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?
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 the chairs are at the point where it’s time for drastic measures -the point where it’s clean, recover or replace- the last ditch measure is to try the furniture attachment of a carpet cleaner. If it works, great. If not you were going to replace the fabric anyhow. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.