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How to clean nubuck leather

The best ways to get your nubuck items looking great again.

Updated

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Nubuck is a type of leather that is similar to suede and has the same velvet-like feel. It needs particular care to keep it in good condition, so it’s useful knowing how to treat the nap if it gets stained or dirty. 

Our top tips on how to clean nubuck leather will  get your pieces looking like new in no time.

How to clean nubuck leather

There are a number of ways of cleaning nubuck depending on how bad and how set the stain is.  

You will need:

  • A nubuck cloth (a soft cloth designed for spot cleaning nubuck – as it may pick up the dye from the nubuck, don’t use on different-coloured products)
  • A nubuck brush (similar to a suede brush, one side will have metallic bristles, the other will have rubber)
  • Nubuck cleaner (usually found as an aerosol spray or liquid)
  • Ink stain remover (often comes in the form of a pen applicator, which is good for spot cleaning)
  • Leather degreaser (a powerful cleaner in paste, aerosol or liquid form. Check it works on suede/nubuck as some are designed for smooth leather only)
  • Nubuck/suede block (usually made of sandstone, abrasive but safe)
  • A nubuck care product (if working on shoes). These can be found online or in sports/outdoor shops

Method:

  1. Start by wiping the item with the nubuck cloth to get rid of any dirt or dust.

  2. Stick to circular motions over the affected areas.

  3. If you there is still dirt, upgrade to a nubuck brush, again using gentle, circular motions. Don’t over rub as this could wear away the surface. An alternative is to use a clean toothbrush.  

How to clean nubuck shoes 

  1. You want your shoes to retain their natural shape while you work on them, so either stuff them with paper or use a shoe tree.

  2. Remove the laces.

  3. Using a nubuck brush, work in the direction of the nap, to gently remove loose dirt.

  4. To remove patches of dirt or a stain, apply a custom cleaning product designed for nubuck; spot clean following the manufacturer’s instructions (as a general rule, you want to avoid getting the shoe too wet).

  5. Leave to dry overnight.

  6. Give your shoes a once over with a brush to bring them back to life. 

  7. For future protection and to prevent the nubuck from drying out use a sponge to work in a specialist nubuck protection product.

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How to remove stains from nubuck leather

  1. Wipe the stain with a nubuck cloth or gently work with a brush.

  2. You may need to use a specialised cleaning product to remove the stain.

  3. If the product is an aerosol, spray onto the stain, or if it’s a liquid dab it on gently with a cloth. 

  4. If you have an ink stain, apply a specialised ink lifter. You need to do this as soon as possible, before the ink sets (within hours!). 

  5. Always remember to use a brush to bring up the nap after you have finished and the item is dry.

How to remove oil from nubuck  

  1. To clean nubuck leather and remove oil stains you may need to deploy a specific leather degreaser.

  2. Follow the degreaser instructions – usually it’s as simple as spraying onto the stain and leaving a while before rubbing any residue away. 

  3. For the toughest stains, invest in a suede block (they can be found quite cheaply online or from shoe repair shops). 

  4. Use the block to sand the stain until the dirt is gone. 

  5. Wipe any residue off, and restore the nap by brushing gently.

Your nubuck cleaning questions answered

What household items can you use to clean nubuck?

One home remedy for tackling oil stains is to sprinkle cornmeal over it. Leave while the cornmeal soaks up the oil, and then simply brush it off. 

For snow and water stains, dab on white vinegar, using circular motions over the affected area – the acid in the vinegar is good for breaking down salt. 

And if you don't have a nubuck or suede brush, a clean toothbrush can work.

Can you clean nubuck with soap and water?

Yes – but carefully. Use cold water and mix in just a couple of drops of washing-up liquid. Use a clean toothbrush to apply the blend, making circular motions over the stain. Allow the item to fully dry before brushing the nap up.

Is nubuck leather real leather?

Yes, it is very similar to suede and has the same textured feel (for more on suede, check out our guide on how to clean suede: shoes, jackets, and accessories). However, rather than being made from the inside of an animal hide as suede is, it uses the outside, which is tougher and longer lasting.

Can you get nubuck leather wet?

As a type of leather, nubuck is slightly water resistant, though it can stain easily. Apply a commercial waterproofing and stain-resistant spray two or three times a year to protect items that are likely to get rained on.

Have more leather to clean? Read up on the best leather cleaning methods or learn how to clean faux leather.

Originally published