Couch covers can be a bit of a bother to clean in general, but it’s even more difficult when your couch is made of a delicate fabric like suede. Suede is a very soft fiber material that is easily damaged by water—the very thing you need in order to wash it! Whether you bought a suede sofa knowing how difficult it would be to keep it looking good or it came as a surprise, the result is the same: it can be really easy for your motivation to waver.
There are actually a number of ways to wash suede couch covers that won’t leave you feeling frustrated by the results or exhausted from the effort. Regular upkeep with a vacuum cleaner and duster as well as making sure to dab clean spills as soon as they happen is a great way to keep a suede sofa looking as fresh as possible between routine cleans.
If a stain forms, there are also a number of ways to tackle the problem areas without the need to wash the entire cover. These include using alcohol, vinegar, suede erasers, and baking soda. Depending on your couch and the instructions that come with it, you may even be able to put your suede covers on a cold gentle cycle in the washing machine.
In this article, we will cover a wide range of cleaning methods for suede couches for a variety of situations, as well as answer some commonly asked questions about just what you can and can’t do with your suede.
- What is a Suede Couch?
- Can You Wash Suede Couch Covers?
- How to Wash Suede Couch Covers Easily and Effectively
- How to Dry Suede Couch Covers
- Can You Put Suede Covers in the Washing Machine?
- Do You Wash Couch Cushion Covers inside out?
- Can You Put Suede Sofa Covers in the Dryer?
What is a Suede Couch?
Suede is made from animal hide, just like leather, but uses the underside of the animal skin rather than the tougher outside layer of skin like leather does. It is more pliable and softer to the touch than leather, and it has a natural nap. This cozy word refers to the fuzzy texture of suede which is caused by raised fibers. It is the nap that is the most susceptible to water damage as the fibers are not tightly bound and let water in very easily.
Suede is used for a variety of purposes, including couches and couch covers, but it was originally used to make gloves. Nowadays, alongside warm and comfy suede gloves, you will also find suede boots, jackets, hats, belts, rugs, and other kinds of furniture.
A suede couch will be softer and more flexible than a leather couch, and also won’t suffer from the weather-based problems leather does: being too cold in the cold and too sticky and uncomfortable when it’s warm.
Faux suede, or ‘micro suede’, on the other hand, is made out of polyester, and can also be found in various products, such as armchairs and other furniture. It looks very similar to suede, but there are some extreme differences between their strengths and weaknesses.
Most notably, polyester is known for being extremely water-resistant, as opposed to real suede which can suffer serious damage from water.
Micro suede is also less expensive and easier to maintain than real suede but doesn’t last as long. Real suede may stain and damage easily on the surface, but the hide itself will last a long time. Lastly, micro suede is vegan friendly, whereas real suede is, of course, not.
Can You Wash Suede Couch Covers?
The first thing you need to do when your suede couch needs a clean is check its labels or instruction manual. These should hold valuable information about what kinds of products and cleaning methods are recommended by the manufacturer.
It should also be noted that ignoring any recommendations from the manufacturer could lead to your warranty being voided. If you don’t have an instruction manual and the labels on your couch don’t provide much information, then you may be able to search for the manufacturer’s name and find more information that way.
A common piece of information you’ll get from the manufacturers is what kinds of substances you can and can’t use on that particular suede item. For instance, some products will be marked with a W for water-based detergent, and others will be marked with an S for solvent-based detergent.
Some will also be marked with a W/S to indicate that either type is fine. You are also likely to find out whether you can put your suede couch covers in the washing machine or not.
Can You Wash a Faux Suede Couch?
The same applies to your faux suede couch: the label holds all the answers. Your sofa may be able to handle water much better than real suede, but it should not be handled roughly and shouldn’t be subjected to too much heat, so you will need to consult manufacturer recommendations before putting a micro suede cover in the washing machine.
Using water, be it cold water or warm, to wash suede can be risky since it can be so easily damaged by water. When you accidentally spill something on your suede furniture it may seem like a good idea to blot it with a damp cloth, but this actually is not the best thing to do.
Instead, it would be better for your couch to dab the area with a cloth that has been dipped in white vinegar or alcohol. It is also good practice once the mess is cleaned up to dab the couch dry again with a dry cloth or some more paper towels. As a general rule, moisture of all types should be removed from your suede couch as soon as possible in order to maintain clean suede furniture.
In conclusion, yes, you can wash suede couches, both faux suede and real suede. In the next section, we’ll go through the different methods of washing suede in detail so you know exactly what materials you need to buy and what you need to do!
How to Wash Suede Couch Covers Easily and Effectively
If you want clean suede furniture, you’ll need to put in a little bit of effort. Fortunately, most of the cleaning methods are very approachable and easy to carry out. Choose your favorite from our options below!
Method 1 – Washing machine
It is likely that the manufacturers of suede couches will always recommend washing suede by hand rather than machine washing, but this doesn’t mean machine washing is completely off the table.
You will be able to machine wash your couch covers as long as you don’t do it often. We recommend washing suede in the washing machine once or twice a year at the most, as this shouldn’t damage your suede sofa. However, if you wash it in a washing machine significantly more often than that, you will prematurely wear the suede out!
A faux suede couch cover, on the other hand, can nearly always be washed in a washing machine. Its water resistance is what allows this to be possible, but there are other things that need to be considered which means you cannot just wash the faux suede on whatever cycle you like.
When washing faux suede or real suede couches, you should always choose a gentle cycle and set the washing machine to cold. Neither type of fabric reacts well to heat or being roughly handled.
You should also make sure to use the right kind of mild detergent, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The mild detergent should be marketed toward delicate fabrics.
Method 2 – Washing by hand
To wash sofa covers by hand, you will need a large bowl or bucket large enough to fit the covers in. You could also use your bathtub. You will also need warm water and some liquid dish soap or mild liquid detergent.
You will need to fill your container with enough warm water to submerge the covers and add about as much mild liquid detergent as you would to a full load in the washing machine. If you’re using liquid dish soap, the amount needed will depend on the amount of warm water you’re using, so add small amounts at a time and mix it into the water until the water has the desired amount of soapiness.
To hand-wash suede fabric, you should submerge it in the water and use your hands to gently knead the water and detergent into the fabric. You will need to do this for a significant amount of time (there’s a reason why scullery maids existed—hand washing clothes is enough work to constitute a full-time job!).
Depending on how dirty your covers are, you may want to change the water in your large bowl halfway through if it becomes too murky. After about half an hour, you can drain the soapy water and rinse your covers with clean water to remove any excess suds, soap, or mild detergent.
Before you dry the covers, you will need to remove the excess water, but you should do this as carefully as possible. Do not twist and wring the covers with as much strength as you can muster. Instead, be slow and gentle, and stop when the fabric stops dripping water easily. Use a dry cloth (paper towels or a soft cloth, ideally) to soak up any particularly wet patches.
Once the covers are no longer dripping wet, you can once again use a soft cloth or a clean bath towel to soak up some more excess water. If you wrap the covers in the towel and place it on the floor, the easiest way to apply pressure and allow the towel to soak up water is to stand on the covers and use your weight.
(Note that washing faux suede can always be done in the washing machine.)
Method 3 – General upkeep with a brush and a suede eraser
A suede brush and a suede eraser are products that can often be be bought together in a special ‘suede care’ pack. A suede brush can have various kinds of bristles, from nylon and boar hair to brass. For general cleaning and upkeep, you should use a soft scrub brush to gently rub away loose dirt and soils from your suede. Microfiber suede is especially easy to damage with a brush because the ‘fake’ suede is made up of multiple layers, and you could damage the top layer or cause peeling. Some brushes, such as this one, combat this issue by having multiple different kinds of bristles all in one.
If you need to tackle a tough stain on your suede or micro suede cover, you should use a suede brush that also has some brass bristles here's an example of what to look for). You will need to take care not to apply too much pressure so the stiff bristles can lift the stain without damaging the fabric.
Once you have given your couch a good brush with a suede brush, you may also want to vacuum it with the upholstery attachment, so you can remove any debris that has come loose but wasn’t fully removed.
Suede erasers have a similar job to a suede brush. They can help to remove dirt, grime, or scuff marks from your suede, and can be used with a little more pressure as they are made of a softer material and won’t hurt the suede as easily.
They are not designed for getting rid of stains, but they can help remove the top layers of some stains and it’s always a decent idea to try one out first to see what it can do with the stain in question. However, while suede brushes are made to brush the entirety of the suede or faux suede sofa, suede erasers are only used on problem sections of fabric that have a mark or dirty patch that you specifically need to tackle.
Method 4 – Home remedies
The first and most important thing to remember when removing stains from a suede or faux suede couch is that you must act quickly. It is always better to start cleaning straight away before the stain has time to dry and sink further into the fabric.
When you spill liquid onto a suede sofa, you should first use a clean cloth to blot up the liquid. Once the couch is dry, you can use a cleaning agent to remove the stain. Since suede is so vulnerable to water, you should always deal with the liquid before you try to clean suede and deal with the stain.
To clean suede couches that have been stained, one of the methods we recommend is using rubbing alcohol. Because suede fabric dislikes moisture so much, running alcohol is a great tool, since it evaporates so quickly.
A few drops of rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth should remove various kinds of stains. Rubbing the suede fabric in a circular motion can cause the suede to darken, so you should try to use a criss-cross motion. It can also be a good idea to use a spray bottle to apply the rubbing alcohol evenly. Shake the spray bottle a little bit before spraying.
With faux suede, you don’t need to be as careful about liquid, but you should still start cleaning straight away and make sure to be gentle and avoid damaging the fabric.
Another substance that can be used to remove stains on suede is white vinegar. This works similarly to a suede cleaning product (which can be used in the same way). You can pour some white vinegar into a large bowl, then dip a clean cloth into it and rub the fabric in the same criss-cross pattern to avoid discoloration. You can also put white vinegar into a spray bottle to apply to the sofa covers evenly.
Method 5 – Vacuuming and using baking soda
As we mentioned before, the general regular upkeep of your suede couch will greatly help keep it in good condition. Vacuuming the suede regularly is a great way to do this, especially if you use a suede brush before vacuuming.
Your vacuum should have a special attachment for sofas which can be used on suede or synthetic upholstery. You should also check to see if your vacuum has a special mode for sofas as well. Together, the attachment and vacuum mode can make a really good job of your couch, and leave it feeling and looking very neat and clean. Alternatively, you could just get a dedicated upholstery vacuum cleaner.
Something extra you can do to help combat smells is to sprinkle baking soda over your couch and let it sit overnight. Baking powder is known to absorb odors and oils on almost any surface, and it is used to deodorize a lot of different things. In the morning, you can vacuum up the baking soda and enjoy a fresh-smelling sofa!
Using baking soda is especially handy when you’re dealing with a urine stain. In order to remove urine stains and get rid of the unpleasant smell, baking soda is a real lifesaver.
How to Dry Suede Couch Covers
After you have hand washed or machine washed your suede cover, it will need to be dried. You can line dry (air dry) outside, or by putting the covers back onto the couch while damp.
Method 1 – Line dry
To air-dry your polyester covers or suede covers, you can line dry them in your garden or on a drying rack in your house. Make sure the covers are well spaced out and properly straightened out so that large creases don’t form.
Method 2 – Putting the covers back on the sofa while damp
If you have hand-washed your suede covers, they may still be too damp to put back onto the couch cushions. If this is the case, you could try putting them in the washing machine on a gentle spin cycle. This won’t do anything other than spin the excess water out of the fabric, and no heat, detergent, or water will be used.
Once the fabric is only damp instead of dripping, you can put the covers back onto the cushions.
This makes sure the shape of the fabric does not warp or shrink as it dries and instead creates a good fit for the sofa. When drying via this method, you could keep the sofa apart and let the cushions and main cover dry separately before putting it back together again. Otherwise, you will end up with spots of fabric that do not have access to air and will take much much longer to dry.
Can You Put Suede Covers in the Washing Machine?
You can put the covers of a micro suede couch in the washing machine as often as you like, just make sure you always use cold water and a gentle cycle. For couch covers made from real suede, you will need to check the recommendations from the manufacturer.
If the manufacturer’s instructions do not recommend putting your suede covers in a washing machine, then you should only do it very rarely, about once or twice a year. Cold water and gentle cycles should also be used for real suede.
Do You Wash Couch Cushion Covers inside out?
You can turn your cushion covers inside out, but it’s not completely necessary. It is also a good idea to zip up the couch covers so they don’t get tangled up and stuck inside each other. If you want to be extra safe, it’s a good idea to have the covers washed separately.
Can You Put Suede Sofa Covers in the Dryer?
You should not tumble dry suede or microsuede sofa covers as the tumble dryer will not have a setting that is gentle enough or have a temperature that is low enough to avoid damaging them.
Leaving the covers to air dry is probably the safer method if you’re able to properly air them out. Setting them down on a flat surface is helpful, but not ideal, because they will not dry evenly, and you want to let the covers breathe from both sides. You can also use a dry cloth to blot any particularly wet patches.
While suede is a durable fabric, and polyester fabrics are known to be very water-resistant, both natural and man-made suede is quite difficult to clean. With real suede, you need to be extremely careful with water, and to clean microfiber suede you need to be super careful with heat.
Suede is softer and more pliable than full-grain leather and is considered to be a far more comfortable and luxurious material for a couch by many people. But luxurious things often require more upkeep, and suede is no different.
If you are reading this article before buying a suede couch, you should take its high maintenance into consideration before buying. On the other hand, the comfort and the lovely, elegant look is worth the extra trouble.