Leather & Suede Care
First of all, let’s clear up the distinction and similarity between leather and suede, and the different kinds of suedes on the market.
The similarity: Both are made from the skin of an animal (cow, lamb, goat, etc)
The distinction: The difference is in the finish between the two. Smooth leather, also called grain leather is the top outer layer of the animal's skin. Suede is the underside of the skin or hide that has been buffed to a smooth surface. Nubuck suede is sanded on the outer surface of the leather, essentially the part that would have been the exterior skin of the animal.
Of course, suede can be split from a thick hide with the top surface of the new layer looking like suede, but the feel is not nearly as soft.
The pretenders: A genuine suede garment is made from leather. Garments called ultra suede, are made from a non-woven micro-polymer based fabric that is not suede or leather at all. Do you remember 'naugahyde'? It's the same thing, since naugahyde is vinyl-coated fabric, not a hide at all.
Things you should know about leather:
I. Leathers are the skins or hides of a live animal.
a. Like their human counterparts, no two skins or complexions will ever be identical, and it is reasonable to expect certain imperfections in the skins.
b. The tanning process will mask many of these imperfections, much the same way cosmetics mask imperfections (ex. pock marks, pores, scars, etc.) in humans. Just as washing our faces removes the make up that hide our blemishes and exposes them, so too, cleaning your leather may very well expose the imperfections in the animals’ hides that were hidden.
II. There are four leather terms you should know:
a. Painted leather (or pigmented leather) – signifies that a special pigmented leather finish (a leather lacquer paint that stretches with the skin) has been applied to the surface of the skin. The finished product is smooth, slick and shiny. You cannot see the grain of a painted leather; the pigment also serves to mask the natural blemishes, scars, pores, etc that you would expect to find on an animal’s skin.
b. Cuir savage leather (or aniline leather) – is made by dyeing color into the skin or hide. It is then either buffed or receives a protective light coating of a special clear leather finish to the surface of the skin. This gives the effect of seeing the color down in the skin through a transparent surface sheen finish. The look is attractive, delicate, soft, and the ‘hand’ is comfortable, slick feeling and porous. The grain of the Cuir savage leather is visible, and buffed aniline will often some scars and blemishes inherent to a nature product.
c. Naked leather - is also made by dyeing color into the skin, but unlike aniline no surface finish is applied. The ‘hand’ is very soft, dry and leather. As the name implies, the grain is clearly visible.
d. Shearling / Sheepskin – made by tanning the hide with the wool still intact on the hide. Keep in mind there is a wide variety of quality levels attached to shearlings. The fact is a good quality shearling will cost upwards of $1,000.
Keeping it looking good:
1. Store your leathers and suedes away from direct heat in order to protect them from drying out. This would include closets located on an outside wall. Leathers should only be stored in a cool, dry place. Remember that leather is a natural material and should never be kept in plastic, which would encourage the growth of mildew and bacteria. In short, ruin the leather. If the leather item is a garment, store in a breathable bag.
2. Do not treat your leathers with any products that contain oil, wax or silicone as they will damage them.
3. Blot up liquid stains quickly, as they will absorb into the leather and be difficult to remove if left for any period of time. This is especially true for non-pigment leathers.
4. Professionally clean at the earliest signs of wear and stains. Remember, the longer dirt and oil sit on the coat, the more it permeates the pores and the harder it becomes to remove.
5. Clean matching garments at the same time. The Leather Apparel Association issues this warning because a slight variation in color or texture may occur as a natural result of the cleaning process.
6. Natural marks and wrinkles could become more apparent after cleaning.
7. Skins and hides are often stretched prior to being sewn into garments. It is therefore very possible that garment may shrink slightly after cleaning. In all likelihood, they will stretch again with wear.
8. It may be necessary to recolor your suede or leather garment after cleaning, and according to the Leather Association consumers should also expect some slight variations in color or texture.
9. Promptly remove salt deposits from leather garments by sponging with clear water, than allow wet or damp leather items to air-dry naturally, away from any heat source. Brush salt deposits with a soft bristle brush from nubucks and suede.
10. If not cared for properly, the skins in your garment can stretch or sag. To maintain their shape, leather jackets and shirts should be hung on wide or padded hangers and cleaned at least annually.
11. Perfumes, hair spray and your natural body oils are a few things that can discolor or damage leather. Use perfumes or hair sprays before dressing and allow time to adequately dry. We recommend that you wear a scarf at the neckline to keep hair and body oil away from the collar.
12. The National Cleaners Association advises consumers that they should always sign a consent to process form when having leather garments cleaned. This document ensures that they have been properly advised about the vulnerability of their leather garments when having them cleaned or finished and recognize the potential risks involved.
As you can see, we know a lot about leather and suede, which is why you can safely entrust us with all your favorite leather and suede garments.