Fur Tips: Cleaning

Burberry Prorsum, fur coat, fur tips, cleaning fur

When a fur coat needs cleaning, it is essential that you take your garment to a fur specialist, not a dry cleaner. Fur requires a very special cleaning process that most dry cleaners cannot do.

Even if there is no visible dirt or stains, fur should be cleaned at least once a year. Cleaning can remove dirt particles and chemicals, and involves a glazing procedure that improves the lustre of the fur.

This might seem like a lot of effort, particularly if the coat does not appear dirty, but keep in mind that the coat will last much longer if cared for properly.

Burberry Prorsum, Nappa leather and rabbit coat available from Net A Porter.

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Fur Tips: Buying Vintage Fur

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Vintage fur is a great alternative to new fur, as the designs can be very unique, and it is often a lot less expensive. But vintage furs need to be carefully selected, as it is easy to buy a “bad” vintage fur. I bought a beautiful vintage leather coat with chevrons of white fur (I believe it was fox) and one of the chevrons tore when I was out at a party. Within hours, the coat had torn in about eight more places. I freaked out, as the coat had cost me $100, and this was the second time I was wearing it. I took it into Pappas Furs, in hopes of getting it fixed. Unfortunately, I was told “Dry rot, throw it away.” They told me it wasn’t even worth making into a blanket. I won’t ever make that mistake again.

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Here are some tips I got from Walter, the master furrier from Pappas Furs, about what to look for when buying vintage fur.

  1. Look at the fur, if it is oxidized, you shouldn’t buy it. If the fur has a yellow tinge, then it means it is oxidized. Look for the yellow tinge on the areas that are exposed to the sun, for example the shoulders, and the sleeves.
  2. Touch the fur and its leather, if it is brittle, forget it. The fur should have a soft, supple feel. If it is brittle and crunchy, it means it has dried out, or has dry rot.
  3. vintage fur, fur coat, fur tips, buying vintage fur, fur care

  4. Another way to test for dry rot is to pull on the leather a bit (the underside of the fur.) If there is no elasticity, then the fur is nearing end of life.
  5. Another sign of dry rot is rips, If there are several rips in the coat, chances are the fur is dried out. Check areas like the arm holes, shoulders, and neckline for rips.
  6. If the fur is shedding quite a lot, it might be infested with moths. Keep in mind that some delicate furs can break (for example rabbit or chinchilla) and most furs shed a little bit but if there are a lot of hair coming off the garment, or the hairs are coming out in clumps, then do not buy the coat.

Thanks to Walter from Pappas Furs in Vancouver, who kindly supplied me with these useful vintage fur buying tips.

Read more fur tips:
Repairing Tears
Dealing with Moths
How to Store a Fur Coat

Images from here, here, and here.

Fur Tips: Repairing Tears

Repairing fur is best done by a professional furrier, but this can be costly when if you have an inexpensive vintage piece that isn’t worth spending money on. If the leather of an inexpensive fur coat begins to crack or tear, then there is a way of repairing it temporarily, and on the cheap. Get a piece of leather and patch the tear (on the leather side of the fur, of course) by gluing the piece of leather over the tear or crack. Use a leather glue or a latex-based rubber cement, like Copydex, this will keep the leather soft and supple, and will help prevent it from tearing any further.

This tip came from Izzet Irs, creative director at Hockey London (one of Britain’s most famous furriers.)

Fur Tips: Dealing with Moths

It goes without saying that moths are probably the most evil creature in the world when it comes to fashion. I’ve lost a great deal of coats and sweaters to moths, and I hate that they always go for the most expensive stuff, like cashmere. What’s even worse is that they love to eat fur.

I once went into a great furrier in London with a little fur blazer that was shedding. The furrier politely asked me to remove the jacket from the premises, and suggested I throw it away, as it was infested with moths. I sadly went outside and shoved in into a garbage can. Very depressing.

A moth eaten fur coat. Sob!

After losing a fair number of garments to moths, I began to be very vigilant with my closets. I spray cedarwood oil in the closet (away form the clothes), or place cedarwood oil-soaked cotton balls in the corners of my closets and drawers. I freeze all my knitwear in September or October (48 hours in a freezer should kill all the moth eggs, and keep your sweaters safe for another year.) I also tend to give my closet contents a good shake as frequently as possible and I try not to stuff them too full, so that no critters can make themselves comfortable in there. Lavender can also be a great moth deterrent.

When it comes to moths and fur, there are a few things you need to know. Here’s what Walter, the Master Furrier from Pappas Furs, told me about what you should do if you catch one of those hideous critters trying to make a meal of your favourite mink jacket.

A sign of moths is if the fur is shedding. The hairs will come loose from the leather, and fall out. Don’t confuse shedding with breakage. Delicate furs, like rabbit and chinchilla, are prone to breakage with heavy wear. And don’t become overly paranoid about shedding, some furs will shed a little. My first moth experience in a fur was the above mentioned blazer, and the fur was coming out in clumps. It was beyond shedding.

Don't let moths eat your precious furs.

Isolate the infested garment. And keep in mind that the moths may have moved onto your other clothes as well. Now it is time to sort out your house. Fumigation is one solution, but I’ve dealt with moth problems by simply cleaning and/or killing the moths on my clothes, washing and/or freezing everything, and then bleach cleaning the entire closet like a madwoman, followed by an overdose of cedarwood or lavender, to keep them away.

Fur, unlike wool and cashmere, cannot be frozen to kills the eggs, as that will ruin the leather. Unfortunately, the only way to remove the moths is to get a professional fur cleaning. If it is a jacket you bought for $50 from a vintage store, you may want to consider getting rid of it, instead of cleaning, but that is of course your choice.

The aforementioned London furrier, after he let me back into his studio once I had discarded the moth-ridden coat, showed me a $80,000 Russian sable coat that had been moth infested. He has removed the lining and all the “dead” fur, and cleaned it. What was hanging were the scraps of what was once a sublime fur coat. About a third of the coat had been consumed by the moths. He was going to fix it by replacing the skins he had removed. Not only was it a huge job, but I imagine it was quite expensive too. And sad.

Thanks to Walter from Pappas Furs in Vancouver, who kindly supplied me with this useful moth tips.

Images from Beautifully Canadian, except moth-eaten fur coat from here.

Fur Tips: How to Store a Fur Coat

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In an ideal world, fur coats are stored with furriers. A good furrier will have a storage facility which is kept at 16 degrees and 40% humidity, which is the ideal conditions to preserve furs (this has been scientifically proven.) Fur coats should be stored professionally in the summer months, and can be kept at home in the winter, or can simply be taken out of storage when needed.

It is usually not worth it to professionally storing vintage furs, anything over 20 years old, as the fur will be nearing end of life. Walter, the master furrier at Papaps Furs, told me that beaver, fox, and water animals tend to stay in good condition for 20-25 years, and mink, persian lamb, marten, and any other cats (ex. lynx) can last about 30 years. Any pieces older than this should be worn and enjoyed, but know that they are, well, senior citizens in the fur world.

If you are really concerned with preserving your fur, particularly if it is expensive, it is worth it to store. Storage often costs around $100 a year, which is the price of about one coffee per week…well worth it for a great investment piece, isn’t it?

But if you are like me, and you have a collection of mostly vintage furs that aren’t valuable enough to store professionally, then here are some tips on how to store your furs at home.

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Of course it is near to impossible to create conditions that ensure a constant 16 degree temperature and 40% humidity in your home closet, so here are a few tips that can help you in storing your furs so that they have a long lifespan.

  • Walter says that it is more likely that the conditions in a home are too humid, rather than too dry. Avoid storing furs in a basement, where it can be quite moist. Too much humidity can result in a mouldy lining.
  • Ideally you want to store the furs in a place where there is no direct sunlight, and not too much heat. Walter suggests a bedroom, providing you don’t keep yours too warm.
  • The furs need to hang freely, don’t try to stuff too many in a closet. They need space! And use a proper hanger, hang the coat by its shoulders.
  • If you don’t use them frequently, or during the summer months, cover your furs with cotton garment bags or cotton sheets, not plastic (the fur needs to breathe!)

If you decide to store your furs professionally, Walter suggest you ask the furrier them how they store. He says a few furriers will just stick the furs in a back room, and charge you, even though it is the same conditions you’d create at home. Make sure the storage is 16 degrees and 40% humidity. Ask to see the storage area, I’ve been into the one at Pappas several times, there shouldn’t be anything to hide if you just want to have a peek to see if the conditions are good.

Thanks to Walter from Pappas Furs, who kindly supplied me with this useful information.