Todays modern factory interiors feature an increasingly wider variety of surfaces and materials. In sports cars and high end coupes its more common to see OEM using a suede like material referred to as alcantara or microsuede. The luxurious material provides an premium appearance and feel, also it reduces slip on the seat as you take high speed turns, but the problem comes in with its care. most owners are confused on how they care for these materials or out of fear of causing damage neglect them. This article will cover the basics of daily care as well as how to address more serious soiling, stains, and more.
UNDERSTANDING THE MATERIAL
The first thing to understand is that virtually no manufactures currently use real suede leather in their interiors. The common materials used are synthetic suedes, like alcantara or micro-suede which give the look and feel of real sueded leather, but with lower cost and better durability. These are synthetic fibers, similar in makeup to the microfiber towels used for car care towels. While micro-suede is more durable than traditional/natural suede it still is highly susceptible to wear from neglect and moisture exposure.
REGULAR CLEANING AND MAINTENANCE
Prevention, as always, is the best medicine. As micro-suede is sat on or handled it begins to look matted and worn. Depending on whether your vehicle is driven daily or more of a track toy that only sees use for fun the rate that you need to perform some tasks will change. It all just depends on how much 'driving time' it sees.
The most basic step you can take to prevent premature wear and keep the synthetic suede materials looking their best is to brush them regularly with Adam's Cockpit Brush. By brushing the fibers gently you can prevent them from becoming permanently matted and also remove any dry dust or small debris that may have settled on the surface. If you don't have access to a brush, a short fiber microfiber towel , like the Adam's Edgeless Utility Towel, wadded up in your hand will work as a substitute.
Its recommended to brush the materials out once a week for most cars average use cars, more frequently for cars that see lots of driving. Be sure to brush the drivers seat more frequently as well as any faux suede on the steering wheel, shift knob, or armrests.
MODERATE CLEANING OF SUEDE WRAPPED STEERING WHEELS & SHIFTERS
Micro-suede looks great on steering wheels and shifters. It provides the driver with a much nicer, non-slip grip, but because your hands sweat and have oils the deterioration of these areas is often faster than the seats. The oils and sweat from your hands will attract additional dust and dirt leading to a soiled and matted surface.
Like the seats, regular brushing of the surface will help prevent or slow the materiel from matting. Be sure to brush these surfaces out as often as they appear to be getting flat. To break up skin oils and dirt that don't come off from brushing alone we recommend the use of an Edgeless Utility Towel lightly dampened with a product like Adam's Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner.
The simple process for addressing moderate soiling on these surfaces is:
First vacuum and brush the surfaces to remove any loose debris (like dust)
Spray a very small amount of the Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner onto a clean microfiber Utility Towel.
Gently blot the surface, then wipe. Typically the most serious contamination will be at the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock hand positions on the steering wheel.
Add additional cleaner to the towel as needed and repeat until the soiling is removed.
Blot up any excess moisture with a separate clean, dry, microfiber towel.
MORE SERIOUS STAINS OR SPILLS
No matter how careful you are there are always those times when you have your morning coffee or a soda in the car and it splashes out, or you accidentally drop something on the seat that you didn't mean to. While synthetic suede is fairly durable there are some general cleaning rules that should always be obeyed to preserve its look and feel.
Treat spills as quickly as possible. The longer a spill sits the harder it will be to remove.
When attempting to remove ANY spill or substance avoid pressing down and forcing it further into the material, blot lightly with something absorbent like a sponge or towels until most of the excess is removed.
For thicker substances, say like ice cream or a fruit smoothie, use a spatula or credit card to scoop the excess off of the surface first so it can't absorb into the fibers.
After the bulk of the spill has been removed see specific cleaning info below. In all cases avoid excess saturation with liquid. If a shop vac or extractor is available use that to remove excess moisture after cleaning.
Fruit juice, jelly, syrup, ketchup, mayo, etc: Use lukewarm water, rinse by dabbing with clean water, rinsing and wringing the towel or sponge often.
Blood, excrement, urine, or protein based stains: Use cold water; avoid warm water because it makes these substances coagulate, rinse by dabbing with clean water, rinsing and wringing the towel or sponge often.
Alcoholic beverages, wine, beer, coke, black coffee and tea: Use lukewarm water; if the color mark remains, treat it with lemon juice and then rinse it well. (if liquor - what the heck were you driving for?)
Pencil, ground in dirt, non-permanent ink: Use lukewarm water; rinse by dabbing with clean water rinsing and wringing the towel or sponge often.
Hair gel, coffee with cream/sugar, ice cream, etc: Use lemon juice and then wipe with lukewarm water; rinse by dabbing with clean water, rinsing and wringing the towel or sponge often.
IF A SPILL DRIES, STAINS, OR HARDENS BEFORE YOU CAN REMOVE IT
Depending on the type of spill or stain start with the recommended treatments outlined above. In a situation where these do not work use diluted isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and follow the instructions below. This is of course the method of last resort, so only use this option if all other options fail.
Dilute the alcohol 1:1 with distilled water. Spray onto an absorbent, lint free, microfiber towel and gently blot the stain, then wipe with a separate water dampened towel. Follow up with a dry towel to wick away as much moisture as possible. Leave the vehicle in a dry place with the doors or windows open to allow the area to dry completely. Repeat the alcohol treatment as needed or until there is no longer any improvement in the stains appearance.
NEED MORE HELP?
The Adam's Polishes team is standing by to assist with more information if you need it. If the methods above do not work or you need additional clarification any of the processes please contact us via email - TIPS@ADAMSPOLISHES.COM - be sure to include pictures of any stains or spills to help us find the best solution for you.
EPISODE 5 of Ask the Shine Doc covers the basics of suede interior accent care: