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Enquiring minds .. Fake Fur

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In case you were wondering:




About as unnatural as a polyester jump suite


Fake fur is highly energy dependent as well as using petrochemicals. So it's an environmental double whammy. This doesn't take into account the various levels of energy used for transportation as well as the manufacturing processes. Oil, coal and more oil.


"Lowest cost possible" means a steady flow of cheap oil and coal. The two main ingredients.


That's not to say that real fur is without its energy consumption but it is significantly less and that includes growing the animals.


Many people are highly allergic to many of these toxic compounds to boot. Natural fur at least is not toxic with its allergens.



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Quote from Horst at Ungar Furs in response to Heavalent chromium:


"This type of tanning is used when a heavy and stiff leather product is desired.


Industrial applications, heavy leather utility belts, boots, taxidermy, etc.


We use mostly a softer tanning process that allows the skins to stretch.

I am not familiar with the name of the softer tanning process.





Could anyone shed more light on current fur garment tanning and curing methods .. chemically that is.




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Naitive Indians used to tan by rubbing leather with deer brains and drying skins over a fire. It's all rather icky. We don't want to go there.


Modern tanning methods involve one of two general processes.


Vegetable tanning: Using extracts of plants to soak skins or fur pelts until they turn to leather. Most often it is oak or walnut tree bark that is used to make the extracts which contain tannin... It is these solutions of tannic acid which convert the collagen in the hides into leather.


Thus, the reason the process of chemically converting animal skins into leather is called "tanning". It comes from the use of TANnic acid.


Mineral tanning: Using chemical salts, most often salts of chromium, to soak hides and pelts. If you've ever seen leather with a characteristic bluish green tinge to it, this is leather that's been tanned in chromium.


Within the group of chromium based tanning agents there are two main subgroups. The "double bath" method uses alternating solutions of chromic acid and sodium thiosulfate, mixed with some other acids. The "single bath" method uses various solutions of chromium sulfate mixed with other acids and chemicals.


There are also some tanning methods that use aluminum and zirconium salts. The exact formulations of these baths are closely guarded trade secrets. You'd sooner discover the secret formula for Coca Cola than get a tanner to tell you exactly what's in his vats.


All of these forms of tanning involve the use of potentially toxic chemicals. Dumping waste from the tanning process into rivers and streams causes a LOT of environmental damage. The "double bath" method, using chromic acid is the one to REALLY watch out for! Chromic acid contains "chromium-VI"... A.K.A: "Hexavalent chromium".


(If you read the book or watched the movie Erin Brockovich you'll know it is the semi-biographical novel about a town poisoned with hexavalent chromium.)


Have no doubt about it! Tanning leather produces some NASTY chemical byproducts.


That's the bad news. The GOOD NEWS is that a lot of work has been done to clean up the tanning industry.


The two bath "hexachrome" tanning process is not used very much today. It has become too expensive. Tanners must pre-process their effluents to remove chromium-VI before the waste is disposed or they must pay lots of money to have their waste trucked to special haz-mat waste disposal facilities.


Most tanners are switching to the single bath process using chromium, aluminum and zirconium salts instead. If done carefully, they can produce better leather this way and they can do it for less money and they can do less environmental damage.


Further, most tanners utilize some form of recycling to reduce waste and reuse their spent tanning solutions. It simply makes good economical sense. They don't have to BUY as many chemicals if they recycle the ones they already have. Further they don't have to pay to dispose of the waste.


Even as recently as the 1970s and 1980s fur tanning was a dirty industry. But, in recent times, economic necessity, coupled with better environmental awareness has led to a substantial cleanup of the industry.


But, even considering the past record of the industry, tanning still doesn't rate in the top five of all-time polluting industries!


1) Gold mining and refining.

2) Paper mills.

3) Photography.

4) Semiconductor manufacture.

5) Petrochemicals.


Tanning pales by comparison!

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Of course there was the old fashioned way of treating Beave fur for the hat industry in England.


It was done with mercury, hence mad as a hatter.


That was stopped in the twenties or earlier but only with the collapse of the Beaver Top Hat industry.


One other industry is the farming of cotton. Massive areas of Texas and California agricultural lands are being decimated with petrochemical fertilizer to raise mono-crop cotton. A big smoking gun.




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Actually, number 5 on my list should be number 1.


If there is one man who I wish would not have been born it would be Thomas Midgely, the inventor of tetraethyl lead. From its use in the 1920s through the 1980s as an additive in gasoline, tetraethyl lead has been one of the leading pollutants in the environment. Even today, after more than 70% reduction of lead pollution in the air, people are STILL getting sick from TEL residue left over from those days.


I'd sooner dump a 50 gallon drum full of DDT into Lake Erie than bring back tetraethyl lead!


As if the damage Midgely caused by inventing TEL isn't enough, he's also the guy who invented dichloroflouromethane (AKA: Freon)


So not only did he invent a poisonous compound that allowed the proliferation of the automobile which now threatens our environment, he invented the stuff that's blowing a hole in our ozone layer!


Read a short biography of Thomas Midgely here:



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Since we digressed into a discussion of tanning methods, I offer this tidbit:


Some natives of the far north use urine as a tanning agent. Possibly a more environmentally friendly method, but it can leave the fur with a uniquely unpleasant and persistent odor.

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By the way, I found a good article from a Steiff Teddy Bear Club publication that tells us about alpaca wool plush and the company that makes it for them.


>> Reinhardt Shcult Alpaca.pdf <<


Let me tell you! If you have to settle for fake fur, this is the ONLY stuff my Bears recommend!


But, at $300 a sq. yd., it's nearly as expensive as REAL fur to make a blanket out of! It's not quite as nice as real fur but, I'd still like to have a blanket made from it!

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We need to reproduce that information in our Library. If anyone else has time it would be great. If not I will try to do it soon. It should be reproduced and not linked though including the pictures in case the link goes down.


By the way. Many here do not like fake fur and have stated the reasons. But I very firmly believe that there are many people who wear/see/touch fake fur first and then move on to the real thing. I believe that is not a small but a huge factor in fur wearing.



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IMHO, fake fur isn't all bad but it's nowhere near as good as the real thing. As long as one makes the distinction between real and fake fur and they don't try to claim that it is a substitute for the real thing, I'm okay with it.


I do think fake fur could be a "gateway drug" to get people turned on to the real thing!


Further, I will say that I HATE cheap fake fur! That crap you buy in the craft section at Wal-Mart is HORRIBLE! It doesn't even feel nice to the hand, let alone feel nice enough to play with! I'd rather play with a pile of steel wool!


People who want to know more about fake fur really need to get their hands on some good quality Teddy Bear plush. You can buy it by the yard. The really good stuff is made from mohair, or in the case of the plush I referred to in the above article, it is made from alpaca. That stuff is, BY FAR, the best there is!


Of course, you all know I like Teddy Bears so you would be right in guessing that I have seen and felt all types of plush. I can tell you from experience that the fine alpaca and mohair plushes produced by companies like Schulte are as good as it gets!


Give me some time. I'll put that PDF in the archive and link it into the wiki.

I've got to work out the details and I've got to get the time to do it.

(Is there a way to embed the PDF into the page or should I just link it?)

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There is a major, not fine, distinction to be made between mohair and alpaca "fake" fur and true petrochemical fake fur.


Mohair and Alpaca are REAL!! Like wool, linen and silk are real.


I think these are distinctions worth noting and understanding in a world blurred between real and fake in broad areas of our lives.





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With that, I must agree.


But Schulte does make some mighty fine polyester plush. They use the "double plush" method, whereby two layers of plush are woven as a single piece, face to face. Then the two layers are separated by using a razor-like machine to shear the two pieces apart.


Thus, I would say there is a distinction between "fake fur" and "plush" with a sub distinction between natural fiber plushes like mohair or alpaca and synthetic plush.

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