Facts on nubuck leather care

Updated February 21, 2017

Nubuck is an unfinished, high quality type of leather. Nubuck leather is sanded on the outside of the leather so that the nap is short. This creates a softer end product. Nubuck is made from the outside of the animal hide and is, therefore, stronger and more wear-resistant than suede, which is made from the inside of the hide. Because of the amount of work that goes into creating a luxury product from an animal hide, nubuck is generally more expensive than suede. Nubuck requires special care because it is unfinished and can get stained easily if the proper precautions are not taken.


Nubuck is a popular type of leather for shoes or furniture because it is one of the strongest and most resilient types of leather when properly treated and sealed. To protect the leather, many consumers opt to seal the nubuck. This offers an additional layer of protection from water, wine or food spills. Those with nubuck leather should apply only a nubuck sealant and should apply it every six months.


Nubuck is made from thousands of short, fibre hairs. Because of this, its appearance can change if the hairs are flattened or scuffed. Much like having hat hair at the end of the day, you can remedy the flattened appearance of nubuck by brushing it weekly with a nubuck brush, sponge or cloth. This will raise the fibres again and will also remove little crumbs or pieces of dirt that have settled between the hair.

Avoiding Water

Never clean nubuck with water. Water can easily change the colour of the nubuck, which is often dyed or stained. Water can also dry unevenly and can create white watermarks on the leather. Finally, water can warp and shrink the leather, which will cause permanent damage.

Suds Method

If your nubuck has become heavily soiled you will need to employ other methods to clean it. First, remove as much of the grime or dirt as possible without rubbing it in or spreading it. You can then mix liquid detergent with water until suds form. Apply only the suds to the nubuck to remove the dirt. This process can take a while, but the soap will work to loosen the dirt on the leather.

Oil Stains

Nubuck is particularly susceptible to oil stains from the body or from cooking oils, butter or grease. In some cases, a nubuck brush will work to remove the oil stain. But it will not be sufficient if the stain is significant. First, soak up as much the oil as possible to prevent it from bypassing the sealant and penetrating the leather. If it has already stained the leather, you will need to use a nubuck-degreasing product. As with any nubuck cleaning process, follow the stain removal with a comprehensive brush with a nubuck brush, sponge or cloth.

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About the Author

Kaye Wagner has been working in the fields of journalism and public relations since 2006 and is a recipient of a National Hearst Award. She is particularly interested in home-and-garden projects, as well as beauty and fashion writing. An avid traveler, she also writes travel reviews and guides. Wagner earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brigham Young University.