Fishy smell

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Fabienne, Apr 10, 2006.

  1. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    I recently purchased a leather belt, and when I took it out of the suitcase upon arrival last night, I noticed it had a strong "fishy smell" which I hadn't noticed before. Any explanation to this, and more importantly, will it dissipate? Should I do anything? It was a cheap belt, but it fits (a miracle) and I like it.
     
  2. chorse123

    chorse123 Senior member

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    FISH BELT! I've had this before, and it isn't fun. I don't know why some belts smell like fish, but it's very strong. It does dissipate a little, but perhaps you could speed it along by polishing the belt.
     
  3. GreyFlannelMan

    GreyFlannelMan Senior member

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    I too have noticed this in the past -- I chalked it up to the belt being made from a cheap leather. The smell never went away, and I never wore it. I ended up donating it.
     
  4. Tomasso

    Tomasso Senior member

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    I associate that smell with cheaply tanned leather. I walked by a store selling cheap leather jackets from China and that smell wafted out and hit me on the sidewalk.
     
  5. trogdor

    trogdor Senior member

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    If there is any, could it be the glue? I seem to remember that some cheaper glues are made with organic matter similar in composition to fish oils.

    I could just be making this up...
     
  6. stach

    stach Senior member

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    I was given an Avirex jacket many years ago that had a horrible fish odor. I didn't wear it much and the smell went away after about six months. Try coating your belt with mink oil and see if that smothers and seals in the smell.
     
  7. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    "Fish oil tanned" is a production method for hardwearing, waterproof utility leathers.
    I have a pair of Redwing working boots in this leather (although I cannot detect a fish smell).
     
  8. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    Here's the answer from a friend of mine [​IMG] :

    Fabienne, my guess is that the smell comes from the quality of the tanning process. The tannery uses chemicals, including salt, to remove hair, etc. and then extracts of tree bark (tannin) are used to strengthen and color the leather. If this process isn't done well, the leather still maintains some of its flesh-like characteristics and can slowly rot, just like flesh (yuk!) It may also be that the chemicals were not well removed at the end of the process. I suppose that you could try baking it in a low temperature oven (say 200F) a few hours to kill any microbes, (or drive off any remaining volatile chemicals) and then give it a good coat of mink or neatsfoot oil.
     
  9. tsmith

    tsmith Member

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    I have a leather wallet from polo that smells a bit like salmon. However, it's not offensive enough to stop using it.
     
  10. Aus_MD

    Aus_MD Senior member

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    Here's the answer from a friend of mine [​IMG] :

    Fabienne, my guess is that the smell comes from the quality of the tanning process. The tannery uses chemicals, including salt, to remove hair, etc. and then extracts of tree bark (tannin) are used to strengthen and color the leather. If this process isn't done well, the leather still maintains some of its flesh-like characteristics and can slowly rot, just like flesh (yuk!) It may also be that the chemicals were not well removed at the end of the process. I suppose that you could try baking it in a low temperature oven (say 200F) a few hours to kill any microbes, (or drive off any remaining volatile chemicals) and then give it a good coat of mink or neatsfoot oil.


    I think that your friend's explanation is most unlikely, and a fishy smell is not characteristic of rotting leather/flesh. Rawhide is untanned leather, and it does not produce these smells.

    Oil tanning was the traditional technique to produce chamois and other soft leathers, but I suspect that the odour has been produced by one of the oils used in finishing the leather after it was dyed. I think that putting the belt in an oven would be rather drastic. I would wash it with a good quality leather soap, and use a beeswax leather finish to disguise the smell. Many people find the smell of neatsfoot oil unpleasant.

    It may be worthwhile speaking to a saddlery for advice.

    Aus
     
  11. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    Well, I baked the belt for 20 minutes last night (don't worry, we feasted on veal scallopini, milanese style). Oh, the wonderful aroma... I didn't have time to retrieve it from the oven this morning. If this didn't do the trick, I'll try Aus_MD's advice.
     

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