How to clean a suede sofa – the expert-approved way to remove marks and stains with zero damage

This is the expert-approved guide to cleaning a suede sofa to keep it stain-free with zero damage

A living room with a dark brown suede sofa
(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

The sofa is one of the most used pieces of furniture in a home. It’s where we gather and enjoy a cup of tea, a movie, a good show or some snacks. All of which can result in stains. One particularly difficult sofa material to clean is suede. If you do happen to have one, you’ll know that a lot of precise science and technique goes into how to clean a suede sofa the right way.  

Generic knowledge of how to clean a sofa just won’t do here as suede has very specific needs compared to other materials. So to avoid damaging your best sofa, we’ve asked our cleaning experts to share their tips, tricks and a step-by-step guide on how to clean a suede sofa leaving it stain and damage-free.

How to clean a suede sofa

A living room with a brown suede sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Olivier Gordon)

While suede sofas might not appeal to everyone, if you're looking for an elegant, luxe living room sofa idea they are a great fit. 

‘Suede sofas are a popular and big investment as they’re elegant and comfortable furniture pieces,’ says Luis Toja, upholstery cleaning specialist at Fantastic Services. ‘However, as such, especially if they’re positioned in a high-traffic room, such as a living room, they tend to get stained and dirty.’ 

‘Even though cleaning a suede sofa requires a delicate touch to avoid damaging the fabric, it’s not actually a difficult task.’ Well, that’s good to hear!

Luis Toja portrait
Luis Toja

Luis Toja is an experienced upholstery cleaning professional with a four-year employment history at Fantastic Services. During this time, he has further honed his skills and specialised in transforming furniture through meticulous cleaning. What fuels his passion for upholstery cleaning is the joy he sees on the customers' faces when they see their furniture restored to its original beauty.

Another thing you need to be careful with is what products you choose for cleaning your suede sofas. ‘When it comes to cleaning a suede sofa, you need to be careful as many household products are too harsh,’ advises Sarah Dempsey, cleaning expert at MyJobQuote.co.uk.

Here are some of the products recommended by experts for cleaning a suede sofa.

Recommended cleaning products

1. Vacuum

A dark brown suede sofa in a living room with a guitar

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Start by vacuuming your suede sofa with your best vacuum cleaner, which should be done on a regular basis – whether you have a stain or not.

‘First you want to vacuum all the surfaces of your suede sofa to remove dust and dirt caught in the fibres,’ Sarah explains. ‘The most effective way to do this is with the crevice or nozzle attachment, using circular motions.’

2. Use a suede brush

Next, pull out your suede brush. ‘Using a suede brush or a nubuck cloth will also be necessary to gently brush the suede in one direction. It’ll help lift the nap and remove any surface-level dirt. However, you should be very gentle when using these tools to avoid causing damage,’ Luis says.

A living room with a dark brown suede sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

3. Apply product

What product you use next will depend on what type of stain you’re dealing with, as outlined above. For example, for ink stains, rubbing alcohol is recommended. 

‘For tougher stains, such as ones from ink or grease, moisten a clean cloth with rubbing alcohol and blot the stain gently,’ Luis suggests.

If you want to fashion a homemade solution, then mixing vinegar with water should also remove some stains. 'One way to clean a suede sofa is by mixing a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water and dampening a clean cloth with it to gently blot the stained areas on the upholstery,’ Luis explains.

A living room with an orange suede armchair

(Image credit: Future PLC/Keith Henderson)

Whereas for oily stains, cornstarch or talcum powder that soaks up the oil might be better. ‘Sprinkle cornstarch or talcum powder on the affected area and let it sit for a few hours or even overnight for better results. This will help absorb the oil. Afterwards, brush off the powder,’ Luis says.

You can also try going dry and product-free by using a suede eraser. ‘For stubborn stains and scuffs, gently rub a suede eraser over the marks,’ Sara advises.

4. Spray with suede protector

Lastly, spray the surface with a suede protector to make the process easier for yourself in the future before letting the sofa air dry. ‘Finish with a suede protector spray to stop stains and dirt sticking to your sofa. This will make it easier to keep clean.’

A living room with a dark brown suede armchair and a patterned armchair

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

5. Let sofa air dry

Luis concludes, ‘Allow the sofa to air dry thoroughly and consider keeping the room well-ventilated to speed up the drying process. Avoid using any heat sources to reduce the drying time, such as hair dryers or heaters. Allow the sofa to air dry naturally to prevent damage to its fibres.’

How do you clean and freshen a suede couch?

A regular upkeep is essential to keeping your suede sofa looking fresh.

‘Vacuum the sofa regularly to prevent the buildup of dirt and debris, wipe any spills that occur immediately with a clean, dry cloth and rotate and flip the cushions regularly to provide even wear,’ Luis advises.

As daunting as cleaning a suede sofa might seem, it is fairly easy when you know exactly how to do it. At least we’d like to think so.

Sara Hesikova
News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home and interiors. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors. She feels the two are intrinsically connected - if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.