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How to Remove Water Stains From a Suede Sofa

Miranda likes to maintain a beautiful and clean home. She did a lot of research to figure out how to clean her suede couch.

Water stains look so unsightly on suede furniture.

Water stains look so unsightly on suede furniture.

I lived in a pre-furnished apartment for a year, and for most of that time I wasn’t too stressed about taking care of someone else’s belongings. I’m a clean and considerate individual, I thought. What could go wrong?

A month before my lease was up I took a good long look at my sofa, and I realized it was covered in water stains. First I panicked, but then I realized this must have happened to hundreds of people before. So I did some research on how to fix it before my landlord came back from his trip. It's a nice suede sofa, and I really didn't want to blow my security deposit paying for it. Here are several methods and tools I tried to blot the water stains out:

  • Sandpaper or suede brush
  • White pencil eraser
  • Rubbing alcohol


Here's everything I used to clean my sofa.

Here's everything I used to clean my sofa.

My Supplies

Here are the materials I used in my efforts to get rid of water stains:

  • Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
  • White hand towel or sponge
  • Suede brush, toothbrush, or other soft-tooth brush
  • White eraser
  • Sandpaper
  • Spray bottle (optional)

My Methods

Here are the methods I tried:

Method 1: Use sandpaper or a suede brush to lift stains away.

Lighter stains can simply be buffed out of the suede. Gently rub a piece of sandpaper or a suede brush against the nap of the suede. This means brushing them so the fibers stick up instead of lying flat, like petting a cat the wrong way. Then smooth the fibers back down again.

Method 2: Use a white pencil eraser to remove minor water stains.

Believe it or not, a regular pencil eraser can actually erase some water stains from suede. I would advise using a white eraser instead of a pink one because the color could stain the suede. Just rub the eraser against the suede as you would a piece of paper, brush away the eraser debris, and smooth the nap of the suede. The stains will disappear like magic.

Before and after using a pencil eraser.

Before and after using a pencil eraser.

Method 3: Use rubbing alcohol to get the rest of the stains.

If your sofa is as badly water-stained as mine was, you'll need something a bit more heavy-duty to get the darkest stains out. But before you go to the store and buy some fancy suede cleaner, there's another method you can try. I used rubbing alcohol, but I've heard white vinegar also works.

  • Fill an empty spray bottle with rubbing alcohol. Alternatively, dampen a white hand towel or sponge with the alcohol—that's what I did, since I didn't have a spray bottle on hand.
  • Lightly spray or dab the stained surface with the alcohol.
  • Wait for it to dry completely. This should only be about 20 minutes; alcohol dries up much faster than water, which is why the rubbing alcohol won't stain your suede sofa like water will. You can tell once it's dry because the color will lighten, or you can check by touching it.
  • Use your brush to comb the fibers against the nap, then brush them back into place. The stains should disappear!

The Results

That's how I cleaned my suede sofa, and I did it without having to go out and buy any cleaning products. In fact, all the supplies I used were already laying around my home or garage!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Miranda Selinger