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I have recently purchased a British Guards Bearskin  and it smells heavily of tobacco.  I have wiped it with a damp cloth and a lot of brown colour has come off.  The depth of the brown colour makes me think that it may have been in the possession of a heavy smoker.  A friend laughingly said, shampoo it.  Can I? Any advice would be greatfully received.

Edited by Milpol
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  • 4 weeks later...

I would be very very leary of wetting [and shampooing] an old bearskin.  You might well wind up with handfuls of loose fur and a leather bonnet instead.  One idea, with is non-intrusive, to try and eliminate the odour is to enclose the piece in air tight plastic - a garment bag from your local dry cleaner - with an open container of coffee grounds, perhaps 1/4 pound.  Let it sit for a couple days, stirring the grounds every day and see if that helps.

Conservation, for musuems, has a key principle: NEVER do anything you cannot undo, which generally includes adding solutions to anything permeable - no oils, polishes, paints, chemicals etc.  Musuems, of course, are in it for the long haul and you may want something to spruce up the bearskin for a few years but, caution should be your watchword.  Here is a site of on-line resources for museum professionals.  perhaps googling 'fur' and 'skins' will produce a solution for you.  http://cool.conservation-us.org/search.html

Hope this is some help.

Peter

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I can only repeat my earlier caution.  A product meant for live animals on 'dead' fur and leather may not be best.  Once the hair and skin is off the animal it is essentially inert.  Think live tree versus seasoned lumber.  If the product is meant to react with the chemistry of a body - like human shampoo - it won't work as well on dead fur and may do harm.  

Squadrongirl, sounds like you have a 'fixer upper' or a 'worn with pride' dependiong on whether or not you're brave enough to try to re-colour it.  On that, maybe consult a wig maker or hair stylist about putting dye onto 'old hair'.  And good luck! :)

Peter

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Good call!  Liner and sewing would be things I'd be comfortable doing myself, as I am a collector, not a curator, but enough of the cautionary tales have stuck with me to make me cringe at some of the 'repairs' people attempt.  

For years I owned a very dirty stuffed Snowy Owl which came with a cottage my family bought and was persuaded by my mother [I was 14] NOT to vacuum it.  I later decided I'd have ended upo with a pile of feathers and sawdust if I'd done so. :(

Peter

Edited by peter monahan
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Yikes! see mothers know best.

The chin strap has just arrived for the bearskin so looks like I'll be spending Easter weekend stitching and cleaning the chinstrap, its lovely and mucky. I love cleaning metal. I don't touch my badges but I fully admit to cleaning my stable belt buckles :blush:

Alli

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I read this 'discussion' periodically over cleaning or not medlas, badges etc.  I look at it from the perspective of a soldier and an SM: 'Get that disgusting dirty thing off... my... parade... square!!!   I 'get' toning and so on, but I like to display them as they were worn, when I can.  I keep the old ribbons when I replace them and don't sand blast anything, but I likes 'em shiny!

Happy Easter! 

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I like dirty badges, I have deliberately bought filthy badges, but belt buckles are different, particularly if they are modern. Have done the deed and cleaned the chin strap, and a bit of saddle soap as well, pretty sure it's not to Guards standard but as I don't have any scary SM's to shout at me it will do. Funnily enough, I think if I collected medals I would probably clean them though.

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Thank you to all who added comments.  Have to admit I forgot to return to post.  However, having given thought to it I decided to wet the fur, especially as guardsmen have to stand in the rain sometimes.  Well it worked to some extent, got rid of a lot of the brown and some of the smell but I didn’t do it again as I didn’t want to tempt providence.  

Edited by Milpol
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Good call, I think.  One washing with no negative effects.  I might, if it were mine, try chesterpiglet's idea of using talcum powder.  It might pick up dust and old oiul from the fur and probably won't dry out the underlying skin of the pelt unless you leave it in for a lengthy period.  it seems to me - trained in theory but little practical experience - that this would fit the musuem standard of not doing anything nonreversable, nor adding anything to the actual artifact.

And, of course, you're prepared for the fact that it was 'worn with pride' and will never be 'new Guardsman' standrad.  But thanks for sharing your experience!

Happy 2021.

Peter

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You might look into how people deal with old fur coats... There are many people that collect or reuse old coats or family heirloom.

I did a quick google search for "how to clean an old fur coat" and there seem to be many decent sites with suggestions.

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