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How to Distress Nubuck

Patricia H. Reed

Leather furniture can look a little cold when new. Not so with nubuck leather. By definition, this soft leather is already treated for a lived-in look. Nubuck is aniline, or unsealed, leather in its natural state that has been further brushed or sanded for an aged look with a velvety feel. You can distress the nubuck even more to make your sofa, chair or throw pillow look like a much-loved family heirloom.

Aged leather has a timeless, comfortable look.

Step 1

Examine your nubuck leather piece before you start to work to determine where the piece would naturally get more wear. This is usually around the edges -- anywhere it would come into regular contact with people sitting, and be worn by friction or darkened by skin oils over time -- the front edges of seats, head- and armrests, and the edges of pillows.

Step 2

Gently rub the nubuck with a fine-grit sandpaper sponge in areas that would receive the most wear.

Step 3

Rub edges with a rough chunk of rock or coarse sandpaper for more focused wear, being careful not to go through the leather -- you probably want to avoid the ultra-distressed route of patches or Frankenstein-like stitching on your nubuck item.

Step 4

Spritz your absorbent nubuck piece with water and rubbing alcohol, cold tea or a leather conditioning lotion. Leather conditioning products leave nubuck leather looking darker than their original color with a slightly slicker texture.

Step 5

Scratch the surface of your nubuck furniture or accessory with your fingernails for lighter scratches, or the dull edge of a key for deeper gouges. Take care not to rip the leather.

Step 6

Brush your nubuck item all over when you're just about satisfied with your distressing job. Smoothing the nubuck with a brush, as the manufacturer did when it was originally processed can blend the different distressed areas for a more natural look.