How to Clean Nubuck Shoes and Boots

Are your nubuck shoes looking kind of sad? Do they have marks and stains that you don’t know how to remove? We can help with our tips on how to clean nubuck shoes.

Although hard-wearing and comfortable, nubuck shoes and boots be a challenge to clean. We’ll detail ways you can remove dirt and dust. You’ll also learn how to protect and care for them.


What is Nubuck?

Nubuck is a form of leather obtained from an animal hide, usually a cow. It is the result of the exterior part of the hide, the top grain, being sanded. (Suede is the result of sanding the interior of the hide).

This raises the short protein fibers called the nap, making the surface of the material smooth and soft. Sanding also removes any imperfections and markings that might be found on the hide.

Nubuck can be dyed or stained with different colors to cover any remaining defects on the surface.


How Do You Care for Nubuck Leather?

Nubuck, while strong and durable, tends to stain and soil easily. One of the most important things you can do when it comes to nubuck shoe care is to brush them regularly.

How to Clean Nubuck Shoes

An essential tool in your arsenal for cleaning nubuck shoes is a good suede brush. This will help remove dust and dirt trapped in the raised fibers and restore the nap of the leather. Here’s what you do:

What You Need

  • Suede brush

The Method

  1. Make sure your shoes are dry.
  2. Take a suede brush like this one from Shacke. It has nylon bristles which are good for nubuck.
  3. Using a circular motion, brush from the bottom of the shoes to the top.


Pro Tips

  • Don’t forget to brush the areas between the soles and the uppers (the welt). The Shacke brush has a hard rubber ridge on the side for this purpose.
  • Start with the bristle side of the brush to remove the dust and dirt and then restore the nap with the gentler nodule side of the brush.


How to Clean Nubuck Shoes and Boots

Brushing will remove some marks and stains from nubuck. Nevertheless, there are times when that just won’t be enough, and you need to call in the big guns. Here are some ways you can clean nubuck shoes.


1. Use a Stain Eraser for Spot Cleaning

What You Need

The Method

  1. Brush your shoes using the method we outlined above.
  2. Take your eraser and rub it over the stain in the same you would use a pencil eraser.
  3. Continue until the mark is removed.
  4. Brush your shoes again to restore the nap.


Pro Tips

  • Sometimes an eraser might not remove the whole stain, but it will help to fade it so that it’s less noticeable.
  • Make sure your eraser is clean before you use it. You don’t want to spread more stains over your nubuck shoes.

This video shows you how to use a nubuck/suede eraser and brush.


2. All Over Cleaning With Nubuck Cleaner

Sometimes just a brush and spot clean with an eraser won’t be enough. Your nubuck shoes or boots may need an all-over clean. There are specialized cleaning products which can help.


What You Need


What to Do

  • Brush your shoes using the method we detailed above to get rid of dust and dirt.
  • Dampen your clean cotton cloth with cold water.
  • Wipe the entire outside of your shoes evenly with the wet cloth.
  • Take your sponge and dampen it in the cold water, making sure you wring out excess water.
  • Apply a small amount of nubuck cleaner to the sponge.
  • Working from top to bottom, gently rub the cleaner all over the shoes or boots.
  • Make sure the whole area is covered to avoid watermarks.
  • Rinse the cleaner off with cold water on a clean cloth, ensuring you don’t saturate the shoes.
  • Leave the shoes to air dry completely.
  • Once dry, use your suede brush to restore the nap.


Pro Tips

  • You can get all you need to clean nubuck shoes in a single kit like this one from Gear Aid. It also includes a waterproofer which we will cover in a moment.
  • Make sure your sponge is clean when you apply the cleaner. A dirty sponge can spread grime all over your shoes.
  • If you have stubborn stains, use a suede eraser to remove them.


3. How to Clean Nubuck Shoes: Home Remedy

clean nubuck shoes home remedy

You don’t have to use commercial products clean nubuck shoes. A solution of water and dishwashing soap can also work.

What You Need

  • Cold water.
  • Dishwashing soap.
  • Toothbrush.
  • Small bowl.
  • Clean cloth.
The Method
  • Brush your shoes with your nubuck brush to remove dust and dirt.
  • Half fill the bowl with cold water.
  • Add a couple of drops of dishwashing soap. The water should still be clear and not discolored by the soap.
  • Agitate the water to mix and form a foam on the top using your toothbrush.
  • Shake the excess water from the toothbrush and apply the solution to your shoes in a circular motion. You should see foam on the surface of the shoes.
  • Wipe the foam off with a clean cloth.
  • Start at the top of the shoe and work in small sections until it has all been cleaned.
  • Air dry your shoes.
  • Once dry, restore the nap using your suede brush.


Pro Tips

  • Make sure you don’t saturate your shoes as this could leave watermarks.
  • Treat any visible marks or stains with a nubuck/suede eraser first.

This video shows you how to clean your nubuck using this home remedy.


Waterproofing and Conditioning

Keeping your shoes brushed and clean is only one part of nubuck care. The other thing you need to do is to waterproof and condition them.

What You Need

  • Stain and water repellent spray.
  • Nubuck/suede brush.


What You Do

  • Brush your shoes to remove dust and dirt.
  • Give your shoes an even coat of spray. Make sure you hold the product about six to eight inches away from the shoes.
  • Your shoes should be damp but not saturated after spraying.
  • Place your shoes to dry overnight in a well-ventilated area away from sunlight or direct heat.
  • The shoes should dry in about 24 hours.
  • Restore the nap by gently brushing in one direction.


Pro Tips

  • Carry out a patch test on an inconspicuous area of your shoes before starting. You want to make sure the product is not going to change their color.
  • Apply the spray in a well-ventilated area.
  • Cover buckles or other embellishments on your shoes before treatment to prevent damaging them.
  • Apply two coats, allowing your shoes to dry in between, for better protection.


Frequently Asked Questions

Question for How to Clean Nubuck Shoes

Can You Wash Nubuck Shoes?

Nubuck shoes can be cleaned using the home remedy we have outlined above. You should not consider placing nubuck shoes in a washing machine or saturating them when cleaning. This could damage the nubuck and leave watermarks.


Can Nubuck Get Wet?

Nubuck is leather and, to an extent, naturally repels water. That being said, you should still use a waterproofing treatment to protect them. Make sure you reapply this to clean shoes about every two weeks to keep them protected.


How Do You Protect Nubuck Shoes?

This soft, velvety leather might be more prone to staining than other types. It is often light in color as well. Using a spray, like this one from Crep, will help protect from stains as well as provide a waterproof coating.


Stepping Out

Nubuck is used to make shoes, boots, sneakers, and other footwear. Made from top-grain leather, it is durable and hard-wearing. On the downside, the sanding process that produces this leaves the raised nap more liable to stain.

Luckily, there are ways to easily clean and care for nubuck so your shoes can always look in tip-top condition.

Now that you know how to clean nubuck shoes or boots go ahead and give it a try. Please leave us a comment and let us know how it goes, and don’t forget to share.


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