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Cleaning Verdigris Off of Leather


vettepartz
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A lot of the older holsters have that funny green corrosion around the rivets called something like virdigous (excuse my spelling). Most people like to leave it there as a true mark of ageing. Well sometimes when more than one piece are stored together, this green stuff will rub off on the leather itself. Does anyone know of a good way to easily remove it without discoloring or marking the leather?

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Verdigris is a chemical reaction between copper and acetic acid.

 

Don't leave it there! That stuff can slowly dissolve copper-based items such as brass, corroding snaps and weakening the leather: it's not like having a nice patina on your bronze statue. I use soft brass wire brushes, Q-tips, toothpicks and whatever else it takes to get that stuff off. Using a toothpick you'd be surprised how much that stuff is lurking beneath brass fasteners and attachments.

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A lot of the older holsters have that funny green corrosion around the rivets called something like virdigous (excuse my spelling). Most people like to leave it there as a true mark of ageing. Well sometimes when more than one piece are stored together, this green stuff will rub off on the leather itself. Does anyone know of a good way to easily remove it without discoloring or marking the leather?

 

Verdigris is the result of the reaction between the brass and the oil in the leather. The best way to remove it is with a dental pick and a cotton swab. It is time consuming, I know. Trichloroethylene on a cotton swab will remove it quicker but it is a dangerous substance and doesn't help the leather. It is not a good idea to leave the verdigris on the brass and leather either because over time it could build up and actually push the rivet and washer apart.

 

Retired

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I would recommend not using a dental pick or any metal tool that might scratch. Instead stick with wooden items -- toothpicks, coffee stirrers, popsicle sticks, tongue depressors and chop sticks. All of these can be sharpened, carved or elsewise shaped for the job at hand.

 

To get under flaps or rivet edges, try dental floss, or piece of clear plastic sheet as used on blister-pack packaging (thin but semi-rigid). If the embergris is really thick and dry, use a toothpick or swab to dab a bit of Brasso on top of it and let it sit awhile to soften it up; do not slop the Brasso onto the neighboring leather. To protect the surrounding leather, try masking tape and/or 3x5 card stock.

 

BTW Pecard's and other leather dressings are ambergris food, so try to wipe it off the brass parts.

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Just to add some pics about verdigris disaster. Rivets disassembled by verdigris build up (then lost) on a WWI Sears and a flap stud pulled out on a rare P.C. CO.1918.

post-67-1259486642.jpg

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Hi All,

Most of all stated is great ideas, as I have saved many items from destrution.

I use wood, tooth picks, Qtips, etc...

The best on getting it out from where the belt hooks go are old kniting or crochet hooks. Just go slow and be careful.

Terry

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I have found a great solution (IMO), use a soft nylon rotary brush on a dremel tool, it can get down into all the nooks and crannies, cleans it right out, the soft brushes are softer than the metal fittings, and will cause no damage. The RPM's of the dremel tool with a soft brush can be carefully controlled, has worked like a charm for me... Chris...

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I have found a great solution (IMO), use a soft nylon rotary brush on a dremel tool, it can get down into all the nooks and crannies, cleans it right out, the soft brushes are softer than the metal fittings, and will cause no damage. The RPM's of the dremel tool with a soft brush can be carefully controlled, has worked like a charm for me... Chris...

 

I bought my Dremel tool just for cleaning militaria and use brass brushes at slow speed.

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In fighting my own war against verdigris I have experimented, like the most of you surely did, almost everything. What's worth a try is plain white wine vinegar. Just dip a Q-tip in it and then gently rub the part, repeat untill the green it's gone. Eventual residual could be carefully removed with a soft nylon rotary brush on a dremel tool or simply with a wooden toothpick. Once cleaned a thin layer of WD-40 could be applied to protect the part.

Shown in the photos are the results obtained on some of the eyelets of an old Parachutist' chinstrap whic was badly stored

 

post-3959-1260631345.jpg

 

post-3959-1260631279.jpg

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  • 8 years later...
THREEDFLYER

Just found this thread.....about two years ago after 30 years in the Seattle area we relocated to the Prescott, AZ area.

I recently unboxed some of my military leather items including holsters, slings, etc. and found that the Verdigris seems to have gotten much more active living here in the high desert than it was up in the Pacific NW. Could this be due to moisture conditions? Obviously much wetter in the NW than down here in the desert.

 

Tom

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Cleaning the copper/brass on old military items is similar to dealing with it on old copper coins & brass tokens.

 

I use a rose thorn & a compound available at most all coin shops called COIN CARE($4 for a couple of OZ). Takes the green copper eating bacteria right off the substrate. Has a light silicon film dry over the metal to inhibit future deterioration. Be very stingy when applying it & be careful as it may affect leather.

Verdigris is contacious. Will transfer to nearby copper.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 years later...
gsteele531

Verdigris is commonly considered to be Copper Carbonate - not Copper Acetate, which would be the result of interaction between the Copper in brass and Acetic Acid.  Not sure where Acetic Acid would come from in leather in any case - it's not used in tanning.  And that leaves the question of how it forms on webbing.  Copper Chloride is also a common by-product of exposure to perspiration, skin oil, etc,  Regardless, Copper Carbonate and Copper Chloride are both insoluble in water unless the water contains other compounds like ammonia that donate ions that can bond and change the salt to a soluble compound.  It certainly builds up in abundance on brass rivets and snaps, and should be physically removed to the greatest extent possible - with brushes, picks, etc. - before applying chemical solutions to dissolve build-up that would be difficult to reach mechanically.  If you have an electric toothbrush, a saved, used brush has a large surface area and soft bristles, making it a good mechanical cleaner prior to application of a mild acid like Acetic Acid (white vinegar), lemon juice, or commercial stain removers.

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