We provide extraordinary care for fine
garments & household textiles
Unlike regular garments, suede and leather garments
are exempt from the Federal Trade Commission's care labeling
regulations. In other words, care labeling on a suede and leather
garment is voluntary on the part of the
manufacturer, whether domestic or foreign.
Furthermore, many manufacturers who voluntarily sew care labels
into their suede and leather garments have not tested the
serviceability (i.e. the cleanability) of their garments prior to
production and sale.
In addition, there are inherent defects in the skins used in the
construction of suede and leather garments, as well as in the
tanning and dyeing techniques used by the processors of such
As such, clients ought to be fully informed as to the likely
results that can and cannot be expected from the cleaning of an
What follows is a listing of some of the more common issues
unique to the cleaning of suede and leather garments.
Due to poor tanning, poor dyeing, and the use of drycleaning
solvent-soluble dyes, many suede and leather garments will lose
varying amounts of color during cleaning. This problem is
particularly acute in pigskins and lambskins.
While a skilled suede and leather cleaner can
refinish or restore the color in a garment to a close match, all
too often it is impossible to refinish the garment to the exact
original color. It is for this reason that you should always clean
matching pieces at the same time.
Because of the porous nature of animal hides, and their poor dye
affinity, dye crocking can be a problem. Abrasion from the tumbling
action found in the cleaning process, and even from normal wear,
can cause localized discolorations or fading.
Change In Texture And Feel
During the tanning process, the hides are impregnated with fats
and oils that add suppleness and texture to the hides. Some of
these fats and oils are lost during the cleaning process. While a
skilled suede and leather cleaner can restore the suppleness using
special additives, it is not always possible to restore
all the fats and oils. This can lead to a
noticeable change in texture and feel.
Furthermore, most suede and leather garments require refinishing
after processing. The added "surface" from refinishing can change
the texture of the hide, or cause it to lose some suppleness.
During manufacture, skins are stretched to obtain a uniform
surface. Furthermore, some manufacturers overstretch their skins to
maximize surface area (i.e. production output).
During processing, the skins may relax, resulting
in shrinkage, puckering and distortion. Skins cannot always be
stretched back, or blocked, to it's original size.
When buying a suede and leather garment, particularly tight
fitting pants, skirts and dresses, consider purchasing a slightly
larger size to accommodate the possibility of relaxation
It is very common for a suede or leather garment to gradually
mold to the body lines of the wearer. After cleaning, this molded
body line is often lost and straight lines predominate. This could
lead the wearer to believe that the garment has shrunk in cleaning,
when, in fact, it has not shrunk.
Color and texture in a suede or leather garment may vary if the
manufacturer uses skins from different parts of the animal. If the
garment contains skins that are mismatched, the color and texture
of the garment may become uneven after processing.
Suede and leather garments have poor resistance to fading from
light (natural and artificial) and from atmospheric gases. This is
very common in vibrant colors such as pinks, blues, purples,
greens, and even in some browns and blacks. Pre-existing damage due
to fading may be hidden by common soil. Once the garment is
cleaned, the fading can reveal itself.
A skilled suede and leather cleaner can often restore the color
in skins that have a smooth finish. However, restoring the color in
a lambskin and pigskin suede is often a challenge.
Most animal skins have imperfections or defects.
These are natural characteristics of the animal. Defects in the
skins such as scars, vein marks or insect bites may be masked or
hidden during manufacture by the use of masking agents, such as
After cleaning, these masking agents, or even the skin defects
themselves, may not accept the refinishing dyes as well as the
adjoining areas. Furthermore, the masking agents may be drycleaning
solvent-soluble and dissolve during the cleaning process, revealing
the underlying irregularities in the hide.
Hides taken from the stomach area of the animal are of poorer
quality. These skins are often uneven in texture and are wrinkled,
a condition that becomes more apparent after cleaning.
Skins taken from an animal vary in thickness. In order to obtain
a uniform thickness, these skins are shaved of "scythed".
Improperly scythed skins will result in hides that are too thin.
This will cause the hide to develop weak areas that could possibly
rip or tear in the cleaning process.
Manufacturers often use glue adhesives when constructing suede
and leather garments, particularly in areas such as cuffs, collars,
zippers, buttonholes and edges. Many of these adhesives are soluble
in a variety of drycleaning solvents, as well as in water. When
these adhesives dissolve, they will often discolor the hide by
bleeding through the outer skin. It is almost impossible to tell if
a garment has a soluble glue problem until after the garment has
Multicolor Dye Transfer
Many suede and leather garments have multi-colored panels. If
any of these colors are drycleaning solvent-soluble, there is the
possibility that the darker colors may transfer or bleed onto the
lighter colors during processing.
All colors in a multi-colored suede or leather garment should be
tested for dye stability prior to cleaning. Nonetheless, even after
testing, these garments may not always show the signs of dye
transfer or bleeding until after the cleaning process has been
Protein stains, like milk, egg and blood, are very difficult to
remove on a suede or leather garment. Some damage to the color or
the skin may occur when aggressive attempts are made to remove
these types of stains.
Skins may loose some of their vital fats and oils due to
improper storage in a hot, humid environment. This could result in
a loss of suppleness, or in shrinkage as much as 15%.
Spots and stains on pigskins are difficult to remove for two
reasons: first, there is very little nap in a pigskin and, second,
the fiber structure of a pigskin allows spots and stains to
penetrate deep into the skin. You can identify a pigskin suede by
the little tiny holes in the skin. These holes are the hair holes,
and when stains have penetrated deeply into these holes, it is
difficult to lift the stains from the skin without causing damage
to the skin or color.
Cowhides have a rough texture and are difficult to refinish.
Cowhides may also exhibit greater color and oil loss during
cleaning than with other leathers, creating a harsher feel after
the cleaning process. Cowhides that are extremely soiled and show
wear lines of soil, may still show these wear lines after the
cleaning process, but the wear lines will be clean. Cowhide will
also show more shading lines after the cleaning process that cannot
always be "disguised" by refinishing.
Antique or Distressed Skins
When a solid black or brown suede or leather garment is cleaned,
the soil is removed and the garment is then refinished to a new
By contrast, when antique and distressed leather is cleaned, it
is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate the exact
original finish through refinishing. This naturally leads to the
question: should an antique or distressed leather garment be
cleaned? And, if so, what results can be reasonably expected?
So what can you expect from your cleaner?
You'll never find perfection. Perfection on the cleaning of
animal skins is next to impossible to achieve.
What you should aspire to is the very best achievable
How can I help you?
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