Nubuck is a type of leather with a soft, velvety surface and is some of the most expensive leather to purchase. Unlike the less expensive suede, this type of leather is far more durable and is excellent for use on items like furniture because it will last much longer than suede. It is subject to the same kind of easy staining that occurs with suede and often requires pre-treatment or stain resistant protection to extend its life.
It’s easy to get confused about whether a leather item is nubuck or suede since both look and feel similar. Both types of leather are sanded to produce the velvet soft feel that is so desirable. The main difference is that nubuck is sanded on the outer surface of the leather, essentially the part that would have been the exterior skin of the animal, while suede is sanded on the inner layer of the skin.
Since the outside layer of a skin is much tougher, nubuck lasts much longer and responds very well to this sanding process. It does show imperfections in the exterior layer of the skin much more easily, and is often treated with dyes, sometimes simply clear ones, to disguise any significant flaws. The sanding process can create further imperfections when not done correctly, so nubuck may be color-treated to hide these too.
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You will find nubuck used in a variety of applications. Furniture made with this material is highly desirable, but will come at a much more expensive price than furniture made from lower grade types of leather. Nubuck shoes and purses are popular, as is clothing. Some companies prefer to use it instead of suede so that a product will last longer. For example, the Birkenstock® classic sandal is made from nubuck instead of suede. The company chose this particular leather because it is so much stronger than suede and will wear well with time.
Naturally, all nubuck is subject to significant staining and requires proper care even when it is stain treated. Unlike flat leather, you can’t use shoe polish on this material because of its nap. Instead, many leather manufacturers suggest one way to keep it from getting permanent stains is to use a brush on the leather regularly to remove any small dust particles. If you have furniture made of nubuck, you should additionally vacuum the furniture about once a week to remove dust.
If you do spill liquids on nubuck, it’s important to use cotton cloths to try to soak up as much of the spill as possible. You can buy special leather cleaners that are approved for the material that can help remove oily stains. Most cleaners suggest not allowing the stain to dry since it is much harder to remove a stain on nubuck after it has fully dried. Generally the older the stain, the more difficult it is to remove.
The easy stain properties of nubuck should be a consideration when you make a purchase. The material may be perfect for the home where adults are quite careful when they sit on the furniture. The expense may not be worth it, on the other hand, if you have young children or animals that like to leap onto furniture.