Authentically Handcrafted Buckskin Clothing & Wampum Weaving
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Frequently Asked Questions

About Buckskin Care & Cleaning

  1. "Cleaning" tips for "suede-side-out"  &  Indian tanned buckskin
  2. Cleaning the "smooth" side of commercial tanned buckskin
  3. Cleaning White buckskin
  4. Storing buckskin or rawhide
  5. Laundering Buckskin??
  6. Stain resistant buckskin

1.  "Cleaning" tips for "suede-side-out" and Indian tanned buckskin.
There are two ways we recommend general "cleaning" of a buckskin item.  These are the only two methods that should be used on Indian tanned buckskin.

a.  The first is to lightly rub in all directions over the soiled area(s) with a medium coarse pumice stone. Don't rub too hard. The pumice stone cleans by removing some of the dirty or stained fibers from the hide along with the dirt.  Rubbing too often or too hard will eventually wear a hole in the garment.

b.  The second method is to clean your buckskins the way our ancestors did theirs - freeze them.  This is the best way if you're cleaning the entire garment.  Roll or fold up the item and put it in a plastic bag.  Squeeze as much air out as possible, and seal the bag with a twist tie.  Put it in the freezer for 4 days (or longer if ya fergit it).

Then remove the item from the freezer and the bag or container.  Let it completely thaw.  Once thawed hang it on a plastic or wood hanger until it's just about dry.  That is, when it feels just about dry on the surface, but still feels a little cool to the touch.  To revive flexibility rub each area of the item roughly between your hands about every 10 minutes until it's fully dry.  Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands each time before you begin to rub.  Otherwise your body oils will absorb into the hide, and attract even more dirt.

The more often you use the garment the more often you should do this, especially during warm weather.  This will kill the bacteria that causes odors and degrades hide fibers, but it will retain all the wonderful stains they've acquired, so you don't look like a greenhorn.     [Top of Page]

2.  Cleaning the "smooth" side of commercial tanned buckskin.
In addition to the freezing method explained in #1.b. above, the smooth side of any commercial tanned leather can also be cleaned by working in small 1 square foot areas with a damp cloth and a good saddle soap.  Remove all soap using a clean, moist cloth with water only before going on to the next area.  NOTE: This will somewhat restore the nice, "spiffy" look, but does not kill all the bacteria in your buckskins.  You should still do the freezing process occasionally for your buckskins to last as long as possible.    [Top of Page]

3.  Cleaning White buckskin.
The main difference between white buckskin and other color buckskin is that it's white.  Duh!  What a revelation, right?  It doesn't get any dirtier.  It just shows the dirt more.  It still needs to be occasionally "freeze cleaned", as in #1.b. above.  There is a difference in the rubbing process at the final stage, though.  After washing your hands rub rosin powder on them (like ball teams and gymnasts use) before rubbing, and periodically while rubbing.

When using the pumice stone method (#1.a. above), after removing dirt rub the cleaned area with a ball of white clay to restore its "whiteness".     [Top of Page]

4.  Storing buckskin or rawhide.
Do not store your buckskins away until you have "freeze-cleaned" them (see 1.b. above).  Even if critters do not get to them the bacteria may have a great time.  Especially if you put them away damp or sweaty.

Unless the item was damp when stored away, insects should not pose much of a threat.  Commercial tanned buckskin does not seem to attract vermin much, because of the chemicals used in the tanning and dyeing processes.  Some people have sealed their rawhide items with a chemical sealer (i.e., shellac, matte varnish, etc.), so they, too, are not as likely to attract critters.  Natural rawhide and Indian tanned hides, though, do not have those chemicals and may need some protection depending on where you live, and how many furry friends you have visiting your abode.

Some items can be hung on a wall peg as a frontier display.  Your clothing, though, will probably be stowed away somewhere.  You could use moth balls, but even your friends would stay away the next time you wore your duds.  The biggest problem would be mice, and mice do not like spearmint.  Make about six 4"x 4" gauze or muslin bags filled with dried spearmint leaves for each storage box or drawer.  Put one bag along each side of the box along the bottom, and put the other two on top of your clothing at each end.

If you are still concerned about insects, put a couple braids of sweetgrass in the box.  I would not use cedar.  Though it repels moths and other insects, it may attract the rodents you're trying to keep out.     [Top of Page]

5.  Laundering Buckskin??

If you really, really, really, have to have that "tenderfoot" look all over again, you could launder commercial tanned buckskin - IF you use 100% pure and all-natural soap - not detergents or cleaners.  The problem is not the buckskin, but the artificial sinew used to sew buckskin nowadays.  Any cleaner, including all-natural soaps, will eventually remove the wax from the artificial sinew.  That wax holds together the bundle of very thin nylon fibers, giving it the strength needed.  If you wash that wax away you weaken the seams.     [Top of Page]

6.  Stain Resistant Buckskin?
We have not tried this, so travel at your own risk.  A fair number of women at powwows have told me how they "treat" their dresses, leggings, and moccasins against light stains.  They first touch up any unsightly spots with a pumice stone (see #1.a. above).  Then they spray the items with a light coating of Scotchgard (a trademark of the 3M corp.).     [Top of Page]

Copyright Jan 1999-2008, Gary A. Reneker. All rights reserved. All text, graphics, programming, and coding are protected by U.S. and International Copyright Laws, and may not be copied, reprinted, published, translated, hosted, or otherwise distributed by any means without explicit permission from Gary A. Reneker.