How to Clean Microsuede Furniture

Dear Home Ec 101,

I have tan microsuede dining room chairs and, with four children, you can imagine what they look like.  I’ve looked, but there isn’t a cleaning recommendation tag on them.  What is the best way to clean them?

Signed,

Dingy Diner

Heather says:

Oh I can imagine. I’ve given up on salvaging the micro suede on the bar stools at the breakfast counter. The stools are falling apart anyhow; I’m just hoping they last long enough for the kids to get past this horrendous milk spilling stage. Sometimes you pick your battles, right?

So first of all, what is microsuede? Microsuede is a very tight knit of very fine, usually polyester fibers or a combination of polyester and nylon fibers.

Supposedly microsuede is very easy to clean. I honestly have yet to see that reality in action. I know it depends partly on the exact blend, I’m relying on anecdotal evidence, the plural of which is not data. I get it.

What I have seen are people who buy the couch / loveseat or what have you with the impression that it is stain resistant. They come home and start living their normal lives. You know, the one where the dog drools on the cushion when you aren’t home or the kid pops the lid off the sippy cup of milk, just before you have to walk out the door to an appointment.

Microsuede is great if spills / spots / any dampness can be wiped up immediately, as small amounts of liquid will initially bead up rather than soaking into the fabric. However, if the liquid goes unnoticed, that’s where the spots and stains start. This property makes it a great choice for petless, childless adults who eat in the kitchen and use actual napkins.

Just in case, I want you to flip the chair over and make sure that there aren’t any care labels attached to the bottom of the seat of the chair, those sneaky manufacturers.

If there happens to be a label and it will likely have one of two symbols, due to the type of fabric.

In the case of microsuede, it will usually have either have W/S or S.

Before you get started, give the chairs a good vacuuming or a once over with a foxtail brush to get rid of any crumbs that may make cleaning more difficult.

 If it has the W, this means it is permissible to use water (and a mild detergent, like dish soap -no bleach additives-) to clean the fabric. Do not soak the fabric, the water will get down into the cushion and be difficult to dry. Use a dampened rag and rub gently, rinsing the rag often. You’re going to be disgusted by how much dirt those microfibers have trapped. I find it oddly fascinating, but I haven’t ever laid a claim on normal.

If it does not have a W, you must use a solvent based cleaner. You can check the cleaning aisle for a solvent based foam, or you may try rubbing alcohol. Personally while I’m not huge on using chemicals for cleaning, a foam is going to be much easier to apply than rubbing alcohol. Use gloves and do this in a well ventilated -like outside- area.

In both cases, test in an inconspicuous area to make sure the fabric tolerates the method.

After the material has dried it may be a little stiff. Get an old nail brush and gently brush the fabric to restore the fibers to the original texture or if you’re feeling particularly cruel, give each kid an old toothbrush and make them do it.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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Comments

  1. Just wanted to say here that I have young children, too, and a home office (I'm self employed, and my husband was studying for several years, too).
    We've had biro on our microsuede, and hairspray and a clean, dry toothbrush remove the biro with no problems at all :)

  2. How weird, I have a tan microsuede couch and I'm convinced it hides dirt really well. Also, I can't count the number of times I've spilled coffee (with milk in) on it. (Who needs kids when you're a klutz?) And dropped pens point down, and my husband eats on it all the time.

    On second thought, maybe I'm just blinded to its filth.

  3. I think it's going to vary highly by manufacturer due to the actual blends. Some blends will be better than others at not wicking and consequently staining.

    If yours works, great! Keep up with what you're doing.

  4. I'm childless and my dog doesn't get on the couch, but I do eat on it. I try to be careful but occasionaly I spill. So far no spots on the microsuede couch/loveseat/chair but there isn't anyone else to spill on it so all spills get wiped up promptly. What upset me, was the first time I had a spill, I used the cleaning solution recommended by the store and it left a stain on the fabric. Fortunately it was on the back of the couch which is against the wall so it's not really obvious. Now i just blot it with a paper towel and that seems to work.

    I fell in love with some microsued dining chairs and didn't buy them becuase I was worried about spills and staining – the plastic covered look just doesn't sit well with me.

  5. I clean our microsuede couch with any general household cleaner (think 409, Lysol all purpose, etc) that doesn't contain bleach, and a wet kitchen towel. It amazes me how much dirt and gunk it can get up, and then looks like new when it dries.

  6. I have a light tan microsuede couch and when i purchased the sofa the furniture store gave me a bottle of 'dry cleaning fluid' for upholstery. You can purchase this solution at most furniture chains like Rooms 2 Go and the like. I hate chemical cleaners but this stuff is the only thing that has worked for me. It even got a quarter size black ink stain from a pen left on the couch leaking for an entire day (oops) out without a trace left.

  7. My experience with microsuede and all microfiber materials is that very watered down detergent solution (I've been using Mrs. Meyer's All Purpose Cleaner, which my Target store recently discontinued!) and a soft cloth or Magic Eraser gets most things. "Rings" are usually water stains left after the cleaning…"feather" with a soft cloth around the ring with water and white vinegar and you might get rid of the ring. Dry cleaning fluid like Energine is also generally safe for the fabric, if not your body. If something contains a metallic dye or a lot of minerals (wine, blood, inks, salt, hard water), that's when things become interesting. To get these out, try: GooGone followed by a thorough detergent wash, enzyme based cleaner like you find in pet stores to remove puppy stains from carpet rinsed with weak detergent solution, and (be sure to test this one VERY carefully) LimeAway cut in half with water, rubbed on and then immediately rinsed out with club soda or water with just a tiny bit of baking powder dissolved in it. Speaking of baking powder, if you have a penetrating spill, make a dry-ish paste of baking powder, apply to the spot, put a fan on it, and let it dry. You can vacuum up the dry powder and most times it will remove any trace of stain.

    Some microfibers are also safe to wash in the washing machine…use your best judgment on that. I've never seen a microfiber material that shrank, but the cording and such might. If it's wash it or toss it, try washing it because you're going to toss it anyway.

    That said, I'm in the process of replacing or recovering every upholstered thing I own with politically incorrect leather. I have a 10 year old leather sofa and three huge dogs that sleep on it when I'm not home, and all it takes is a weekly wipe down with some lanolin soap on a rag. I noticed last year that it was starting to fade, so I re-dyed it (it's black – dye from Tandy Leather) and it looks great. Last year I bought bentwood chairs at Ikea with leather cushions to replace second hand recliners. My cat uses them for napping, and always left a dirty spot on the upholstered chairs. Now I wipe the leather chairs at the same time as the sofa and they still look brand new. I wish I could have afforded leather when my kids were little; it would have saved me a TON of work and would have paid for itself because I wouldn't have had to replace it three times like I had to do with the upholstered stuff.

  8. Beth Whitney says:

    My husband worked as a carpet cleaner for a few years, and picked up some great tips. When you are cleaning polyester carpet/upholstery, you are basically cleaning plastic. Windex works so great at getting out stains! You never want to use soap or soap-based products. The soap stays in the fabric/carpet, and only attracts more stains. My hubby says to start with a rag with the hottest water you can, and rub the stain with that first. If that doesn't work, then use the windex.

  9. I would love to see a post on cleaning suede boots or shoes now that winter is (hopefully) almost over! Thanks!

  10. bookchick says:

    Any suggestions specificially for getting blood stains out of a light blue microsuede couch? (Don’t ask)

    • This is going to sound extremely nasty butyou can get blood (as long as its yours) out of clothes, ect by spitting on it. your own saliva takes your own blood out of just about anything.

  11. JuliaStella says:

    This is what I do to my suede and it comes out perfect http://howtofixstuff.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-to-clean-suede.html

  12. http://www.steamboatcarpetcleaning.com can help clean upholstery in Rockledge. They do great work.

  13.  @bookchick
     Hydrogen peroxide blotted on removes blood instantly.

  14. can I use a stream cleaner on micro seude

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