Hudson Services is a wholesale and retail, leather, suede, and fur-cleaning establishment that has provided professional, expert cleaning services to retail dry-cleaners, leather outlets, fur salons, and even walk-in consumers for over thirty years.
The background information provided here on leather and suede cleaning is for both Hudson's retail cleaners and leather outlets, and also for their customers, the consumers of retail cleaning services.
Revive Your Leather & Suede
Preserve the Memories
With modern cleaning techniques, cleaning leathers and suedes has never been safer. Beginning in the fall of 1994, Hudson and Ram introduced to New England a new, environmentally-safe process, which used water-based cleaning agents instead of stronger chemicals (such as Perc or petroleum based solvents). Hudson is now proudly licensed by GreenEarth® Cleaning to use their Leather Solutions silicon-based solvent to provide state-of-the-art cleaning in an environmentally friendly way.
While it is generally safe, and desirable, to clean most leathers, it is important to understand that leathers and suedes are not the same as manufactured fabrics. Many cleaners will remember the days when most cottons shrank. Today, most cottons are pre-shrunk before being fabricated into clothing. Unlike modern cottons, wools, or synthetic fabrics, leather and suede garments come from individual animals so each skin is unique. Thus, the retail customer cannot expect that leathers and suedes will come through the cleaning process as uniformly as garments made from standardized, manufactured fabrics.
The closest analogy to understanding leather and suede garments is to recognize that they are like shoes. You, like your customers, were careful to get the right size and the right fit in the store, but once you wore your shoes, the shoes gradually conformed to your feet. The size eight you may have bought in the store is no longer size eight. It's a size eight that has adjusted to fit your foot.
Similarly, a leather or suede adjusts not only to fit its owner's body shape; it has adjusted additionally to its "history", ie., to being subjected to physical wear and tear, to scuffing and scraping, to spills and drips, and to the hazards of rain, puddles, grease, dirt, and other damage. Thus, expecting a leather or suede to look "just like new" after cleaning is a little like expecting well-worn shoes to appear like new after having been polished.
Leathers are very durable, but they can stretch, shrink, scrape, scar, crack, peel, and lose their natural or dyed colors. At Hudson we use our experience and expertise to carefully clean and restore your garment to the best condition possible.
Normal dry cleaning of leather and suede garments will not generally yield the best results. When cleaning is required, use only an experienced leather cleaning service.
Two-piece leather and suede garments should be cleaned at the same time to avoid the slight variation in color or texture that might occur as a result of the cleaning process.
A water-repellent is also recommended to prevent the absorption of moisture during rainy weather, and to protect the surface of the garment. Use a professional leather cleaner to apply this.
The following are common problems in cleaning leather and suedes: color changes, texture changes, wrinkles, shrinkage, stains and spots, mold and mildew, skin defects, blood stains and pet odors.
We are pleased to report that a number of common problems have been largely eliminated with the introduction of water-based leather- cleaning processes. These include:
Among the most common problems with cleaning leather and suedes is color change. Some garments have the "natural" colors of the original tanned skins, while others are treated in dye baths during the tanning and finishing of the leathers or are sprayed with dyes after manufacturing. Each manufacturer uses different dyes, and dyes can vary considerably in their color fastness. As cleaners, we usually don't know which dyes are colorfast and which dyes will run or bleed until we actually clean the garment. Colorfastness can vary from one garment to the next, even coming from the same manufacturer, sometimes due to the differences in individual skins or in the defects in individual skins.
During the fabrication process, the manufacturer tries to match the skins so that a garment is consistent in color, texture, and feel. The better quality the garment, the more care was generally taken in both the tanning process and in the selection and processing of skins. However, even in the best garments, some change and variation in texture, color, and feel is normal and expected.
The different types of color changes include: Color fading, uneven color in one area of the garment, uneven color in different areas of the garment, severe color loss, color or dye transfer.
Severe Color Loss
Color or Dye Transfer
Mild fading of color can result from exposure of the garment to sun and air. This is a natural part of the oxidation process of the skins that occurs with the aging of the garment. Frequently it may become more apparent after a garment has been cleaned. Sometimes the soil in the garment before cleaning will give the illusion that the garment was darker in color than it may have been, and the removal of the soil gives the appearance of fading during cleaning.
Fading as a result of the loss of dye during the cleaning process is a less common problem in the GreenEarth® Cleaning system. In the perc or petroleum cleaning processes, the garment is routinely denuded of its color, with the color being restored by spraying after cleaning.
In the GreenEarth® Cleaning process, color is not routinely restored by spraying and may appear to result in color loss, although color loss is slight compared to cleaning in solvent.
If an individual garment appears faded color can usually -- but not always -- be restored by returning the garment to Hudson. Generally, this is a minor problem. Please be sure to indicate in some way the color matching desired by the customer. Since the sprayer at Hudson cannot know the original color, he or she is generally making an approximation based upon the color that appears under the collar, where the leather has had less exposure to the sun and other elements.
On occasion, color may appear to be uneven in one section of the garment.
This is frequently a result of uneven oils or fats in the original skin or uneven absorption of oils, fats, or dyes during the tanning process. Sometimes the cleaner can correct this, though frequently he cannot.
Happily this is a less frequent problem in the GreenEarth® Cleaning system since the cleaning process is less harsh and does not remove the natural skin oils to the same extent as solvents.
When a garment is manufactured, skins or hides are used from different parts of the animal, or from different animals altogether. These different, unmatched skins may have very different properties with regard to natural oil or fat content or absorption and retention of impregnated tanning oils and dyes. This can result in unevenness of color that only becomes apparent after cleaning. Sometimes this can be corrected if the garment is returned to Hudson.
This is a common problem when a garment is cleaned in solvent and it is routinely corrected by spraying.
Color or dye transfer is most frequently seen in multi-color garments cleaned in solvent. This problem occurs because one or more of the colors was not colorfast and bled from one section of the garment to another, generally a result of a manufacturer not using colorfast dyes. This is a far less frequent problem with garments cleaned by a water-based system.
A similar problem can occur with cloth garments, especially those with light colors that have leather trim. The trim may bleed, leaving color on the fabric. Sometimes this can be corrected.
Changes in texture or feel of the garment are common in garments cleaned by solvents. The natural and tannery-added oils are removed along with the soil and stains, and are partially restored with oils dissolved in the cleaning solvents. Still, however, texture change is frequent.
This is generally a less severe and less frequent problem with garments cleaned by water-based systems.
Skins and hides taken from the neck and belly of an animal are generally more wrinkled than those taken elsewhere. Therefore, in the tanning process, neck and belly skins are stretched more than skins from other areas to give a smooth appearance. In the cleaning process, the skin may "relax" back into its normal, wrinkly state, which can make the garment looked wrinkled (and sometimes also make the garment feel more snug ). This can be exacerbated with age and the natural loss of oils from the skin over time, or in repeated cleanings.
If not too severe, wrinkling and snugness can usually be corrected by the leather cleaner.
Most leather and suede garments gradually conform to the body when worn (like shoes to a foot). Slight shrinkage and resulting snugness is routine and should be expected of nearly all garments in all cleaning agents. Wearing the garment for a few days or weeks will cause the leather to loosen and once again conform to a customer's body. This will solve most instances of mild shrinkage.
A small number of garments come back "very" snug. The reason for this is that leathers "relax" in the cleaning process. In the original tanning of the skins, leathers and suedes are subjected to both caustic chemicals and physical stretching to obtain the proper shape, feel and texture. In the manufacturing of the garment itself, the skin may be stretched further again. Also many garments are manufactured overseas today, and the manufacturer may stretch the skin more than he should to get a little extra "yardage." When the garment is introduced into a cleaning agent, the leather "relaxes", meaning that it may return to its more natural, pre-stretched state. Three out of four garments that "over-relax" can be restored to the original size by a re-cleaning, and by providing more information to the pressing department about the garment's (and consumer's) original size. If your garment is returned too snug to wear comfortably, have it returned to the retail store manager, who will arrange to have the garment re-cleaned.
A second cause for extra snugness is that the manufacturer used a defective skin that he was able to pass through the manufacturing process by extra stretching at specific points.
Every stain is unique. The same spill will react differently with different garments. On a smooth-skinned garment, salad oil might wipe off with almost no apparent effect, or it might mar the surface of the leather in such a manner that the surface cannot be easily restored. On a suede or nude leather, the same oil will be soaked up by the skin, leaving a stain that can be either easily cleaned or a stain that is highly resistant to cleaning.
Pre-spotting agents are used to help remove the stain before the garment is cleaned. Pre-spotting is used on oil stains, vegetable stains, protein stains (eggs, milk products, etc.), and inks.
Generally though, the longer a stain is allowed to set and oxidize, the more resistant it will be to removal.
With woven fabrics, stains can be "pushed through" the fabric during the cleaning process. With suedes and leathers, stains must be dissolved (at the surface) and absorbed back out of the skin. Frequently we are able to remove a stain at the surface of the skin, only to find that, by the time a garment is returned to the customer, the stain has re-appeared from the leaching back out of the stain from deeper within the leather. On occasion, we are unable to remove the deeper stain without risking damage to the garment. This is the reason that a garment appears to have left Hudson "clean" only to have a stain re-appear by the time the garment has reached the retailer.
The most common stains on leather and suede -- and sometimes the most difficult to remove -- are sweat and perspiration stains at the collar and cuffs. These stains are deeply impregnated; they are repeated stains caused by sweat at the neck, a combination of both water-based dirt combined with skin oils. The water evaporates, leaving the oil and dirt. This is repeated over and over, allowing the stain to both penetrate and set repeatedly. Collars and cuffs are usually treated with a pre-spotting agent, whether cleaned in Perc, petroleum solvents, or by by GreenEarth® Cleaning. Perc and petroleum solvents are sometimes more capable of removing these oil-based stains -- along with dye colors. If a garment is cleaned by GreenEarth® Cleaning and still has remaining collar stains, we sometimes re-clean the garment in Perc or petroleum solvents. Our policy, where possible, is to use the mildest cleaning process first, followed by a more aggressive process only if necessary.
Consumers are strongly encouraged to wear scarves, mufflers, and long-sleeved shirts to protect the collars and cuffs of their leathers and suedes.
Leather is a natural material and should never be stored in plastic because it traps moisture, which encourages the growth of mildew and bacteria that will ruin the leather.
Never store leather wet. If applicable, remove any dirt, mud, or other stains with a cleaning agent while the garment is still wet or damp, then condition while the pores are still fully responsive. It is critical to let leather air-dry away from heat.
Always store leather in a cool, dry place away from heat, in a breathable bag. If the leather item is a garment, keep it on a padded hanger to avoid distorting the shoulder line, and stuff the garment with paper to retain shape.
Any protein stain, such as blood, eggs, or milk, has a special affinity for leather, which is also composed of proteins. However, there is a very good chance of safely removing these types of stains with a special process when the garment is professionally cleaned. The age of the stain may affect the results.
Professional leather cleaning, with use of a special process, will remove pet urine and its odor, almost every time. Cats especially can be attracted to products used during the tanning stage, and this attraction may continue after the cleaning process, so it is important to store garments away from pets. The type of leather, and the type of leather finish, may impact the cleaning results.
The following are some common skin defects that become more apparent after cleaning:
Cuts & Scar Tissue
Ticks buried in the hide when the animal was alive can result in small holes appearing as the hide is tanned and stretched.
Marks that are the result of blood veins running through the original hide or skin.
Defects in hides from injuries when the animal was alive; if the animal's skin was cut or damaged, a mark will appear in the skin; if a cut healed, it may have left scar tissue in the skin.
A skin may be naturally thin in certain areas, causing a variation in the absorption of tanning oils or dyes; this thin section may become visually apparent in the cleaning process, and is also subject to tearing as it is subjected to agitation in the tumbling machine.
Stains & Spots
Mold & Mildew