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How to Clean a Suede Couch

Collage of illustrations on how to clean a suede couch.

Home decorators are drawn to a suede couch’s super luxe look and feel. Suede couches are upholstered in different tones and shades of the soft hide. The natural skin of mostly cows, even buffalo, is attractive and makes a statement as seating in a living room, a studio, or a multimedia room. How to keep a suede couch clean is often a challenge.

Natural hide suede couches must be spot-cleaned promptly. Use a clean cotton cloth to immediately dab up spills on a suede couch. Avoid getting stains settling in. You can use white vinegar as a first-aid stain lift. Keep suede couches dust-free and vacuum suede regularly.

Leather and suede have been used for furnishing for over 7000 years. The upper-side leather hide is different from the suede underside. It’s a personal choice which side of the large animal hide a home designer chooses. The suede side (or underneath) is softer than the leather upper, which is also slicker for some designers.

How to Clean a Suede Couch - Step 2: Use Clean White Cloth to Blot Away the Liquid

How to Clean a Suede Couch


  • None


  • Scrubbing Brush
  • Soft Suede Brush
  • Soft White Cloth

Cleaning Liquids

  • Suede Cleaner
  • Vinegar


Step 1: Suede Cleaner, Vinegar, Cloth, and Brush

How to Clean a Suede Couch - Step 1: Suede Cleaner, Vinegar, Cloth, and Brush

A suede couch is a luxury upholstery choice that demands special care. You know how to treat and look after your suede couch.

Family-operated tanneries are found worldwide, where skins are treated for various furnishings. The preparation of suede hides is popular couch upholstery. Some tanneries use concentrated tannins from trees, bark, and fruits to soften suede and leather. And many skins get colored in the tanning process.

Using the skins of slaughtered large animals for upholstery is one of the decorator's most luxurious finishes for couches. The skins of young cattle are preferred as the young hides are blemish and disease-free. The tanning process of rawhide is a specialized trade to stabilize the proteins (mainly collagen) in the hides.

The tanning processes happen in large drums where the skins are submerged in specialized tanning fluids. These are like giant washing machines to soak the skins thoroughly in tanning liquor. During the basification process, the tanning material is fixed to the leather. Some tanners also apply layers of oiling to the skins.

Skins throughout the ages also have been made waterproofed with layers of animal fat rubbed onto the skins. But in the tannery stage, the stabilizing processes in which hides are treated (softened) involve three levels:

  • Thermal processes
  • Chemical soaking in lime and caustic soda solutions to remove the hide hairs
  • Microbiological processing to stabilize the skins

Raw and tanned hides differ from each other. You can tell the raw hides apart from the tanned ones. And remember that the tannery process is to stop coats from drying out. The reason why you have to do the tannery process is to keep the hides flexible.

Dried-out hides are inflexible. The tanned skins dry to a flexible material; the skin doesn't rot once tanned and wet. These dry skins aren't wet, as tanneries don't want the skins to putrefy.

With this brief overview of what happens during the tanning process, it's time to inspect your suede couch. You might have a newly acquired suede couch, in which case you'd like to keep it in a near-as-new state. Or you might have had the suede couch for a while and want to refresh and clean the couch.

The best way to tackle an accumulation of stains and soiling is to make sure you have domestic soft white vinegar. You must use a clean white cotton cloth and a scrubbing brush.

You can also use a commercial suede cleaner. These suede cleaning liquids, the fabric, and a brush are the best items you'll need to clean suede. This is the same for faux suedes (for some novices, it is quite a learning curve to tell natural and fake suede apart).

Step 2: Use Clean White Cloth to Blot Away the Liquid

How to Clean a Suede Couch - Step 2: Use Clean White Cloth to Blot Away the Liquid

Always have a soft white cotton cloth nearby when you see a spill. The reason for a white cloth is that you don’t want dyes from a colored material that can stain the suede at a damp spot. You have to act quickly to soak up liquid on a suede coach. Make sure the soft fabric is hyper-absorbent. You can use the absorbent cloth to dirt blot up the spill.

A dense 100% cotton cloth is best to dry up the fluid. You must carefully dab the fabric on the spot. Do this repeatedly to soak up all the liquid.

The process is the same for natural suede (delicate and porous cowhide), and microfibers are used instead of raw hide. You must make sure that you know that your couch is genuine suede or synthetic suede. A good way to tell the natural suede from faux suede is by the smell of raw hide or leather, and:

  • Natural hide or skin on the underside is napped, and the distinctive texture of suede
  • Microfibers are polyester and nylon types that imitate genuine suede

You need to know if you're working with natural or faux suede. Especially when cleaning faux suede, you need to distinguish the different kinds of artificial suede. The imitation suedes of faux suedes are tightly woven. The microfibers are less porous than natural suede.

Synthetic suede fibers have different attributes:

  • Fibers that can be cleaned with water-based cleaning solvents
  • Fibers that can be dry-cleaned only and need water-free cleaning
  • Fibers that can be cleaned with water-based or solvent-based products
  • Fibers that can't be cleaned – only vacuumed – as home-cleaning can cause stains

Step 3: Spot Spray Suede Cleaner on Stain

How to Clean a Suede Couch - Step 3: Spot Spray Suede Cleaner on Stain

Natural suede is a challenging upholstery to maintain, putting people off. But the natural beauty attracts home décor specialists, especially interior designers keen on minimalist living and leisure designs. A suede couch is an attractive accent piece.  

Keep your suede couch dust free. There are some tips, though, and one of the most important is that you must regularly vacuum your suede couch. More than any other furniture piece, a suede couch must be free from grub and dust. This means you must regularly clean your suede couch – vacuum along each fold and seam, under the cushions, and along the zips.

Natural suede is a sensitive upholstery choice. If you are spot cleaning, you must try a suede cleaner on a non-conspicuous spot. You have to ensure that the cleaner doesn't cause damage. In fact, some professionals actually say they regularly freshen up a suede couch with a brush and never use water, shampooing, or steam-cleaning.

Let it stay on for at least 20 minutes when testing a spot spray cleaner. You need to ensure that the cleaner doesn't damage the suede. In fact, you can use white distilled vinegar. Dilute the vinegar in water (ratio 1:3) and spot test. Pour into a spray bottle. Again, test this in an area that’s not visible to see how the mixture reacts with the suede.

When spot cleaning using the suede cleaner or the vinegar dilution, make sure you don't drench the spot you want to remove. You must use a soft scrubbing brush and gentle movements to clear the residue. And then, use a cotton cloth to dab the spot dry. Make sure the spot is removed.

Step 4: Blotting Repeatedly Lifts the Stain

How to Clean a Suede Couch - Step 4: Blotting Repeatedly Lifts the Stain

Suede as the fabric is sensitive to water and any other liquid spills. You can ruin your suede couch if you don't act promptly. There’s always the likelihood that you’ll spill food or a drink on your suede couch. If this does happen, you’ll have to act fast, though, to remove stains. Suede is easily ruined by moisture and liquids.  

The best techniques to deal with spills are:

  • Use a dense white cloth and blot the spot to soak up spills
  • You can also treat stains

Make sure you soak up all the moisture. You have to soak up as much of the liquid as you can. You want to get rid of all stains and spills. You can apply a stain treatment immediately too. Leave the stain treatment on for a few minutes, and then you have to remove this by dabbing the spot dry. You can also use a hair dryer to dry the spot once patted dry.

Constantly refresh your suede couch daily, especially during a spill. There are also times when you have to treat old stains. Some people have set out to remove stains that are decades old. It's not advisable to leave stains that long.

Some say the best way to remove old stains is by using an eraser. It will help if you rub the stain out, and you must rub it carefully. You don't want to damage the strain. And when the stain is out, you can use a brush (see below) to freshen up your suede couch.

When you are working with suede, ensure you don't cause damage. All stains, however, are challenging to remove. Sometimes there are ink and crayon marks. You might have to consult a professional for some of these marks.

Step 5: Gently Brush Suede to Blend

How to Clean a Suede Couch - Step 5: Gently Brush Suede to Blend

Suede is a luxury fabric. You know, one is attracted to the suede’s soft surface, the comforting feeling of sitting on suede – the inside of a large animal hide seems warmer than the outside leather. And you know that feeling that you can't resist, and invariably, you start to stroke a suede couch. Some people are even addicted to the smell of suede.

The suede is made of leather and is a durable material. Suede is as strong and tough as thick leather and can last several years. Suede’s uniqueness as upholstery is also the skin’s soft pile that can be brushed.

That's also why you want to know how to clean a suede couch. To refresh a couch, brush the suede's relatively short pile after removing a stain or dabbing up moisture.

As mentioned before, there are plush microfibers that look like suede. Faux suedes are often preferred as these materials are even more durable and cope better with liquids and stains. Once you get into the habit of caring for your suede couch, nothing will stop you from being attentive and keeping your couch clean and refreshed.

But to really get your suede couch refreshed, you have to get in the habit of brushing the suede hide. You must use a suede brush. You can press harder on the areas where stains have been removed. It would help if you gently worked in a circular motion to keep the suede intact.

And, for suede couches, it's recommended that you regularly brush your couch, especially if you have animals (cats and dogs) that come into the house and sit on the couch. Regular wear and tear on your suede sofa can be refreshed with frequent brushing.

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