Leathers and furs pose unusual problems

Leather, furs and suedes are made from skins and pelts, each of which is unique with properties that are specific to the individual animal, so cleaners need to treat each garment individually and results cannot always be predicted.
A drycleaned leather will neither look nor feel like the original soiled and worn garment. It certainly will not look and feel like a brand new garment. It is therefore important to set the customer’s expectations realistically when the garment is brought in.
Stain removal can be difficult as leathers were never intended to be dyed so the tanner can only use direct dyes, which sit on the surface without being chemically bonded to the leather fibres. Cleaners must be aware of this and explain what can be achieved. Sometimes brushing a suede with water will produce significant improvements. Sponge off the residues and allow the garment to air thoroughly before machine cleaning.
Many greasy, oily or dark marks can be removed from grain leather with very
use to erase Indian ink, as these contain a trace of mild solvent. More severe stain removal reagents cannot be used safely on leathers, furs or suedes.
Hides are naturally three-dimensional and barrel shaped. They must be flattened so that tanners can cut out the garment panels. The flattening process inevitably involves some stretching. This stretch is set into the material and the degree of stretch needed for each part will vary. In the machine drycleaning process the lubricating action of the solvent at the molecular level releases this set-in stretch, resulting in relaxation shrinkage.
British Standards allow the garment maker shrinkage of 3% in any direction in drycleaning, although this can often be reversed (at least partially) in finishing. DTC is not aware of any ISO standard, but if there were it would be unlikely to differ from the British. Relaxation shrinkage is unavoidable and not a garment fault or a cleaner fault.

Suede dress loses snug fit
This suede dress had a smooth, slimline shape. After cleaning, the main front panels had shrunk so that the snug fit could not be recovered and the fabric had an ugly fold.
Cause: The tanner had to stretch the part of the hide used for the critical front panels to get a flat leather that could be cut out. The shrinkage is within the normal 3% tolerance but recovering the shape will still be difficult.
Responsibility: The cleaner is not to blame for the relaxation shrinkage. Neither the amount nor its effect on the garment’s hang and fit can be foreseen.
Rectification: The cleaner should take responsibility for stretching and re-setting each panel to the required size and shape to reverse the shrinkage as far as is possible. This calls for skilful use of a very little steam and plenty of tension (to return each lay to the right size). Strong vacuum should then be applied for twice the normal time before releasing the tension.
For some garments it is better to work on the steam air former using pressers’ mitts to achieve the best overall result. This needs very little steam and strong air-blow.

Zip impressions spoil the result
This jacket cleaned well but zip impressions spoiled the appearance.
Cause: These marks match the teeth on the garment’s heavy zip and were probably created during the high-speed extraction phase just before the warm air tumble.
Responsibility: The cleaner should take responsibility as closing the zip or otherwise protecting the suede panels could probably have avoided the fault.
Rectification: A light re-oiling to enhance the colour, followed by brushing the panel with a suede brush to raise the indentations as far as possible could bring a noticeable improvement.

Leather becomes hard with pressing
A leather coat was cleaned successfully but the owner complained that the leather on an inner facing was now hard.
Cause: Unintentionally, the presser applied too much steam when the press head was in contact with the hide’s face. As a result, the leather has become hard and the classic symptoms are seen here.
Responsibility: The presser should take responsibility.
Rectification: Even with more oil in the system, re-cleaning is unlikely to correct this fault. As the hard leather is on an inner facing, partial compensation is probably the best solution.

Crocodile handbag looks worn at edges
This crocodile skin handbag was enclosed in a protective fabric bag during cleaning. It cleaned well but the process revealed the unsightly wear at the bottom edges.
Cause: Crocodiles have very fine skins that will not withstand excessive dry abrasion. This may be contrary to the customer’s perception of this leather but crocodiles spend much of their time in water or waiting hopefully in the riverside mud. The abrasive wear here is localised to the bottom edges so the problem has been caused by abrasion during normal use that has been revealed during drycleaning. If the protection had been inadequate the abrasion would have been overall and along all edges.
Responsibility: The user should take responsibility, the fault has not been caused by cleaner negligence or error.
Rectification: A handbag repair specialist should be able to re-colour the abraded parts and might even be able to re-colour the abraded parts and might even be able to re-finish the worn surface. However the cleaner should not get involved in rectification as this was not a drycleaning problem.