Removing Body Soil and Other Grunge from Furniture Upholstered with Microsuede

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Dear Home Ec 101,

In 2006, we bought several pieces of microsuede furniture in a chocolate brown. Over time, the arms and headrests have become oily and dirty. The code on the label is “WS”. Can we remove the grime from our couch and recliner? How hard is it to clean microsuede without damaging the material?


Maybe Aunt Edna’s Plastic Covers Weren’t That Silly

I can relate to this issue, we have four children—that says enough, right?

Before we get started, it’s time to repeat the Home-Ec 101 Safety Oath:

I solemnly swear to always read the label, consult the manufacturer, test in an inconspicuous area, never feed the mogwai after midnight, and to never, ever mix chemicals without lots of research and coffee.

With that said, you did exactly the right thing to check the care tag first before trying any cleaning method. On upholstered furniture, the code WS  generally means the fabric can be cleaned with water or a solvent-based cleaning solution.

Important: Even if the cushions’ covers are removable and water safe, do not wash them in your machine. They will likely stretch and never fit quite right agin.

It is best to do two things before trying either:

  1. Google the furniture’s manufacturer and the cleaning code e.g. “Ashley Upholstered Furniture Care WS”. The manufacturer’s guidelines trump anything that follows.
  2. Spot test no matter what the guidelines are.

To clean the ground in grunge created from sweat and hair oil—possibly oil from pet coats, too— you’ll want to use a mild detergent with as little water as possible for your furniture.

How? You have two methods to choose from:

Method 1:

Grab the old, gentle stand-by Dawn, you want the plain, original formula without added bleach, a whisk, deep bowl, several clean, white rags, and a soft brush with nylon bristles.

  • 1/2 cup of the mild dish soap
  • 1/2 cup water

*Bonus item* a fan

Add the water and dish soap to the bowl and whisk until you’ve created a lot of foam. Dip the first rag into the foam until it’s damp. If it’s a couch, grab one of the cushions first and flip it over and look for a spot that is the same material and rub the material with the white detergent dampened rag in parallel strokes. Check the rag to be sure no color has transferred from the upholstery to the fabric.

If you are cleaning a piece of furniture where you can’t remove a cushion (it just makes it very convenient to test). You’ll need to find an area that doesn’t show.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the transfer of any grunge from the upholstery to the rag.

All good?

Excellent. Work in sections, blot and gently stroke the fabric in parallel strokes. Frequently rinsing, wringing, and re-working the foam you created into the fabric. When no more grime is showing up on the rag, grab a new, clean one, dampen it in fresh water, wring and wipe in parallel strokes in the other direction.

The goal is to not soak the material, you don’t want the padding getting wet, you’ll invite mildew to the party.

Set up a fan, to help the fabric dry quickly.

Do not be surprised if the fabric is stiff. That’s what the soft brush is for. Gently scrub the material until it soft again. Do not use force with this process, you’ll tear the microfibers and it’ll never be the same.

Option 2:
Go to a box store like Target and look for upholstery cleaner that says it is safe for microsuede fabric. Amazon works, too, of course.

Apply the product as directed, dry thoroughly and use a soft brush to restore the feel of the fabric.

Best of luck getting the grime out of your furniture. Do keep in mind that the

While I am not a fan of throwing out an item just because it is no longer trendy, do keep in mind that the expected lifespan for a couch is dropping and is now somewhere between 7 – 15 years. If your recliner is anything like upholstered furniture, the end of that lifespan is approaching rapidly. You may be able to get a few more years out of it, but the padding, if it isn’t already, may soon reach the point where it rapidly seems to disintegrate.

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How to clean microsuede

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1 thought on “Removing Body Soil and Other Grunge from Furniture Upholstered with Microsuede”

  1. What is the best commercial cleaner for cleaning body soil on the arms of upholstered chairs? (Besides Dawn). The fabric is not microsuede.

    Also, what can be used on a very, very stubborn water stain on an off-white nylon carpet?


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