How to Clean Suede Car Seats

by Jenny Carver

    The problem with suede is that it is difficult to clean. Most cleaners and even plain water can stain and discolor suede. The nap, or surface, of the suede is another problem area, since it gets flat and glossy after you slide across it on the seat time after time. Suede is often confused with an almost identical material called Alcantara. Many modern suede-looking car seat surfaces are actually Alcantara. You can use specialized products to clean suede or Alcantara car seats in your own garage.

    Items you will need

    • Suede brush
    • Vacuum
    • Suede cleaner
    • Sponge
    • White cloth
    • Mild laundry detergent

    Suede

    Step 1

    Brush suede car seats with a brush made specifically for suede material. Brush any dirt or debris off the seats. Besides cleaning debris off the leather, the brush roughs up the nap and loosens smooth or flat areas. Use a vacuum on the seats if they have a lot of dirt in the crevices.

    Suede

    Step 2

    Spray suede cleaner onto a sponge, not onto the suede seat itself. Rub the cleaner over the stained or soiled area in circular and back-and-forth motions to remove the stain.

    Suede

    Step 3

    Let the suede material dry, then check your results. Depending on how much water you put on the seats, drying could take a few minutes or up to an hour. Repeat the cleaning if necessary.

    Suede

    Step 4

    Use the suede brush to rough the seats up again to loosen the nap. Concentrate on smooth and glossy areas. Suede isn't supposed to be glossy. The suede brush roughs the nap of the suede no matter how glossy and smooth the suede is.

    Alcantara

    Step 1

    Vacuum or brush the Alcantara seats to get rid of surface dirt and debris. A suede brush is your best option.

    Alcantara

    Step 2

    Wipe the Alcantara seats with a damp white cloth. Use a white cloth because any other color may bleed onto the Alcantara material. Rinse the cloth and wring it out to remove excess water to continue wiping the seats. Let the seats dry overnight.

    Alcantara

    Step 3

    Remove the Alcantara seat covers if they are removable. Wash them in a washing machine using gentle cycle settings. A small amount of mild detergent won't damage Alcantara. Let the seat covers dry overnight. Do not place them in a dryer.

    Alcantara

    Step 4

    Brush the dry Alcantara seats or seat covers with a suede brush or stiff-bristle brush to gently rough up the surface.

    Tips

    • If you can't find automotive suede cleaner, use suede-shoe cleaner. The suede is the essentially the same, and the shoe cleaner will clean as well as an automotive suede cleaner will. Test the cleaner on an inconspicuous area before cleaning the entire seat.

    Warnings

    • Alcantara seats are not suede, but they look almost exactly like suede. Look at your owner’s manual or research to find out what your seats are made of before cleaning them.
    • Do not use a steam cleaner for Alcantara or suede seats or seat covers.