Well stated Rachael. I agree completely. Using home recipes, found on the internet will often cause more harm to your collections (both permanent and educational) than leaving them alone. Conservators have studied how how different materials interact with each other, and can devise strategies to clean objects safely. If you are concerned there are on-line courses and webinars that will help you better understand what to do and what not to do. One example of how complicated cleaning is: a little bit of water might be ok, but a lot of water will cause permanent damage to your hides. The amount of damage often depends on the type of tan, the overall condition and type of hair/fur. Another example is that some pelts can actually be brushed, while on others (deer family) the hair will slip (shed). This is due to the structure of the hair.
One rule of thumb is to be as non-invasive and minimal as possible when cleaning – just about anything, including the hides and furs. Educational collections as described in the first email on this thread and subject to wear and tear through handling . This physical damage will also make them more susceptible to damage from the mechanical and chemical methods of cleaning.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
5800 Baum Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
American Alliance of Museums2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 1005Arlington, VA 22202