How to Clean and Care for a Natural Fur Coat
Keep your best fur in top shape with professional cleaning and at-home care
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. Fur can attract dirt and lint and even get wet in a rainstorm (although water will not ruin it), and it should be cleaned every year by a professional furrier or a dry cleaner who specializes in cleaning fur coats. While you shouldn't attempt to wash a real fur coat at home (which could permanently damage it), specific fur care includes proper hanging, protecting the coat from dust, and using a fur cleaning tool to remove dirt and debris.
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. Never put your fur coat in the washing machine, as it will strip the oils, ruin the pelt, and destroy the structure of the coat itself.
What Happens During Professional Cleaning?
First, a fur professional will inspect your coat for stains, rips, and tears. The lining is then hand-cleaned using fur cleaning products, 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 fur-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. In the final step, the furrier reintroduces oil to your fur by using a conditioner, which is similar to a hair conditioner, and working it into both the hair and pelt of your fur coat.
You can also condition your fur at home by mixing hair conditioner with two cups of warm water and adding it to a spray bottle. Spray the coat with the solution, and then work the conditioner into the fiber by brushing it gently with a hair brush. Then, let your fur coat hang dry.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Scarf (as needed)
- Sturdy padded hanger
- Cotton garment bag
How to Care for a Natural Fur Coat
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.
How long do fur coats last?
Fur coats last about 20 years, depending on the type of fur. Mink, beaver, and Karakul sheep fur are among the most durable, whereas chinchilla fur is more fragile.
Can old fur be restored?
Yes, professional furriers can restore old fur coats by hydrating and conditioning them. However, furs that are in dire condition can only be revived by replacing the pelts with new pelts.
How do I know if my fur is real?
You can tell if your fur is real by parting the hair and looking at the base to see how it's attached. Animal fur is attached to a pelt, which looks like a leathery backing. Fake fur will be attached to a backing made out of fabric or material.