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What is Nubuck Leather? | Nubuck vs Suede

What is Nubuck Leather? | Nubuck vs Suede

Nubuck leather. Maybe you have heard of it maybe you haven't. If you are not familiar with leather then you might mistake Nubuck leather for something similar, such as suede. However, different types of leather have different types of characteristics and qualities. A great example is Nubuck Leather. Let us get to know more about Nubuck leather and how it is similar and different from other leather such as suede. We will also know its uses and how to clean the leather. Continue to read the article to know more about this fascinating leather.

Nubuck Leather
Nubuck LeatherNubuck

What is Nubuck Leather?

Nubuck leather is the type of leather that has uses for a wide variety of leather products. It is a great leather and is usually high quality. Its quality and characteristics are a mix of finer qualities from various types of leather. The nubuck leather has a great look and an even greater feel to it.

If you are unfamiliar with nubuck leather then you might want to refer to suede. Suede and Nubuck leather are very similar in look and feel. However, they do have their differences such as in durability. Nubuck is far durable because it comes from the outer side or outer layer of the leather hide. The side, which is typically stronger and more durable. Moreover, nubuck typically comes from the top grain layer of the hide making it a high-quality leather. Other leather similar to nubuck is chrome dyed leather and vegetable leather.

You may likewise see Nubuck leather in various colors. Its uses typically included leather clothes and other personal leather. You can usually find this great fabric on nubuck boots and leather shoes. You may also find them in jackets, gloves, and other personal accessories.

Nubuck Leather clothing

Look and Feel of Nubuck

If you have not seen nubuck leather, you might want to refer to how suede looks like. Like suede, the nubuck surface has a fuzzy and/or velvety texture to it. It is smooth to touch as well. This is referred to as the "nap" of the protein fibers. The nubuck look and feel is popularly recognizable in boots. Unlike, suede and leather, however, nubuck does not develop its patina well. Nubuck is the type of leather that needs a lot of tender loving care to look and feel good over time.

What is Suede?

Suede and nubuck have their similarities and their differences. Similarly, suede is the type of leather that has gone through the process of sanding. The sanding process gives the suede its iconic feel and touch. However, while both go through the same sanding process, suede comes from the inner layer of the calfskin. The nubuck on the other hand comes from the outside layer. Both however usually comes from the top-grain layer of the animal skin.

Suede is not like your normal leather. It is usually the outer part of the animal skin which goes through the process. A common analogy that people make to illustrate is bread. Imagine animal skin like a crust of bread. Making leather is typically from the crust or the outer part. However, for suede, manufacturers turn the "bread" inside out. The inside is softer however it is less durable. The finished leather product usually has a fluffy texture. It is however more porous than other types of leather. This is the reason why water and other liquids usually stain suede.

Look and Feel of Suede

Suede is a common fabric. You might have seen it once or twice. It is soft, smooth leather and, flexible, and pliable. But most of all it has this iconic velvety feel when you touch it. Suede, like most leather, also comes in a wide variety of colors. Suede also has different uses from furniture to clothing. Historically, the word phrase comes from the French phrase " gants de Suede " or gloves from Sweden. This is because suede was primarily used for items that usually have direct contact with the body. Items of clothing like gloves and the liner in boots. However, these days you can usually find suede on almost any furniture or suits. Unlike nubuck, taking care of suede will develop a patina over time.

Are Nubuck and Suede the same thing?

At first glance, nubuck leather and suede might look similar. They may also feel similar as well. Both also go through the process of sanding. And likewise does not naturally hold up to getting wet. Regardless of their similarities, they are not the same thing. They have their differences, such as the materials, the feel, and the price.

For example, while both are a product of the top grain layer they do not have the same durability. Nubuck is more durable because it uses the outer layer of the hide. Suede on the other hand is less durable because it uses the weaker inner layer. As to feel, while they both have that velvety touch, there is a slight difference. For example, suede has significantly coarser leather fibers than nubuck. While nubuck on the other hand has very fine leather fibers. There is also a significant price difference between the two. While both feel and look similar, their price differs. Nubuck being the more expensive one.

leather bag
The Langley Backpack

How Nubuck Leather is made

The making of the Nubuck Leathers historically comes from buckskin of deer or elk. These types of animal hide were popular around the beginning of the 1930s in the United States Market. Primarily, this type of leather was not very popular not successful. It was only when the Duke of Windsor introduced the Nubuck style and look during his royal visit did the leather took off. The Duke was wearing a pair of nubuck leather oxfords which caught the attention of many.

To actually make the nubuck leather is another story. While this type of leather was historically made out of buckskin, some use calfskin as an easier alternative. Calfskin is easy to get and there is an abundance of it. To make the nubuck, leather manufacturers use the outer layer of the calfskin. You should note that the outer layer that they are using is the top-grain or full grain layer. This means it is high-quality material. The outside of the skin then goes through a sanding process. This gives the leather a velvet-like finish. We use the outer layer of the animal skin because it is tougher than the inner part. It is also more resilient than the inner layer. This is logically why Nubuck is more durable than suede. It is likewise the reason why nubuck is more expensive than suede.

For additional information, the inner layer is what makes suede. While on the other hand, the outer layer is what makes nubuck. Moreover, since nubuck is sanded from the outside, it may leave some imperfection to its appearance. While some prefer to leave the imperfection because it gives the leather "character" some also choose to hide it away. To hide these imperfections the manufacturers often dye or stain the leather.

Caring for Nubuck

Like all types of leather, nubuck also needs some tender loving care. Taking care of your leather will not only keep it clean, but it will also make it last longer. Cleaning leather can often be a hassle. While it is regarded as a strong material, cleaning it is a different story. For example, leather is very delicate to water and cleaning agents. Exposing it for too long on water or using strong cleaning agents may damage the leather. Proper technique and tools are necessary for taking care of nubuck leather. Although nubuck is easy to clean. Simple use a suede brush, nubuck brush, or a soft bristle brush to do the job.

To care for your nubuck leather does not only mean how to clean it. It should likewise include how to store and use the leather properly. Exposing the leather to certain elements for a long period of time may ruin the leather. Allow your leather to be in a cool dry place, especially when not in use.

Of course, if you wish to keep your leather as long as possible, you will need to condition it. Nubuck like all leather is organic. Use and exposure to elements my dry out the fibers. Dried-out leather fibers will most likely lead to peeling or tearing of the leather. To revitalize the leather, proper and timely use of a leather conditioner is necessary. This will keep nubuck soft and supple for a longer time. Of course, leather care also includes leather protectors. While conditioners keep the leather nourished, a leather protector protects the leather from different elements. Conditioning and protecting are very important for nubuck leather care.

Backpack/ Messenger Bag
The Gustav Messenger Bag

How to store Nubuck Leather

Exposure to certain elements will definitely ruin your leather. Properly storing your nubuck will make a huge difference. Like most leather nubuck does not fair well with water or any liquids nor any moisture. Nubuck leather should therefore be stored in a dark, cool dry place away from any water or any liquids.

Nubuck should likewise be stored away from direct sunlight. Especially when sunlight hits the leather for a long period of time. Sunlight might dry out the leather and make it more susceptible to tearing and peeling. If exposure cannot be avoided make sure to keep it at a minimum. It is also important to regularly condition the nubuck if it is frequently exposed, such as when there is no proper storing space.

Preferably leather should be stored in a dark, cool dry place. However, some leather goods such as bags and shoes often offer special bags or containers to store the leather. These containers or bags keep the leather shaded and protected. Not only does it protect the leather from sunlight and water, but it also keeps it dust-free as well. They are great investments especially when you frequently travel or have no storing space.

Cleaning Nubuck

How do you clean nubuck leather? Unlike other types of leather, nubuck has a velvety surface. Full-grain leather, top-grain leather, and other leathers on the other hand are often smooth. Is the cleaning process the same or is there a special way to clean nubuck leather and possibly suede? More importantly, what are the dos ad don'ts in cleaning these types of leather?

How to Clean Nubuck (Keeping Nubuck Leather soft, supple, and shiny)

Unlike other types of leather, cleaning nubuck leather is fairly easy. While other types of leather require clean dry cloths, damp cloth, and the right leather cleaner, nubuck leather is simple. All that you will need is a brush with soft bristles. Simple use the brush to get rid of any dirt, dust, soiling, or grime that can get caught in the fibers. Nubuck is a very low-maintenance leather. You will still have to handle the cleaning with care. Always make sure to be gentle when brushing so as to not damage anything. We recommend you use a brass-bristle brush to keep your nubuck leather clean. You do not have to brush the leather every time you use it. You may do it regularly, even when not in use.

For stains, eraser blocks, or just a regular pencil eraser will do the job. And on the occasion that you get your nubuck leather wet, dry it as quickly as possible. You may air dry it afterward. Make sure to air dry it in a cool and dry area.

How often should I clean Nubuck Leather?

The "every time you use it" rule does not necessarily apply to nubuck or any other type of leather to be exact. You may clean it as often as you want. It is important to clean it regularly, even when you have not used it. However, if the nubuck is dirty after every use, you may logically want to clean it after every use as well. Proper and frequent cleaning will benefit the nubuck in the long run.

Is Nubuck Leather easy to clean?

Nubuck is very easy to clean. Unlike other leather types, nubuck can be clean with a simple brush. No need for those leather cleaning products. Simply give the nubuck a gentle brush to remove whatever dirt or grime it has on. For liquid stains, erasers usually do the job. Be sure not to use any water. And if on the occasion that the nubuck gets wet, dry it as soon as you can. Nubuck is a low-maintenance leather do not be afraid to purchase or use one. If you ever need tips you can always come back to this article.

Conditioning & Protecting Nubuck Leather

Conditioning and protection are important for all types of leather. To keep your nubuck looking good and feeling good, proper maintenance is necessary. But what do conditioning and protection mean?

Leather is organic. It has fibers that make it strong and keep it together. It is also what gives the leather its colour. However, after a certain period of time and use, these fibers become weak. This is mostly due to the leather losing oils that serve as nutrients for the fibers. Exposure to elements, use, and time is usually the main causes. Conditioning therefore basically refers to replenishing any oil that the leather loses. Protection on the other hand aims to prevent or minimize the damage that certain elements may cause to the leather.

How do you condition nubuck? Nubuck is a low-maintenance leather. Frequent conditioning is not necessary. However if the nubuck does become stiff, you may apply a conditioning product to return its soft and velvety touch. Most use mink oil in conditioning leather. Lightly apply the conditioning product on a soft dry cloth. Do not apply it directly to the leather. Moreover, you should only use a small amount as mink oil will darken the leather. It is also important to do a spot test before applying the conditioner all over the nubuck leather.

For leather protection, leather protectors are usually available. They usually come in the form of a spray. Leather protectors protect nubuck against dirt and moisture.

Leather Briefcase
The Viggo Briefcase

Disadvantages of Nubuck Leather

Nubuck has many advantages. It is a durable, soft, and breathable fabric. Nubuck is also a low-maintenance leather with upkeeping and cleaning. Moreover, unlike suede, nubuck will return to its original color whenever it gets wet. You will just have to wait until the nubuck dries. While it has its advantages, it is also important to know what are its disadvantages.

The main problem with nubuck is with oil, grime, dirt, and even mud. If you are planning to use nubuck, make sure you keep it away from those we mentioned. Otherwise, the oil, grime, dirt, and mud will likely stain the leather. If you have nubuck leather shoe or suede shoes, it is probably best to avoid wearing them around the park or local nature reserves. They are however great to wear on the street or at work.

Nubuck Color Restoration

Nubuck leather will eventually fade over time. To restore its color, you will need to apply some renovating spray for nubuck or suede. If you have no experience in restoring its color here are a few steps to do it.

First, you will need some tools. You will need a nubuck brush for cleaning the leather. An old toothbrush may be used as an alternative. Make sure to have two brushes. One for cleaning and one for washing. You will also need a regular eraser for scratches, some soap, a bowl, and an old towel. Paper towels or old newspapers may also be used as alternatives. Of course, you will also need some nubuck renovator spray in the desired color.

The first step is to brush the nubuck clean. If there are stubborn stains present you may use your eraser to remove them. If erasers do not remove the stains you can try and wash them with mild soap. Brush the stains in a gentle circular motion. Afterward, you may dry the nubuck. You may air dry the leather, however, to speed up the process you may use an old towel to wipe it dry. Next is to recolor the nubuck. Use the renovating spray in the desired color. The spray will also protect the leather from water and stains. Make sure to use the spray in a well-ventilated area. You may want to apply a couple of coats to get the desired shade. Next is to let the spray dry. After it has dried you may brush the leather with a soft brush.

You have now successfully restored your nubuck leather. Give yourself a pat on the back. That was not as difficult as it seems does it?

The Nomad Toiletry Bag

Nubuck Leather FAQ’s

Here are questions that people frequently ask about Nubuck leather. Maybe there are questions that are similar to yours.

Is nubuck leather real leather?

Nubuck is real leather. In fact, nubuck either comes from full grain or top grain (however usually they are from top grain layer). Historically nubuck leather comes from buckskin (either from deer or elks). However nubuck these days are made from calfskin. Nonetheless, it is real leather.

What is the difference between leather and nubuck leather?

Probably the main difference between leather and nubuck leather is its appearance and feel. Leather, such as full grain leather and top grain leather has a smooth surface. Nubuck on the other hand has a smooth, velvety texture. Nubucks have fine bristles, which gives them a unique texture. The leather on the other hand has none. You can easily distinguish the two just by sight and feel.

Is nubuck leather durable?

Nubuck leather is durable. In fact, it is more durable in comparison to suede. Nubuck is made from top grain layer of the calfskin. The top grain contains strong fibers which give the leather its strength and durability. It is more durable than suede due to a slight difference. Suede is made from the inner layer of the animal skin while Nubuck comes from the outer layer. The outer layer is more stronger.

Does nubuck leather need waterproofing?

Like leather, nubuck is naturally water-resistant. However, it is resistant only to a small amount. Although it is optional, you may waterproof your nubuck leather. Leather protectants usually offer water protection sprays for quick and easy application.

What happens if nubuck gets wet?

Like suede, nubuck turns dark whenever it gets wet. However, unlike suede, nubuck will eventually return to its original colors as soon as it dries.

Is nubuck leather easy to clean?

Nubuck leather is very easy to clean. Unlike other leather types, nubuck merely requires a brush to clean itself. You may use a special nubuck brush or nubuck cloth and even a nubuck cleaner for better results. The nubuck brush also has soft bristles, to avoid damaging the leather when cleaning.

Is nubuck hard to maintain?

Nubuck is not hard to maintain. In fact, nubuck leather is known for being a low-maintenance leather. It merely needs a brush to clean. It also does not require frequent conditioning.

Can I polish nubuck leather?

If you are planning on cleaning your nubuck shoes a good brush or cloth wipe is all that it needs. Using a shoe polish on nubuck is not advisable. Nubuck is too rough and absorbent for shoe polish. You will end up ruining the nubuck if you try to apply any polish to it.

How do you get scratches out of nubuck leather?

Getting scratches out of nubuck leather is easy. You will only need an easier block or even the eraser from your pencil. Gently rub the eraser on the scratched surface to remove it.