Now before we begin two caveats:
1. I know fur is a touchy subject and many people object to wearing, even vintage, fur. I totally understand and respect that position. I don't wear new fur but don't personally believe it's unethical to wear vintage furs. I understand if our positions differ but this isn't a forum to debate this.
2. I would NOT try these tricks below on an expensive or sentimental item. These are things that work for me on vintage furs I've purchased where having a professional furrier clean and re-glaze the fur would cost more than the item is worth.
Ok, lets start!
So let's say you see photos like this:
And you realize your life as a glamor puss will not be complete without FUR! The good news is that vintage shops are chock a block with fur items. Mostly you'll find an abundance of: collars, muffs and stoles and they're often less than $100. Now, choose wisely, fur is a bitch to clean to maintain. If that great vintage item is falling apart it will never be cost effective to restore it unless it's truly something remarkable. Instead be sure to look for fur that is glossy, feels soft and not stiff (that's a sign the hide has dried out and it's on it's last legs), has no bald spots, is not shedding and has no weird smell. Now, keep in mind that fur has a smell. It will always have a slight animal smell but it shouldn't stink or smell bad. If the lining is in bad shape but the fur itself is great and you can sew then don't worry about it. Replacing or repairing a lining isn't that onerous as they're often just whipstiched to the pelt because they're designed to be easily removed, cleaned and reattached.
So here is how I cleaned this fox collar I'd estimate is from the 1970s. Because no thank you Michael Kors I am not spending 3 grand on this when I already have a great coat I love.
I'd say the condition on this was very good but not excellent. There were some loose threads on the lining, the fur was a teensy bit musty, and there was significant discoloration at the edges of the lining. Normally you could remove the lining but in this case a felt piece had been added to one side to make the collar easier to attach to a coat and this prevented the lining from coming off easily. Frankly I was too lazy and not proficient enough with hand sewing to go through all that trouble for a lining that was still in good shape. So not living near a furrier I wrote to the Laundress for advice and followed this tutorial with some modifications.
First I dealt with the lining. Now you cannot CANNOT get the hide part of a fur saturated with water or it will shrink but you can spot clean and get it slightly damp without issue. So I made a diluted mix of Laundress Delicate Wash and water to spot clean. I chose delicate wash as the lining appeared to be silk satin and frankly while some of the Laundress detergents aren't that much better than regular detergent others, like Delicate Wash, work magic. So I took a stain brush and dipped it in the soap/water mix and then blotted it on a towel and when it was just damp worked on cleaning the stained areas and then lightly over the rest of the lining. At this point DO NOT freak out. The lining appears much wetter than it is. You want it just barely damp.
Then repeat the process but this time with just plain water to remove the soap. Now, I found some minor damage to the lining using a laundry brush so you may want to test an area first and if it's really delicate use a small sponge or even cotton balls.
Next I sprinkled the fur with corn starch and let it sit, you should let it sit for at least a half hour but I let it sit for maybe 10 minutes because I'm impatient
I had my doubts about the whole "starch will pull out dirt" thing but IT REALLY WORKED! The musty smell was gone and some dirt from deep within the fur just fell out when I shook out the starch. I also used my stain brush to VERY gently brush out the fur but I don't recommend this. It just flattened it and a good shaking is sufficient to remove all the powder.
Next to condition the fur I did something REALLY stupid because I didn't have Laundress Crease Release but it worked! I used some silicone shine enhancer for your hair (don't judge me) and rubbed it into my hands until I JUST BARELY had any product on remaining and then finger combed it through the fur. It did add a gloss and shine to the fur but it is VERY easy to overdo this and make the fur look oily and the smell of the shine enhancer is a little overpowering on fur.
Then I left it to air dry. I was AMAZED at how good the lining looked when it fully dried. The discoloration is still there, though not as bad, but Delicate Wash left me gobsmacked. It has a luster it didn't have before, smells clean and is so soft.
So now the collar smells like fur not musty closet and that lining looks amazing. I'd recommend removing the lining and cleaning with delicate wash if you can and definitely using Crease Release rather than shine enhancer as I did because it's just too easy to mess it up, but you can economically restore some fur at home I promise!