While choosing leather and suede garments keep in mind that although they can be pricey, with proper care they can last a life time. When selecting your leather or suede you should make sure to carefully examine the garment ensuring the colours and textures between portions of the garment match. Be sure to carefully check the label and only buy from a reputable retailer.
There are a few simple rules to keep in mind when caring for your leather and suede garments:
- Always air dry your garment rather than using dry heat as this can cause cracks,
- Have stains treated immediately; make sure to use a professional cleaner who specializes in leathers and suedes.
- Keep the garment away from direct contact with body oils and excessive perspiration as these can stain or damage the material.
- Do not store your garment in a plastic bag – keep your garment in a well ventilated, cool area, this well help avoid damage caused by mildew or heat.
Before you clean your leather and suede garments you should always have your garment cleaned by a professional. When dropping your garment off for cleaning, it is important to remember to point out any stains that exist, advise of any care information that came with the garment and be sure to have matching pieces cleaned at the same time – this will help keep your pieces consistent. Even with constantly changing technologies in the area of cleaning leather and suede your cleaner may ask you to sign a consent form at the time of your order.
Leather garments are made from skins that can come from various parts of the animal or even several different animals. A manufacturer attempts to match the skins as uniformly as possible; however even the best matches can still create an end product that has variances in color, texture and weight. Cleaning the garment may accentuate these differences.
- Wrinkles: As some parts of the animal are naturally wrinkled and these wrinkles are smoothed out in the manufacturing process, cleaning may accentuate the wrinkles by relaxing the leather.
- Colour and Texture: Since the garment is made of skins that are obtained from various animals or various parts of the animal, colourfastness may vary. Slight variances in color depth can occur in the cleaning process and some dyes used on leathers may not be resistant to dry cleaning fluids used. The dry cleaner may also use spray dyeing to help correct some of the colour loss issues. Due to varying levels of fat liquor and additive absorption textural differences may become more apparent after cleaning. It is possible for some areas of the garment to become darker than others, as this is a natural phenomenon it is beyond the cleaner’s control
- Shrinkage: Over time, some shrinkage will occur while the skins relax; this can be accelerated by cleaning. With regular wear shrinkage will dissipate.
- Scar Tissue & Vein Marks: Imperfections and scar tissue are often filled by the manufacturer prior to dyeing, some fillers may be removed during cleaning and these imperfections may reappear.
- Oils: To keep leather supple, oils are used during the tanning process, some of the oils may be lost during the dry cleaning process. To help restore it, special additives can be used by your cleaner, but you may still notice a slight change when your garment is returned to you.
- Oxidation: Exposure to light and atmospheric gasses can oxidize leather or suede garments, some areas may be able to retain their original color; however oxidation may become more noticeable after cleaning. This is unfortunately, a problem that can not be easily corrected by the cleaner.
- Trim: Piping and leather buttons can bleed onto the adjacent fabric of the garments, carefully read the car label to see if the instructions are the same for all parts of the garment. If misadvice on the label causes a problem, you should return the garment to the retailer you purchased it from. You may find it difficult to have your garment professional cleaned if the trim fails a colourfastness test. Glue used to attach hems, seams and trim may not be resistant to cleaning solvents, leading to the glue dissolving or seeping into the leather. Seepage can cause shading or discoloration.
- Thin Skins: With normal usage thin skins will wear exceptionally fast, dry cleaning can further aggravate existing damage.
- Imitations: With such a wide variety of imitation leathers and suedes that are produced it can be very difficult to tell them apart from the real thing. Vinyl or urethane based films can be used to coat the material and the coatings may be vulnerable to a host of problems – such as self-sticking, puckering, blistering or stiffening.