Is nubuck waterproof?

Nubuck is a very valuable material, obtained from cowhide and particularly used in the footwear, leather goods and upholstery sectors, especially for covering chairs and sofas.

Although we are used to this term, the correct one to refer to it would be nubuck . This word comes from the fusion between new and buck and means new animal skin ; in fact it is obtained from the processing of calf, cow, but also mutton and deer skin.

This type of leather feels soft and velvety to the touch and, for this very reason, many confuse it with suede; but there are clear differences between the two, starting from the manufacturing processes. 

Those used for nubuck lead to a qualitatively higher result and a finer velour , as the leather is worked from the grain side , i.e. from the more valuable external side. 

Compared to simple suede, therefore, nubuck is better and more expensive, but also more resistant and durable over time, provided it is cleaned regularly and with the right tools.

In fact, chemical additives and unsuitable accessories could damage the material.

Since it is not waterproof , even water could cause damage to the nubuck, leaving marks that will never go away. 

We will therefore see later which are the best waterproofing treatments, which contribute to increasing the level of protection.

How to clean nubuck

As we have seen, nubuck is a very delicate material that tends to stain quite easily and which must be cleaned regularly with due precautions and the right equipment, to avoid damaging it or making any pre-existing stains even more stubborn.

Before talking about nubuck cleaning systems, here are some little tips to best treat this material: 

    • Nubuck is particularly afraid of water and oily and greasy substances , therefore particular attention must be paid when dealing with them.

    • This material tends to fade in contact with direct light , which is why it must be kept away from the sun or direct heat sources (including halogen bulbs) as much as possible.

    • The delicacy of nubuck means that it can fade or dye if rubbed with fabrics that can lose their color (for example jeans, especially new ones); 

    • If so far we have talked about how harmful contact with water can be, let's imagine what can happen with ink !

Even if we have a small residue on our hands, just touching the nubuck leaves a noticeable stain.

Once all these precautions have been taken, however, it is still possible that the nubuck becomes stained and therefore requires careful cleaning, which is independent of ordinary and periodic cleaning.

How to clean nubuck without risking ruining it

Although there are specific products for treating nubuck, sometimes it may be necessary to purchase specific detergents for certain objects or furnishings covered with this material.

In fact, many people prefer to ask directly to the shopkeeper from whom they purchased the bag, shoes, sofa or chair upholstery.

However, delicate detergents are not enough, but you need to equip yourself with a brush with soft bristles , which does not risk scratching the nubuck, and clean leather or fabric cloths .

Generally speaking, nubuck should be brushed delicately after each use, using small circular movements, being careful not to scratch the surface by lingering too long in the same area. 

To remove stains, however, you need to use the appropriate products on the market, usually in spray or liquid solution . They should be left to act for at least half an hour (each product has its own action time, therefore it is advisable to read what is indicated on the packaging). After this time, the residues must be removed with a cloth, a sponge, a soft bristle brush or the eraser for nubuck and suede.

If the stain does not go away easily, you may need to repeat the same procedure.

If it is an ink stain, it is preferable to use a specific ink solvent suitable for nubuck (also easily available) in a timely manner, i.e. before the stain sets inside the material.

There are also special cloths already soaked in special cleaning substances, to be rubbed delicately on the surfaces.

Once the stains are removed, you need to dry. 

This process also requires some attention!

The best way to perform this function is the hairdryer! 

How to waterproof nubuck

Given the delicacy of nubuck, it is advisable to waterproof it before coming across stains that are difficult to remove which, in many cases, are not treated correctly and therefore risk ruining the fabric.

There are special treatments capable of making nubuck waterproof, but it must be remembered that the protection obtained is never total and does not last forever! Even after treating the surfaces, it is always best to be careful not to dirty them. 

Industrial treatments of nubuck (for example those carried out on the coverings of large surfaces, such as sofas) are done with special waterproofing agents. They make nubuck less velvety to the touch, but they also help protect it from its main enemies, namely watery and oily stains.

Obviously, you don't necessarily need to have a textile company to be able to have these products, there are in fact many on the market, available to everyone. However, you must be careful to choose the ones specifically for nubuck , not the generic ones for leather!

Each product must be applied according to the instructions on the packaging . Usually you need to spray the detergent evenly on the clean and dry nubuck, let it act and then proceed with drying.

The application of these substances makes the skin immune to the action of water, or so it should be! It is therefore advisable to test in a hidden area and if the effect is not satisfactory, repeat the operation.

How to dry nubuck correctly

Here we are now at another fundamental step for caring for nubuck: drying! This is also a delicate operation and must be carried out correctly, otherwise stains will form which are difficult, if not impossible, to remove and damage to the precious material.

It is absolutely not recommended to expose nubuck to sunlight or near a direct heat source, be it a radiator or a stove, otherwise you risk ruining it and compromising its velvety effect and softness.

In the case of a pair of nubuck shoes , an effective drying method could be to insert rolled newspapers inside them , which have the ability to delicately absorb excess humidity.

Naturally, it is advisable to complete drying with a hairdryer at medium temperature . To facilitate this process and obtain a good result, while drying it, you need to brush the nubuck so as to adequately lift and comb the soft fuzz that makes it up.

The hairdryer is a quick tool that everyone has, but there are also specific electric dryers that perform this task! 

Wind drying can also be very useful , as long as it is away from humidity and sunlight.