What is Nubuck Leather? Leather vs Suede vs Nubuck

When shopping for any leather item, you might have come across a type of leather known as Nubuck. Usually used to make shoes, jackets, handbags, furniture among others, you may have wondered what is Nubuck Leather.

Although many buyers confuse Nubuck and Suede because both types of leather have a soft feel. They are quite different since Nubuck is polished with sandpaper on the outer side of the skin. However, Suede is basically polished in the inner layer of the skin which makes Nubuck more durable than Suede.

Made from Top-Grain cow leather, Nubuck leather is mostly soft but has a strong, texture. Nevertheless, the Nubuck surface might have a pattern applied or embossed to it for a more unique design. For instance, it can be from random patterns, simulated grain, geometric patterns, or a particular design from a specific brand. Still, you can still choose embossed Nubuck leather which is available in different colors.

What is Nubuck?

Introduced in the USA market in the 1930s, the term Nubuck was derived from the word bucks which are male deer. Nubuck was earlier made from buckskin of deer, elk, or moose. Mostly hunting these wild animals for food, the hunters also used the animal skins to make houses, clothing, and tools. However, later on, the leather was obtained from the skin of cows, sheep, goats,s and other animal skins.

Nubuck Leather Sofa
Nubuck Leather Sofa

So, what is Nubuck leather and how is it made? Just as we explained above, Nubuck leather is made from removing the outer layer also known as top grain of the cow skin. Keep in mind, the top grain layer is much rougher and stronger than the inner layer which mostly is used to make Suede. This, therefore, makes Nubuck more costly than Suede but less expensive than Vegan Leather especially Polyurethane which is also known as PU Leather.

After the Nubuck layer is removed, then it is sanded and polished to remove the visible and imperfect markings.  Moreover, it is also stained or dyed to make its appearance more appealing. By using the chromium tanning process that takes only a few days, Nubuck also becomes softer and flexible.

When it comes to the dyeing process, soluble dyes are great since they penetrate and color through the Nubuck leather fibers without changing the surface. That means, no matter how much some leather surfaces may be blemished, covering them with dye will not change the quality of the natural leather.

Note that, since Nubuck leather can be dyed any color, you can use the following Leather Dyes to change the leather item’s appearance. All you have to do is follow the instructions and find the right colors for your Nubuck leather stuff.

Also, apart from Nubuck leather being used for furniture, jackets, boots, or shoes, there are other varieties of leather goods made from it. These goods mostly include:

  1. Belts
  2. Gloves
  3. Travel bags
  4. Pouches
  5. Handbags
  6. Sandals
  7. Wallets
  8. Briefcases
  9. Note covers
  10. Purses
  11. Luggage
  12. Watchbands
  13. Key chains
  14. Mobile electronic covers and cases
  15. Coats
  16. Automobile  upholstery
  17. Furniture upholstery

As you can see, nubuck leather is popular that even some well-known brands use it for certain nubuck leather goods. For instance, Timberland makes very popular work boots made from nubuck leather and is great at withstanding the harsh weather. Furthermore, Birkenstock is also a popular brand found in Germany which also makes some goods made from Nubuck leather.

How to Take Care of Nubuck Leather

Just like all other types of leather items, it is essential you take care of your Nubuck leather. This can be fairly simple if you follow the following steps. So, let us start with clothes and shoes.

How to Take Care of Your Nubuck Leather Clothing and Shoes

Store your nubuck shoes or boots into a cool, dry place:

Nubuck Leather shoe
Nubuck leather shoe

No matter how many Nubuck leather shoes or boots you have, you should always store them in a cool dry place. Therefore, don’t leave your shoes or boots in a moist place or even in your car for days and nights since they will be exposed to mold thus becoming discolored. Moreover, never place the leather shoes or boots near heated floors since this dries out the bottom part of the shoe.

Always hang your leather items:

If you are dealing with Nubuck leather items such as jackets and coats, it’s ideal to hang them. This will be best since they will get to keep their original shape.

Let the Nubuck leather dry naturally:

When it comes to cleaning any Nubuck leather items, it’s important to let them dry naturally. Avoid placing your wet leather item close to any heat source such as heat vents, radiators, or fireplaces since it can become fragile and shrink. Note that, this makes the items crack easily thus damaging them.

Apply Nubuck leather conditioner often:

Since you don’t want any of your Nubuck leather shoes, jackets, or other accessories to crack, apply the Nubuck leather conditioner often. However, don’t overdo it because too much oil can block the pores of the leather which may negatively affect the leather’s coloration especially the jacket or shoes. Therefore, always apply the Nubuck leather conditioner when you feel the leather is a bit stiff.

Refrain from spraying cologne or Perfume directly on your leather:

No matter how much you want to smell good refrain yourself from spraying any type of cologne or perfume on your jackets or coats. Why not you may ask?  The reason behind it is that most cologne or perfumes are alcohol-based and tend to leave behind an oily stain once applied directly. Nonetheless, you can still apply the cologne inside the lining only as long the scent is not too strong. Later on, when you are finished wearing it, hang it inside out to ensure the remaining smell fades away.

How to Take Care of Nubuck Leather Furniture

Keep your nubuck leather items away from direct sunlight:

Just like other types of leathers, you should keep your Nubuck leather items away from the sunlight. Since direct light tends to quickly speed up the process of fading, be sure to not put your Nubuck leather furniture near your windows, glass doors, or skylights.

Ensure your furniture is a couple of feet away from any heat sources:

Even if you want your Nubuck leather sofa to dry quickly after you paint or dye it, keep them away from heat sources like vents or radiators. Remember that, exposure to heat causes the leather t,o dry out which quickly damages the sofa.

Vacuum at least once a week:

To keep the leather free from dust, you should vacuum the living room at least once a week.

Use Nubuck leather cleaner cloth:

When wiping any leather surface dirt, it’s recommended you use a Nubuck leather cleaner cloth. All you have to do is fold a soft, dry sponge into the cleaning cloth and wipe the leather sofa. Note that, this can also be done for other Nubuck leather items such as shoes or jackets.

Always apply Nubuck leather protector:

All leather furniture requires a Nubuck leather protector to make them resistant to stains or dirt. Therefore, make sure you pay more attention to the furniture areas that are likely to experience friction. These places are usually seats, armrests, and backrests.

Nubuck Leather FAQ’s

What is the Difference Between Leather and Nubuck?

The difference between leather and Nubuck is that leather such as Full Grain leather has not been polished by sandpaper during the tanning process. Nonetheless, Nubuck has been polished with sandpaper.

Another difference between leather vs Nubuck is that smooth leather is known to be waterproof while Nubuck is not fully waterproof. Nonetheless, Nubuck tends to be more resistant to damages and also maintains a great appearance for a long time. That why Nubuck leather is popular among leather manufacturers as they make all kinds of footwear such as hiking boots, shoes, and more from the leather.

Suede Leather

What is the Difference Between Leather and Suede?

When it comes to leather vs Suede, there are several differences to look at.  One of them is that leather is obtained from the outer surface of the animal skin while Suede is obtained from the underside.

Another difference is that since Suede is made from the underside of the animal skin, it is usually thinner and more fragile than leather. Also, Suede items cannot be cleaned with cleaning products used for cleaning leather, and finally, leather is known to be shinier than Suede.

Is Nubuck Leather Durable?

Yes, it is since it’s made from top-grain leather, it is automatically long-lasting and more durable than some leathers such as Suede and Bonded Leather. The reason behind this is that these kinds of leather are not made from top-grain leather.

Furthermore, Nubuck is also more breathable than synthetic leather especially when it comes to your Nubuck leather jacket and shoes. However, you should note that, although Nubuck is durable, it’s more vulnerable than other leathers when it comes to stains due to its rough surface.Nubuck Leather Shoes

Is Nubuck Leather Water-Resistant?

Just like other types of leather, Nubuck is only water-resistant to a small amount of water. Therefore, to make it more water resistance it is usually waterproofed especially clothing such as Nubuck leather jackets and shoes.

The Nubuck leather waterproof treatment is usually done by a form of spraying which not only prevents you from becoming wet but also makes it more breathable. Note that, to ensure your Nubuck leather stays longer, it’s wise you don’t expose any of it to bad weather despite waterproofing.

What Happens if Nubuck Gets Wet?

When Nubuck gets wet, the color becomes darker although it goes back to its original color once its dries. However, if oils, dirt, or mud come into contact with the Nubuck leather they can stain it making it hard to clean. That’s why it’s essential you take extra care of your Nubuck leather item when wearing it outside.

How Do You Condition Nubuck Leather?

Since Nubuck leather is vulnerable, it requires a little care and one way to achieve this is by conditioning it. That’s because any kind of Nubuck leather item that isn’t conditioned not only looks bad but also feels uncomfortable. This not only applies to your Nubuck leather sofa but also your boots, jackets, and bags.

Nonetheless, before you start conditioning the leather, there are some important steps you need to take:

  • First of all, you need to clean your Nubuck item with a Nubuck cloth. Specifically designed for cleaning Nubuck, this type of cloth will easily wipe away dirt or mud from the leather item. However, if you are cleaning any oil-based stains you should use a leather master Degreaser. Note that, you should clean softly in circular motions and also make sure if you are cleaning leather shoes to first remove the laces.
  • Secondly, apply your preferred conditioner by gently spraying it on the entire surface you have cleaned and use a Nubuck brush to dry the area completely. Remember that, a great conditioner is meant to last for at least six months before you apply it again.
  • After you are done applying the conditioner, then you should finish off with the Nubuck leather protector to prevent the leather item to stain again. In addition, the protector can also protect your Nubuck item from water damage caused by rain or snow.

How Do You Know if a Shoe is Nubuck?

Although Nubuck has a soft velvet-like surface the same as Suede, you will get to know if a shoe is Nubuck by its rougher smooth texture. Another way to know if a shoe is a Nubuck is by its color which is either white or colored. Also, Nubuck leather shoes tend to be resistant to tear making it more durable.

Leather vs Suede vs Nubuck vs Fabric YouTube Video

Final Words

So that’s Nubuck leather for you. It’s an ideal leather to have due to its soft feeling as well as it’s very easy to care for. All you need to remember is to keep away from water, oily products such as perfumes, direct sunlight, and also heat sources.

When you do this, you will enable the leather to last for years while still maintaining a sleek style when wearing your Nubuck leather clothing or shoes. Additionally, if you own a Nubuck leather sofa, you not only get to enjoy some comfort but your sofa will brighten up your home decor.


I am an Architect Engineer by profession with great interest in web and content creation. I have used leather products for a long time, which has increased my enthusiasm, knowledge, and understanding of leather. I am here to shed light on the leather and guide you on choosing the best leather products.

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