can use some of the same cleaning and stain removal ingredients on both, but in different ways. For example, you can easily clean your couch and get stains out of a suede or faux suede sofa using household items, such as vinegar, baking soda, or liquid dish detergent.

Here's what you need to know about cleaning both natural suede and microfiber.

How Often to Clean a Suede Couch

Spills and stains should be treated promptly, and both types of suede should be vacuumed at least monthly to remove dust and dirt. Plus, a thorough cleaning twice a year will keep your couch looking great.

Before You Begin

If you aren't sure whether you have a natural suede couch made from brushed animal hide or a synthetic 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.

To determine which type of suede you have, look for the attached care tag on your couch. 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, including 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 cloths
  • Sponge
  • Bowl

Materials

  • Baby powder or cornstarch
  • Commercial glue remover (like Goo Gone)
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • 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.

    One of the best things to clean suede with is white vinegar. Use it as a natural home remedy to remove a stain from real suede. Mix a few drops of vinegar and warm water together and sponge lightly onto the stain. Continue dabbing the stain until it is removed. Do not wet the sponge too much. Dab it dry with a clean cloth.

    Baking soda is another way to clean suede furniture naturally because it removes stains on real suede and it will not harm the material. Mix a pinch of baking soda and a few drops of water in a bowl to make a paste. Add a drop of gentle dish detergent if you need a little more help to remove the stain. Dab the paste on with a very lightly dampened sponge. Work on the stain by dabbing, then dry the area with a clean cloth.

  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. So be sure to check your care tag. Both types of microfiber suede should be vacuumed weekly to remove loose soil, have stains treated promptly, and be 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 4 cups of warm water to a bucket or large bowl. Add 1/4 cup dishwashing liquid. For additional cleaning power, add in a 1/2 cup or 1 cup of white vinegar. 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.

    For stubborn stains, treat with a paste of baking soda and water. Dab the paste onto the stain with a sponge or cloth and rub in a circular motion to remove the stain. Rinse well.

  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 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.

FAQ
  • Are suede couches easy to clean?

    Yes, both natural suede and faux suede couches are easy to clean, provided you take care of the fabric properly. Natural suede requires a bit more maintenance in terms of frequent vacuuming and spot cleaning to make sure dirt does not become ground into the fibers, which is especially important if you have pets that lounge on the furniture.

  • Does water ruin a suede couch?

    Water can ruin the natural hairy fibers of a natural suede couch. Moisture may also ruin a faux suede couch by leaving water stains, while other microfiber sofas repel water. It depends on the code or type of microfiber fabric you have.

  • Can you steam-clean a suede couch?

    Steam cleaning may work well on both natural and faux suede sofas. That's because the steam provides just the right amount of dampness, but not too much moisture, which may ruin the material. Steam cleaning can also remove stains and odors from suede upholstery. If you don't feel comfortable using your own steam cleaner, call in the pros.