A smelly suede couch may be the last place you want to sit until you deal with the problem. Some fabric-freshening sprays and air fresheners mask odors rather than remove them; plus they may contain harsh chemicals. Instead, remove those foul odors using natural scent-absorbing substances that are also safe for suede. Test any liquid-based methods on an inconspicuous area first to ensure the substance does not discolor the upholstery.
A Fresh-Air Affair
Fresh air remedies some types of odors, such as cigar and cigarette smoke or a slightly musty odor that is trapped in suede furniture that was previously kept in an overly humid environment. It also helps removes strong smells in brand-new furniture caused by chemically treated materials used during manufacture. If possible, allow the couch to air out in a protected outdoor environment such as a screened-in porch or a balcony during dry, non-humid conditions for a few days. The garage is another option. If it is not possible to take the couch outside, open the windows and turn on a ceiling fan, or place a box fan in one window to pull air out of the room, and another fan to draw fresh air in on the opposite side of the room.
Powdered Odor Absorber
Baking soda helps remove all kinds of odors, including smoke and chemical smells as well as pet-fur odors. Sprinkle the baking soda liberally over the couch; then vacuum it up after an hour or so using an upholstery brush attachment. If the couch has removable cushions, take those off as well, sprinkling baking soda on first one side, then the other, vacuuming each respective side after an hour or so. Sprinkle and vacuum up baking soda on the area where removable cushions rest also, to remove deep-seated odors. Vacuuming also removes pet hair and dander which may cause sofa odors.
While moisture should be kept to a minimum when it comes to suede, a little bit of a liquid-based odor remover helps freshen funky furniture upholstery. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a bowl; then dip a nylon-bristled scrub brush or a brush designed for suede into the solution. Shake off most of the moisture; then gently brush the upholstery with the vinegar mixture. Instead of brushing, a light mist with a spray bottle will also work. Select a spray bottle that emits a very light, almost fog-like mist to prevent soaking the suede. Turn a fan or ceiling fan on in the room to hasten the drying process.
Musty Odor Removal
If the couch smells musty, the problem may be a bit more than just an odor issue. Inspect the suede for small mold and mildew specks that are a different color than the suede itself: often black or gray. Vacuum the sofa with an upholstery brush attachment using a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter. Dab a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water over the mold or mildew spots using a soft white cloth. Keep the cloth slightly damp, rather than soaking wet, to avoid causing water damage. Air the couch out thoroughly to help remove the remaining musty odor; any moisture or dampness trapped within may contribute to the smell. If the cushions are zippered, open them up and stuff them with balls of newspaper to help absorb the odor, removing the paper after a day or two.
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Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.