Suede and Nubuck – Note on Texture and How to Clean Them
Suede and Nubuck are soft leathers which can be readily soiled. One important fact about Suede is its readiness to lose its nap. Nap is an interesting concept. You can ask if a Nap or velvety feel of the fabric is created naturally or created by artificial means i.e. when the original hide is made into the finished property that is Suede. The Nap is a central part of what Suede is. It is what gives Suede and Nubuck their velvety feels and this is because of one-directional nature of the fibers. Before a note on cleaning these materials, firstly a note on one part of their textures i.e the Nap.
Does Suede had a natural nap? It is possible that Suede gains its characteristic nap from the buffing process. However it seems that Suede does have a natural Nap. Suede comes from the split grain of the animal’s hide and the split grain is an inferior hide to the top grain. However it is known that this split grain has a direction. The fibers of this split grain/ the under layer of the hide runs in one direction and of course the central property of what a nap is is the fact that the fibers run in one direction.
Thus Suede in some way has a natural direction or nap. However buffing is still a central process in the creation of Suede and it is known too that Suede has a ready ability to lose this nap. It thus loses is attractivess, its feel and thus gains some kind of flatness. There are Suede brushes on the market whose aim is to return this nap.
A quick note on Nubuck. Nubuck comes from the top grain or surface of the hide. It is known that Nubuck has a Suede-like softness and there are thus obvious similarities between Nubuck and Suede. In Top Grain Leather however, the fibers run in all directions and thus no nap. Thus there is uniformity and strength and it is a naturally stronger fabric. However Nubuck does have a nap as is known. This is not, it seems, natural and it is created artificially through a buffing process. And this artificial Nap then creates that velvety feel which is a property of Nubuck.
To remove dirt from Suede and Nubuck, a damp but not wet cloth is suitable. It is known that rain can discolor Suede but if you dry the Suede immediately after coming inside with a dry cloth and then leaving the garment in a warm place, then there should be no permanent damage. Suede and Nubuck have natural oils which it is important to retain. There are specific leather care lotions that can be rubbed on with a cloth. Specialist suppliers of cleaning products call these products leather degreasers and leather cleaners.
It is important to mention too that there are products in the market called Protectants which can be put on your garments/accessories about twice yearly. These protectants give a type of protection zone to the Suede and Nubuck garments. These Protectants protect against soiling and dirts. I mention these Protectants because when one gets a heavy stain on the Suede or Nubuck, the stain should firstly be rubbed with a dry cloth but in such a way as not to spread the dirt and make it ingrained. Water should not be used. Then it is advised to use a degreaser which is a product name for the special cleaning lotion. The degreaser is then followed by a leather cleaner. A good brushing then restores the nap and finally there is the protectant. There are special Nubuck as well as Suede brushes on the market but obviously you can use the same type of brush for Suede as Nubuck.
I would like to write again on the texture of Suede and Nubuck. They are too different materials. They come from different layers of the hide; One the underlayer and one the upper but they both have a softness which marks them out amongst leathers in general. Still it is interesting that Suede has a natural Nap and you could say a natural softness or soft texture because of where it comes from i.e. the split grain or inside of the hide.
Written by: Joel Kay