How to care for nubuck leather shoes

How to clean Nubuck leather

How to clean Nubuck leather

If you have made the decision to purchase nubuck leather items, perhaps a jacket or nice pair of books, you are spending a bit of extra money for some very nice leather.  It makes sense that you understand how to clean nubuck leather to ensure your newly bought items will last years, and look good for the entire time.  To get to this point, it’s important to understand what nubuck leather is, how it’s made and, importantly, how it is different from other leather products.

What is Nubuck Leather?

Nubuck leather is created by lightly sanding the grain side of calfskin or cowhide top-grain leather, leaving a surface that is slightly nappy – a velvet like surface.  For the untrained eye, it can be confused with suede although suede is created by splitting the leather and exposing the rough split side as the finish whereas nubuck exposes the lightly sanded grain side as the finish.  Nubuck is usually died after sanding to hide any small imperfections.  Knowing how to clean nubuck leather will ensure your leather items will be around for years of enjoyable use. How to clean nubuck leather boot

Nubuck leather is not unlike analine leather in that it is quite soft to the touch and it can scar, scratch, and stain easily.  Because it is made of the outside of the leather rather than the inside, Nubuck leather is tougher than Suede leather.  The actual feel of nubuck as opposed to suede can be tough to distinguish and will depend on the treatment of the leather itself.  However, generally speaking nubuck should have a smoother and more velvety feel to it than suede.

Nubuck leather is used for most of the same types of leather products you’ll normally see in leather, including shoes, jackets, furniture, wallets, etc.

Nubuck Leather Care

As mentioned elsewhere, when caring for leather, a light vacuum is always a great way to start and since Nubuck leather is nappy, more dirt and debris can be trapped so a vacuum is an even better idea.

After vacuuming, a specific brush made for Nubuck leather is highly recommended.  You’ll often see “crepe brushes” mentioned for cleaning Nubuck leather (and Suede leather as well).  We have done a review and have a few recommendations in our leather cleaning brushes article.

Due to is exposed texture, Nubuck leather is susceptible to staining due to oils or other types of grime although if it just gets wet, it will dry back to it’s original color.

Nubuck Cleaner

Using cleaners and conditioners on your nubuck leather must be done with caution.  As mentioned earlier, nubuck leather is easily stained although if it becomes wet, it will dry back to the original color.  Using conditioners and cleaners should be done with caution to ensure they are color and texture safe.  It’s always advisable to test on a small piece of nubuck or perhaps in a place on your leather item that is concealed.  Test to ensure the color and the nap isn’t affected.   Also,of course, read the label closely.  Below is the back label of a very popular leather cleaning and conditioning product that you may, from only reading the front label, work well with all types of leather.  We can see here that this product should not be used on suede.  If you see this type of warning, there’s  a very good chance it applies to nubuck s well.

Not for suede leather cleaner warning

Aside from warnings such as this, also look for products that are specifically targeted for nubuck leather. This can be a bit of a trick question actually as many experts recommend simply cleaning with the brush or eraser and then letting the nubuck air dry.

Nubuck Leather cleaning brush

The brushes for cleaning nubuck leather are varied and you can find offerings from those who also sell high-end leather such as Timberland.  Nubuck cleaning brushes can also be found offered by name brand leather cleaning specialists.  Included among these many different types of nubuck brushes are types of cleaners as well as opinions of how to best clean and care for nubuck leather.  One thing you’ll see is “crepe” brushes, which is a kind of brush that, I think, looks a bit like a noodle but is actually (usually) hard rubber.  You’ll also find erasers come with a lot of these brushes to help with stubborn stains.  Use the eraser, then use the crepe brush.  The intent here is that the hard rubber crepe does a great job of cleaning the light nubuck nap.  Here’s an example of a Crepe brush and eraser combo you could purchase on Amazon:

Nubuck leather cleaning crepe brush and eraser

Suede & Nubuck Cleaning Kit By Care Guys: Hard-wearing crepe brush with A Cleaning Eraser (click for Amazon)

Other types of brushes will have strong, short, hard bristles to help clean the nap and make it look uniform.  As mentioned, you’ll get as many different opinions as people you talk to on which is better and why. We like the crepe brushes here and that’s what we tend to use. Another nice set you can purchase is the combo of
Nubuck leather cleaning brushes and eraser set

Premium Suede Brush Nubuck Cleaner Crepe Brush and Suede Eraser Set


So there you have it. Advice from the experts on how to care for your nubuck .  If you are up for purchasing high end nubuck items, it will pay off in the long run to understand how to clean nubuck leather.  Nubuck purchases aren’t inexpensive so care should be made that you are purchasing high end items with the intention of taking care of them so they can provide years of service.