Classic suede is a type of leather that’s made from the soft underside of animal skin. (Whereas firm, smooth leather is the top side). Usually suede is made from lambskin, but it can be made from deer pelts, cowhide, or another animal; a quality suede product will specify the source on its tag.
Nowadays, most “suede” home furnishings are made from a synthetic fabric (usually polyester) that mimics the real thing for a fraction of the price. On top of its affordability, faux suede is far more durable than animal suede, and easier to maintain.
Microsuede (or ultrasuede) is a lightweight faux suede made from ultra-soft microfibers; compared to common textile fibers, microfibers are ⅓ the diameter of cotton, ½ that of fine wool, and 100 times finer than human hair. These tiny fibers are bonded (not woven) together, creating a dense, water-resistant fabric that is stain and spill-resistant. Aside from being ridiculously comfortable, microsuede is water resistant, stain-proof, easy to clean, and ideal for homes with children or pets.
How Often Should You Clean Suede?
For heavily-used pieces like couches and chairs, freshening up your suede should be a part of your weekly cleaning routine. First, use a handheld vacuum or brush to remove any crumbs or debris, then give it a gentle wipe with a barely damp towel, which will remove surface dirt and dust without getting the material wet.
For suede curtains, give them a good shake once a week to remove dust. Deep cleaning only needs to be done once a year, and specific cleaning instructions should be printed on the manufacturers tag. Many suede curtains can be deep cleaned using a handheld steam cleaner, but if you have set-in stains or are worried about damaging them, hire the services of an in-home cleaning professional, or bring to your local dry cleaner.
Things You'll Need
- Absorbent cloth or paper towels
- Professional suede cleaner
- Vinegar (for water-based stains)
- Cornstarch (for oil-based stains)
- Soft brush
- Pencil eraser
Step One: Blot the Spot
Using gentle pressure, blot the spill with cloth or paper towels until all the liquid is gone. Take care not to rub or scrub, as that can push the stain into the suede and damage its fibers.
Step Two: If the Spill Was Water-Based, Use Vinegar
For plain water spills, simply let the area air dry.
For water-based liquids (like beverages), gently wipe the area with a cloth that’s been lightly dampened with one-to-one solution of water and vinegar, and allow it to air dry.
Use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for this process.
For strong or sugary stains (like wine or soda), use a small amount of professional suede cleaner on the area, following the manufacturer's directions.
Step Three: If the Spill Was Oil-Based, Try Cornstarch
For spills from snack foods, cosmetics, lotions, or anything else that leaves an oily residue, cover the stain with cornstarch and let sit for 10 minutes to absorb the oil. Remove the cornstarch using either a vacuum, or a soft brush and dustpan. If the oil hasn’t been fully absorbed, sprinkle on more cornstarch and repeat.
After removing the cornstarch, lightly dampen a cloth with a one-to-one solution of water and vinegar, and gently wipe the area clean. If a visible stain remains, treat it with professional suede cleaner, following the manufacturer's directions.
Step Four: Fluff the Suede
Once the treated spot has fully dried, gently run a soft brush over the area to refluff the suede until it matches the rest of the fabric.
Tips to Keep Your Suede Stain-Free
Believe it or not, many stains can be removed from suede with nothing but a bit of extra-gentle elbow grease. First, try using a soft toothbrush on the spot, working in light, circular motions. If it remains stubborn, try rubbing it away with a pencil eraser.
If rubbing doesn’t do the trick, pour a scant amount of white or apple cider vinegar directly on the stain, just enough to dampen. Let the vinegar fully air dry; if there’s a strong odor left behind, give the suede a light wipe down with a damp cloth, then rub a light brush over the spot to even out the nap.
For stains that no brush, eraser, or vinegar can erase, use a professional suede cleaner, following the manufacturer’s directions.
Even if you’re obsessively careful about avoiding spills and stains on your suede furnishings, accidents do happen, and because liquids are suede’s worst enemy, the best offense against stains is a good defense. Before you purchase any suede home furnishings, check to see if they’ve been treated with water- and stain-repellent by the manufacturer. If not, buy a waterproofing fabric or furniture guard and apply it yourself post-haste. With a layer of protection against the accidents and mishaps of daily life, suede is remarkably easy to clean.
Palacios-Mateo, Cristina, et al. “Analysis of the Polyester Clothing Value Chain to Identify Key Intervention Points for Sustainability.” Environmental Sciences Europe, vol. 33, no. 1, Dec. 2021, p. 2. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.1186/s12302-020-00447-x