Can You Waterproof Light Nubuck Shoes?


Nubuck is a form of leather popularly used in shoe construction for its supple texture. As it is highly susceptible to water and oil stains, it is imperative to treat nubuck with a waterproofing chemical.

Nubuck is popular for its supple texture.
(Image by, courtesy of Kristin)

The terms "suede" and "nubuck" are sometimes used interchangeably. Sanding leather disturbs the grain and creates a soft nap. Nubuck is sanded on the exterior of the hide, while suede is created by sanding the underside. Nubuck appears delicate but is more durable.

Nubuck and suede are both sanded leathers.
Image by, courtesy of Todd Petit

Oil and grease create shiny spots and mats in the nap. Therefore, avoid oil- and wax-based waterproofing agents intended for full grain leather. Use only products formulated for nubuck and suede.

Oils are the enemies of nubuck.
Image by, courtesy of Jessica Spengler

It is best to treat nubuck shoes prior to wear. If that's not possible, use a nubuck cleaner, then go over it with a rubber- or plastic-bristled brush to raise the nap prior to treatment.

Stiff bristled brushes are for suede, not nubuck.
Image by, courtesy of Steven Depolo

Follow instructions on the product label. Place the shoes in a well-ventilated area and spray them from 8 to 12 inches away, covering all of the exposed nubuck. Allow the shoes to dry for one to two hours before use.

Allow shoes to dry before wearing them.
Image by, courtesy of Tony

Repeat the application every six months to prevent water spots from forming after treatment.

Treat nubuck every six months.
Image by, courtesy of Andreanna

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