If you have a new or vintage natural fur coat or any garment trimmed with animal fur, it takes special care to keep it looking its best. A natural fur coat should be cleaned every year by a professional furrier or a dry cleaner who specializes in cleaning fur. Don't attempt to wash a real fur coat at home or you may permanently damage it.
How Often to Clean a Natural Fur Coat
Even if you don't wear your fur coat often, animal hides can dry out if not cleaned and conditioned yearly, and animal fur gathers dust, oils, and odors. A professional cleaning will add luster and shine to the fur and keep it from shedding.
Equipment / Tools
- Sturdy padded hanger
- Cotton garment bag
Choose the Right Hanger
Your fur coat should always be hung on a broad, sturdy, padded hanger to keep the shoulders from losing their shape. The neck of the hanger should be long enough to keep the collar of the coat away from the hanging rod.
Protect the Fur From Dust
Unless you're wearing your fur every day, use a 100 percent cotton bag to keep dust out of the fur. Don't hang your fur in a plastic bag that doesn't breathe because it needs air circulation to keep the hide from drying out and cracking.
Don't leave jewelry, like a brooch, pinned to your coat because it can mat the fur. When wearing your coat, don't use a shoulder bag consistently; it can wear away the fur and leave a bald spot.
Wearing a scarf around your neck under your coat will prevent body oil and makeup from soiling your coat collar. Avoid using hairspray or applying perfume when wearing your coat: The formulas of most brands contain alcohol, which can dry the hides. Any oils in the products may penetrate the fur and eventually become rancid. The odor is nearly impossible to remove.
Removing stains on a natural fur coat should be handled by a professional dry cleaner. If you have a fresh stain on your fur coat, quickly dab it with a clean cloth. Use another clean, slightly damp cloth to gently blot the stain, and then allow to air-dry. Don't use stain remover or detergents on fur.
Prevent Crushing the Fur
If you'll be sitting for a long period, take your coat off to avoid crushing the fur. If you can't remove the coat, try to change positions often so that the fur won't be crushed in one particular spot. If possible, remove your coat, and use it like a blanket on your lap, drape it over your shoulders, or place it on the back of a chair.
Eliminate Excess Moisture
If you get caught in light rain or snow, simply shake out the fur to remove as much water as possible. Hang it to dry in a well-ventilated room. Do not use a blow-dryer, clothes dryer, or any direct heat on the fur. After it's dry, shake again to fluff the fur. Don't comb or brush; simply smooth the fur with your hand.
If your coat gets completely soaked with water, it should be taken to a professional fur cleaner immediately so the hides can be treated correctly to prevent shrinkage. If you have a natural fur hat, take special care if it becomes wet. Proper reshaping is necessary to help it hold its shape.
Storing a Natural Fur Coat
Furs that are properly stored during hot weather can last up to 50 years or more. Natural fur hates heat. It's not the actual hair that's affected; rather, it's the hide or leather that can dry out, become stiff, and crack. The optimum storage temperature for natural fur is 45 degrees with 50 percent humidity. In fur storage vaults, the room is dark, which prevents bleaching and fading of the color. Moths and other insects can't survive at the low temperatures inside.
If you decide not to use a professional storage facility, don't store your coat in a cedar closet or chest. The oils can harm the fur. Keep the fur in the coolest closet possible and always in the dark. Check frequently for insect activity, especially moths. But never use mothballs with natural fur because the chemicals in the balls may react with the fur's natural oils to create toxic gas.
What Happens During Professional Cleaning?
First, a fur professional will inspect your coat for stains, rips, and tears. The lining is then hand-cleaned, with specific attention paid to spots, stains, and underarm odors. Next, the fur is placed in a large drum filled with sawdust and an environmentally safe cleaning solution. After being tumbled in this drum, which draws dirt and oils from the fur, the coat is vacuumed to remove the sawdust and then hand-steamed to remove any final residue. The next process involves "electrifying" the coat. Using large rollers, electricity is used to make each hair lift, separate, and lie in the same direction. The process is similar to static electricity, which makes each hair on your head stand separately.
Tips to Clean and Care for a Natural Fur Coat
- If you bought the fur garment used and are unsure if the fur is animal or synthetic, the first step is to do a burn test. Snip a few strands from an inconspicuous spot, place the fur strands in a heat-resistant dish (like an ashtray), and light the strands with a match. Natural animal hair will burn quickly to ash, while synthetic fur will melt.
- Don't leave or store your fur coat in natural or direct light because discoloration could occur.
- Never iron a natural fur coat.
- Invest in a specially designed fur brush that allows you to comb out large matted clumps without damaging healthy fibers.
- Every so often, bring your coat outdoors on a dry day, and shake it out to dislodge accumulated dust and debris.
- The worn lining of a natural fur coat can be replaced with a new one so you can continue enjoying your investment for years to come.