Leather and Tanning History


Tanning is the process by which the skins of animals become leather and are
no longer subject to rotting. Tanning of hides and the wearing of leather is as
old as mankind! The skins of animals used to make suede's and leathers today
are no longer the by-product of an  animal blood sacrifice but they are the
by-product of the food industry. When we eat steaks, lamb chops and ham we have
skins as a by-product!

The descendants of Adam and Eve slowly devised ways to soften and preserve the
skins of animals. At first the skins were air dried in sunlight. Then they
were soaked in water and dried over a fire. The smoke emitted by burning leaves
and green twigs contained an element called aldehyde and resulted in tanning
of the skins. Later vegetable tanning was discovered when the bark of trees
like oak were soaked with the skins in water  to preserve the skins. As
civilization progressed preserving and tanning skins was refined up to present day
methods which utilize tannic acids and chrome tanning agents to turn hides and
skins into leather.

The first methods of cleaning suede and leather items were developed early in
the twentieth century. In more developed countries like the United States,
Dry Cleaning suede's and leathers became the preferred method. The early
leather cleaning systems were developed for use in petroleum solvent dry cleaning
systems that utilized tanning oils and soaps as additives to keep the skins
from becoming stiff and hard when dry cleaned. However, loss of color was
always a problem. That problem was finally solved late in the twentieth century
when space age technology was applied by a Tulsa Engineer to develop a new high
tech detergent conditioner along with safe stain removal chemicals and drying
procedures. That made it possible for dry cleaners all over the world to remove
stains and dry clean suede's, leathers and furs with out color loss, with out
color streaking, with out shrinkage and with out stiffening or Harding the
suede, leather or fur skins. Use of this same modern technology is what makes it
possible for Royal Leather Cleaners to successfully clean suede's, leathers and
furs FAST in their state of the art Tulsa Leather Cleaning Plant located at
1137 N. Sheridan Road.


Cleaning Suede's, Leathers & Furs involves the following activities: 
Inspection, Acceptance,  Stain Removal,  Classification,  Dry Cleaning,  Pressing, 
Color Restoration, Sewing and Mending.


Cleaning Suede's, Leathers and Furs requires is a good understanding of the
Types and Nature of suede's, leathers and furs. Before Suede, Leather and Fur
Garments are accepted for cleaning they will  be inspected for (1) Conditions of
Use, (2) Conditions of Manufacture and (3) Natural Conditions. This inspection
is done in exactly the same way that cloth garments are examined before they
are accepted for Cleaning.  Conditions of use or abuse is Wear and Tear. 
Conditions of Manufacture includes Trims and Buttons.  Natural Conditions include
Scars like Tick Bites, Belly Wrinkles and Vein Marks. 


These are things that occur to the garment as the garment is worn.  Rips,
tears, missing buttons, worn areas, broken zippers, worn and torn linings, holes
in pockets, holes under the arm pits, faded color, dried out skins of furs,
worn finish on leathers, bad spots and stains, ink marks, etc., are all examples
of Conditions of Use. Many of these conditions can be corrected by the
specialists at Royal Leather Cleaners.


These are things that manufacturers of the garment did that can become
potential problems. Pot metal trim, plastic trim, plastic buttons, plastic zippers,
over stretching of skins that results in relaxation shrinkage, use of solvent
soluble glue that bleeds, use of dissimilar, weak, diseased or improperly
tanned skins on the garment or outfit, use of powder finish pigment mud dyes that
can flush off in cleaning, etc., are examples of Conditions of Manufacture. If
any of these conditions exist they will be identified and many of them can be
corrected by the experts at Royal Leather Cleaners.


These are the markings and characteristics that are found in the garment
skins that are the result of natural causes.  Tick bite scars, belly wrinkles,
stretch mark scars, vein marks, barb wire scars, briar scratch scars, etc., are
examples of Natural Conditions. Although they are scars, they are what gives
the  skins their natural beauty. Any of these natural beauty conditions found by
the professionals at Royal Leather Cleaners will be identified and fully
explained before cleaning.


At Royal Leather Cleaners the proper acceptance of Suede, Leather and Fur
items includes the correct identification of the various skins.  All Suede's,
Leathers and Furs are made from animal skins and fall into three categories: (1)
Suede Leathers, (2) Smooth Leathers and (3) Furs.


Suede's are skins that have had the hair removed and have had the flesh side
of the skin rubbed by an abrasive wheel to raise a nap on its surface.  Suede's
are identified by the type of animal the skin comes from.  There are several types of Suede Leather.  There are three types of Suede Leather that are most
common:  Sheepskin Suede, Cowhide Suede and Pigskin Suede.  All Suede's are
highly susceptible to staining due to spillage of liquids, rain or contact with
wet objects unless they have been treated with the special Leather Stain
Repellent available at Royal leather Cleaners.

SHEEPSKIN SUEDE is made from the skins of sheep and lamb.  It is light in
weight, soft and has a nap like velvet.  Sheepskin is the most delicate skin but
it is also the most serviceable.  It can usually be cleaned and refinished
with the highest probability of success.

COWHIDE SUEDE is made from the skins of cows and calves.  Although it is
called by many names including bush coat, rough out, split cowhide, rawhide and
calfskin, the skins all come from cows.  It is usually a stiff, heavy, thick
skin with a coarse nap.  It is a tough, hard wearing and durable skin, but it is
not as serviceable as sheepskin.  It can be cleaned and refinished
satisfactorily but usually requires more processing to do so than is required to clean a

PIGSKIN SUEDE is made from the skins of pigs.  It is usually a stiff and
heavy skin with a very short nap.  This skin has pores in it much like human skin.
It is an extremely durable, tough and hard wearing skin but it is the least
serviceable of the three most commonly Suede Skins.  It can be cleaned and
refinished but usually requires the most processing to do so.


Smooth Leathers are skins that have had the hair removed and have been dyed
or surface colored on the hair side of the skin.  Leathers are identified by
the type of finish they have on them.  There are three major types of leathers: 
Painted Leather, Cuir Savage Leather and Naked Leather.

PAINTED  LEATHER is made by applying special pigmented leather finishes to
the surface of the skin.  The result is a surface coating which is smooth, slick
and shiny.  Painted Leather is usually the most serviceable and durable of
the three types of leather.  Painted Leather is finished like a piece of wood
that has been painted with a colored primer paint and then painted with a clear
lacquer paint.  It is completely covered with paint so you normally no longer
see the wood grain.

CUIR SAVAGE LEATHER is made by dyeing color into the skin and then either
buffing it or applying a 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.  Cuir Savage Leather is
attractive, delicate, soft, comfortable, slick feeling and porous.  It is not as
serviceable as Painted Leather and will readily absorb soil and liquids if they
contact the skin.  They are therefore very easily stained due to liquid spillage,
rain or contact with wet or soiled objects unless they are first treated 
with a special Leather Stain Repellent applied by the experts at Royal Leather
Cleaners.  Cuir Savage Leather is finished like a piece of wood that has been
stained with a wood stain and then painted with clear lacquer so you can still
see the grain of the wood.

NAKED LEATHER is made by dying color into the skin only.  There is no surface
finish on a naked leather.  It is a very soft, dry, porous leather with the
color dyed into the skin.  It is the least serviceable of the leathers and will
scuff easily and will readily absorb soil and be stained by liquids that are
spilled on the skin.  They are therefore easily stained by liquid spillage,
rain or contact with wet or soiled objects unless treated with a special Leather
Stain Repellent applied by the professionals at Royal Leather Cleaners. 
Naked Leather is finished like a piece of wood that has been stained with a
colored stain but has no surface finish over it so that it has color and you can see
the wood grain.

Antique Leather Finish is often applied to both Painted Leather and Cuir
Savage Leather.  It is a finish obtained by the application of a light colored
base color (usually tan) and then a darker color (usually brown or black) applied
unevenly over the base color so that the base color shows through.  This
results in the antique three dimensional effect so popular today.


Furs are the skins of various animals with the hair left in place in the
tanning process. There are many types of furs. Mink, Fox, Sable, Beaver, Raccoon
and Rabbit to name a few. They only need to be identified as a fur item. They
will be examined carefully for damage, dryness  and stiffness.  Furs are always
treated as a delicate item. The value of the Fur will need be established
before is accept for Fur Cleaning. The value established will determine the price
that should be charged to clean it as required by the insurance company that
insures all items accepted for cleaning.

There are other skins that are tanned and worn.  For example, a Deerskin or a
Moose hide leather or suede may be brought in for leather cleaning. These
skins can also be properly leather cleaned just like sheepskin, cowhide or
pigskins by the experts at Royal Leather Cleaners.


Restoration of Suede's and Leathers to  improve the color or finish is another
service provided by the specialists at Royal Leather Cleaners.  Suede's and
Naked Leathers are colored with dyes that penetrate into the skin much like a
wood stain penetrates into wood and leaves the surface dry and dull. Smooth
Slick Leathers are colored with a pigmented surface finish that  can restore the
color and shine and  stretches with the leather and resists abrasion much like
a piece of wood that is painted with a lacquer paint.   


A Suede or Naked Leather that has a chalky look or a dry feel can be improved
by the experts at Royal leather Cleaners who can bring out the original deep
rich color and impart a soft lush feel to the garment. This can be done to
Sheepskin, Cowhide or Pigskin Suede's & Naked Leathers as well as any Trims on
cloth.  Color can also be restored to faded suede or naked leather garments.


Loss of shine or gloss is the most common problem that occurs on Smooth
Painted Leather. The lost shine can be restored to the skin and will stretch with
the skin without cracking and provide abrasion resistance.


Suede and Leather can be made resistant to liquid stains by  applying a
special Leather Stain Repellent that can be applied to any Suede or Leather item
without matting down of the Nap of Suede's, without stiffening the Skin and
without changing the Color of the Suede or Leather.


Leather and Suede Articles frequently need buttons and other types of trim to
be sewn back in place.  This can be accomplished by the professionals at
Royal Leather Cleaners with a special LEATHER NEEDLE to hand sew the button or
trim to the Suede or Leather. Standard Hand Sewing Needles used for sewing cloth
will NOT pierce most Suede or Leather Skins especially the heavier, tougher
cowhide and pigskin Suede's and Leathers. 


Sewing Leather and Suede can BEST be accomplished with a SPECIAL LEATHER
SEWING MACHINE that provides several capabilities that not available on cloth
sewing machines. Leather Sewing Machines have the following capabilities:  they
can sew through the thickest of Leathers, they can sew a SADDLE STITCH, they

The WALKING FOOT feature is critical when sewing soft smooth Leathers because
it will keep the foot from scuffing the Leather surface as would be the case
if the Leather were sewn by a machine not equipped with a walking foot.

The SADDLE STITCH feature permits the machine to sew saddle stitched seams
that have come loose.  The saddle stitch is a wide stitch that most cloth sewing
machines may not be capable of making. If the cloth sewing machine does not
have a saddle stitch feature.


For the experts at Royal Leather Cleaners Mending cuts and tears on Leather,
Suede and Fur Articles is no problem.  Tears and cuts are mended so the
article is again wearable.


As long as people wear suede & leather garments they will manage to make
holes in them. The holes can be caused by cigarette burns, punctures, pinches and
pulls in weak areas. Where the skin is burned through or a piece of the skin
is missing mending by our regular patching method is not practical because the
missing piece of skin must be replaced. The specialists at Royal Leather
Cleaners can make the repair with the result that there is no more unsightly hole
and the garment is again wearable!