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Can You Use Saddle Soap on Roughout, Nubuck or Suede Leather?

Can You Use Saddle Soap on Roughout, Nubuck or Suede Leather?

Cowboy boots hold a special place in American culture, embodying ruggedness, durability, and style.

When it comes to caring for these cherished boots, one popular product often comes to mind: saddle soap.

However, for those who own rough-out, suede, or nubuck leather cowboy boots, there is a burning question: Can you use saddle soap on these napped leathers?

In this article, we will focus on answering this question and providing expert advice on the best care practices for maintaining the beauty and longevity of your beloved cowboy boots.

Can You Use Saddle Soap on Roughout (or Suede, Nubuck) Leather?

The answer to whether you can use saddle soap on rough-out, nubuck, or suede leather is a “NO”.

Saddle soap is specifically formulated for smooth or finished leather, not raw or unfinished leather surfaces like roughout, suede, and nubuck.

The unique texture and delicate naps of these types of leather make it susceptible to damage when exposed to saddle soap.

These napped leathers (roughout, suede, and nubuck) are created by using the flesh side of the hide, resulting in a suede-like surface with a distinct nap.

Saddle soap, on the other hand, contains various ingredients such as alkaline substances, waxes, and oils that are designed to clean and condition smooth leather.

These components can have adverse effects on roughout, suede, and nubuck leather.

saddle soap and horsehair brush

Leather has a slightly acidic pH, typically ranging from 4 to 6. Alkaline substances, such as those found in saddle soap, have a higher pH value.

When applied to leather, they can disrupt the natural pH balance, potentially leading to drying out or brittleness.

The alkaline substances in saddle soap do not cause problems for smooth leather because smooth leather has a different structure and finish compared to roughout leather.

Smooth leather has a tightly packed, smooth surface that is more resistant to the effects of alkaline substances.

On the other hand, roughout, nubuck, or suede leather has an unfinished, raw surface with a delicate nap.

The nap consists of fibers that are more prone to damage and alteration when exposed to alkaline substances like saddle soap.

The rough, textured surface of these napped leathers allows the soap to penetrate deeper into the material, leading to discoloration, staining, and a loss of the unique texture.

Additionally, the waxes and oils in saddle soap may clog the pores of the roughout, nubuck, suede leather, compromising its breathability and natural ability to absorb moisture.

Suede cowboy boots

The delicate nap of roughout, suede, and nubuck leather is another factor to consider.

Saddle soap, when applied to napped leather, can cause the nap to become matted, flattened, or altered in texture.

This can result in a loss of the characteristic suede-like appearance that makes roughout leather so appealing.

Therefore, it is crucial to use products specifically designed for roughout, suede, and nubuck leather to maintain its integrity and appearance.

While saddle soap may be suitable for smooth leather, it is not recommended for use on roughout, suede, nubuck and other napped leather due to the potential damage it can cause.

Alternative Cleaning Methods for Rough-out, Suede, and Nubuck Leather:

Instead of saddle soap, which is not ideal for rough-out, nubuck, or suede leather, there are alternative cleaning methods better suited for these delicate materials.

Begin by using a soft brush or suede brush to gently remove surface dirt and debris. Always brush in the direction of the nap to protect the leather’s soft surface.

Gentle, linear strokes help lift dirt without damaging the suede.

For more thorough cleaning, especially for stubborn stains or scuff marks, apply a suede cleaner. These cleaners are formulated to safely clean suede without saturating or damaging the texture.

After applying the cleaner, use the brush again, continuing to move in the direction of the nap, for effective cleaning.

Suede care kit from Tecovas

Suede Cleaner Kit | Click image for more info | Image copyright Tecovas Boot Company | #CommissionEarned

If dry stains persist, a suede eraser or gum eraser can be used for targeted cleaning.

Gently rub the eraser over the stain, continuing to respect the direction of the nap, to lift away any remaining dirt without compromising the suede’s natural look and feel.


Suede boot care kit

Proper Conditioning for Roughout or Suede Leather

Conditioning napped leather is crucial for maintaining its suppleness and durability.

However, traditional leather conditioners are not recommended for roughout, nubuck, and suede leathers as they can darken or stain the material.

Instead, opt for specialized suede or roughout leather conditioners.

These conditioners are formulated to provide the necessary nourishment and protection to the leather without altering its unique texture.

Apply the conditioner following the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure optimal results.


In conclusion, saddle soap should not be used on suede or roughout leather cowboy boots.

The unique characteristics of roughout leather, such as its delicate nap and susceptibility to staining, make saddle soap unsuitable for this type of leather.

By avoiding saddle soap and using appropriate cleaning techniques and conditioners, you can ensure that your napped leather cowboy boots remain in excellent condition, retaining their distinctive look for years to come.

Remember to always prioritize the specific care needs of roughout leather to preserve its beauty and longevity.