How to clean nubuck shoes

Nubuck leather is a popular material used in the manufacturing of shoes, jackets, and other accessories. It has a distinct velvet-like texture and a matte finish that adds a touch of sophistication to any outfit. However, despite its stylish appearance, nubuck can be challenging to maintain, as it is highly susceptible to stains, scuffs, and discoloration. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the best methods for cleaning nubuck shoes, ensuring they look as good as new.

clean nubuck shoes

Nubuck Leather

Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s essential to understand the unique characteristics of nubuck leather. Unlike smooth leather, nubuck has a buffed or sanded surface that creates its signature velvety texture. This texture makes the nubuck more prone to absorbing dirt, oils, and moisture, which can lead to unsightly stains and discolouration.

Regular Maintenance: The Key to Keeping Nubuck Shoes Looking Fresh

Proper maintenance is crucial for preserving the appearance and longevity of your nubuck shoes. Here are some tips for regular care:

  1. Brush regularly: Invest in a soft-bristled brush specifically designed for nubuck leather. Gently brush your shoes after each wear to remove surface dirt and debris.
  2. Protect with a nubuck spray: Apply a nubuck protector spray to your shoes periodically. These sprays create a barrier against water, stains, and dirt, making it easier to clean your shoes when necessary.
  3. Avoid moisture: Nubuck leather is highly sensitive to moisture, which can cause discolouration and damage. Avoid wearing your nubuck shoes in wet conditions or heavy rain.
  4. Store properly: When not in use, store your nubuck shoes in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and humidity. Consider using shoe trees to help maintain their shape.

Cleaning Nubuck Shoes: Step-by-Step Guide

Despite your best efforts, your nubuck shoes may eventually accumulate stubborn stains or lose their vibrant appearance. When this happens, it’s time for a deep cleaning. Follow these steps for optimal results:

Step 1: Prepare the Cleaning Solution

For a gentle yet effective cleaning solution, mix the following ingredients:

  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 1 part warm water

Alternatively, you can use a commercial nubuck cleaner designed specifically for this type of leather. Always read the instructions carefully and perform a spot test on an inconspicuous area to ensure the cleaner won’t discolour or damage your shoes.

Here are some popular commercial nubuck cleaners to consider:

ProductKey FeaturesPrice Range
Pink Miracle CleanerPlant-based, biodegradable formula, gentle on nubuck$$
Saphir Nubuck CleanerRemoves dirt and stains, maintains nubuck texture$$$
Kiwi Nubuck & Suede CleanerAffordable, effective for both nubuck and suede$

Step 2: Brush Away Surface Dirt

Before applying the cleaning solution, use a soft-bristled brush to remove any loose dirt, dust, or debris from the surface of your nubuck shoes. This step will help ensure that the cleaning solution can penetrate deeper into the material and effectively target set-in stains.

Recommended brushes for nubuck:

  • Kiwi Nubuck & Suede Brush
  • Saphir Nubuck Brush
  • Moneysworth & Best Nubuck Brush

Step 3: Apply the Cleaning Solution

Using a clean, soft cloth or a nubuck cleaning pad, gently dab the cleaning solution onto the affected areas of your shoes. Avoid saturating the nubuck leather, as excessive moisture can cause discolouration and damage.

Check out these nubuck cleaning pads:

  • Pink Miracle Nubuck Cleaning Pads
  • Saphir Nubuck Cleaning Pad
  • Moneysworth & Best Nubuck Cleaning Cloth

Step 4: Scrub Gently

With a nubuck cleaning brush or a soft-bristled brush, gently scrub the areas where you applied the cleaning solution. Use small, circular motions, and avoid excessive pressure or vigorous scrubbing, as this can damage the delicate nubuck surface.

Recommended nubuck cleaning brushes:

  • Kiwi Nubuck & Suede Brush
  • Saphir Nubuck Brush
  • Moneysworth & Best Nubuck Brush

Step 5: Rinse and Dry

Once you’ve scrubbed the affected areas, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe away any remaining cleaning solution and dirt. Ensure that you remove all traces of the solution to prevent any residue from drying on the leather.

After rinsing, allow your nubuck shoes to air dry completely. Avoid using direct heat sources, such as hair dryers or heaters, as these can cause the leather to dry unevenly and potentially damage the material.

Step 6: Brush and Buff

Once your nubuck shoes are completely dry, use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush the surface. This step will help restore the velvety texture and remove any remaining dirt or debris.

To achieve a smooth, even finish, consider using a nubuck buffing cloth or a dedicated nubuck burnishing tool. Gently buff the surface of your shoes in small, circular motions, paying extra attention to any areas that appear dull or discoloured.

Recommended nubuck buffing tools:

  • Saphir Nubuck Brush and Buffing Cloth Set
  • Moneysworth & Best Nubuck Burnishing Tool
  • Pink Miracle Nubuck Buffing Cloth

Tackling Tough Stains and Scuffs

Despite your best efforts, some stains and scuffs on nubuck shoes can be particularly stubborn. In these cases, you may need to employ more specialized techniques:

1. Ink or Dye Stains

For ink or dye stains, try using a small amount of rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover (without acetone) on a clean cloth. Gently dab the stain, being careful not to over-saturate the area. Once the stain has lifted, follow the regular cleaning steps outlined above.

2. Oil or Grease Stains

To tackle oil or grease stains, sprinkle some cornstarch or talcum powder over the affected area and let it sit for several hours or overnight. The powder will help absorb the excess oil or grease. After the designated time, brush off the powder and follow the regular cleaning routine.

3. Scuffs and Marks

For scuffs or marks on your nubuck shoes, use a nubuck eraser or a dedicated nubuck cleaning stone. Gently rub the eraser or stone over the affected area, following the direction of the nubuck grain. This method will help lift and remove the scuffs or marks without damaging the material.

Recommended nubuck erasers and cleaning stones:

  • Kiwi Nubuck & Suede Eraser
  • Saphir Nubuck Cleaning Stone
  • Moneysworth & Best Nubuck Eraser Block

4. Stubborn Stains

For particularly stubborn stains that don’t respond to the above methods, you may need to seek professional cleaning services. Many cobblers and shoe repair shops offer specialized nubuck cleaning and restoration services.

Protecting Your Nubuck Shoes After Cleaning

After investing time and effort into cleaning your nubuck shoes, it’s essential to take steps to protect them and maintain their fresh appearance. Here are some tips:

1. Apply a Nubuck Protector Spray

Once your shoes are completely dry and clean, apply a nubuck protector spray. These sprays create a water-resistant barrier, making it easier to wipe away dirt and stains in the future.

Popular nubuck protector sprays:

  • Pink Miracle Nubuck Protector Spray
  • Saphir Nubuck Protector Spray
  • Kiwi Nubuck & Suede Protector

2. Condition the Leather

Nubuck leather can become dry and brittle over time, leading to cracks and premature wear. Use a high-quality nubuck leather conditioner to help maintain the material’s suppleness and prevent cracking or flaking.

Recommended nubuck leather conditioners:

  • Saphir Nubuck Leather Conditioner
  • Moneysworth & Best Nubuck Conditioner
  • Pink Miracle Nubuck Leather Reviver

3. Store Properly

As mentioned earlier, proper storage is crucial for preserving the longevity of your nubuck shoes. Keep them in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and excessive moisture. Consider investing in a shoe storage cabinet or shoe boxes to protect your nubuck shoes from dust and other environmental factors.

Recommended shoe storage solutions:

  • IRIS USA Shoe Storage Box
  • Seville Classics Shoe Storage Cabinet
  • Whitmor Shoe Storage Cabinet


Nubuck shoes are a stylish and versatile addition to any wardrobe, but they require special care to maintain their distinct appearance. By following the techniques and tips outlined in this guide, you can effectively clean and protect your nubuck shoes, ensuring they look their best for years to come. Remember, regular maintenance and prompt attention to stains and scuffs are key to keeping your nubuck shoes in pristine condition. With a little effort and the right cleaning methods, you can enjoy the luxurious look and feel of nubuck leather footwear for many seasons to come.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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