How to Clean Suede Car Seats

Suede car seats look and feel luxurious, but they can be difficult to keep clean. Sometimes they can easily be stained by water or other liquids so it is important to understand the best way to care for and clean a suede car seat. Today, many manufacturers have shied away from using true suede and instead have switched to materials called “Ulltrasuede”, “Microsuede”, or “Alcantara”. These synthetic materials mimic suede, so if you’re not sure if your seats are true suede, finding out must be your first step in the cleaning process. As always, prevention is the best way to maintain your suede seats.

Suede Seat Cleaning: Step by Step

Step 1: Vacuuming and Brushing

To stop premature wear and tear, you should regularly vacuum and brush your suede seats. Don’t use any old brush, go to a shoe store and purchase a suede brush. These are typically a natural, soft bristle brush specifically made to gently clean suede materials. You should actually do this every week regardless of whether your car is a daily-driver or only rolled out on special occasions. When brushing you should work left to right and top to bottom, then right to left and bottom to top. By using a circular motion you will fluff up the material.

Step 2: The Suede Eraser

While at the shoe store getting a suede brush, also pick up a suede eraser. This is a block-shaped tool that crumbles as it is used. It will lift dry, ground-in soils and stains from suede. These erasers can be purchased for less than $10. Gently rub the eraser over any water marks or stains. Because it crumbles as you use it, you will need to use your suede brush to brush away the crumbled eraser when you are finished.

Special Note Concerning Liquid Spills: Blot them up immediately but do not use a lot of pressure and do not rub, Doing this will only drive the stain deeper into the material. Allow the area to dry thoroughly before proceeding with any further erasing efforts.

Step 3: Fabric Cleaning Solution

Never spray any cleaner directly onto your suede seats. Instead, use a soft white cloth. Tinted cloths may transfer their pigment to your seats. Spray the cleaner lightly onto the cloth and gently wipe the surfaces. Do not use too much pressure and do not “scrub” the seats. Allow the suede to completely dry. Wet suede can easily be stained or matted.

Treating Stains

Stains can be divided into two categories: water soluble and NOT water soluble.

Water Soluble Stains

If a stain is water-soluble, water should be your cleaning solution. Use a plastic spoon or scraper to loosen any debris and then vacuum it away. Lightly spray a clean white cloth or a suede brush with the water (you want damp, not wet). Work the cloth or brush from the outer edge of the stain towards the center and be gentle.

Some common water soluble stains that you may encounter are:

  • Fruit juices
  • Jelly
  • Ketchup
  • Chocolate
  • Urine
  • Blood
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Soda pop
  • Coffee

Non-Water  Soluble Stains

The process for removing these stains are pretty much the same as water soluble stains EXCEPT, you need to use a cleaning product that is compatible with the type of “suede “ that you have (true suede, MicroSuede, Alcantara, etc).  Be careful and always do a test spot in an inconspicuous area to determine if the cleaner is safe to use on your interior. Gently work the cleaner into a lather then blot the foam away with a white cloth. Finish by using a vacuum with an upholstery tool to finish the cleaning. Common non-water soluble stains that you may encounter include:

  • Lipstick
  • Mascara
  • Perfume
  • Shoe Polish
  • Grease or Motor Oil
  • Grass Stains

YouTube Videos

These videos can be helpful in  demonstrating the proper techniques for cleaning suede car seats:

Final Thoughts

It’s inevitable that you will need to clean your suede car seats after some time. These types of seats will always need to be kept clean on a regular basis to keep them looking like new and preventing deep stains from setting in. Once again, prevention, and regular maintenance, are the best ways to maintain your beautiful suede car seats.