Use a Hothead or a Solid Plate

Tom Lucenta |

What’s the ultimate tool for pressing the wrinkles out of suede and leather garments? The hothead press.
With a hothead press, there’s no live head steam to worry about, but head temperature is an important consideration. If the head temperature is too hot, it could damage the skin, its finish or its color. Therefore, it is of extreme importance to limit head temperatures when using a hothead press on suede and leather garments.
The proper temperature setting for a hothead press is 250°F (120°C). If the press is heated electrically, a thermostat regulates head and buck temperatures. But if the press is heated by steam — as most are — head temperatures must be limited to 250°F by installing a steam regulator and a steam-pressure gauge on the steam line supplying the press.
Once installed, the steam regulator should be adjusted to lower the pressure going into the hothead press to 50 psi. This translates to a temperature of approximately 250°F at the press head.
The results when pressing suedes and leathers on a hothead press at this temperature are superb. The skins are smooth, and leathers regain their shine and a soft, supple feel. If you plan to do a lot of suedes and leathers, pressing on the hothead press is the way to go.
Any hothead can be adapted to do a nice job on suedes and leathers. But it must be equipped with a steam regulator, steam-pressure gauge and bypass valve to reduce the pressure to 50 psi.
A bypass valve and regulator allow a laundry hothead to switch from laundry jobs to suede and leather garments. For laundry pressing, steam flows in at 100 psi and 375°F (190°C); for suedes and leathers, the 100 psi steam gets diverted and reduced to 50 psi, with a head temperature of 250°F. Allow the head to cool down between jobs, of course.
Add a bypass to a silk hothead press to reduce the steam pressure from 80 psi to 50 psi, and you can use it on silks and suedes and leathers alike. A silk hothead is like a suede-and-leather hothead — it has buck steam and vacuum built-in. Both are good for pressing suedes and leathers; the vacuum can help cool the skin after pressing and hold the skin in place before the head comes down.
Buck steam is useful for pressing loose cloth linings on suede, leather and fur garments, and can provide a shot of steam to less-delicate cowhides and pigskins before pressing to help get the wrinkles out. Notice that I said “a shot” of steam — like on a form finisher — and before the head comes down, not after. You can also use buck steam safely when pressing suedes and leathers, but only if you regulate it down to 40 psi.THE SOLID GRID PLATE
You can also get quality results when pressing suedes and leathers by using a nonperforated grid plate on the head of a drycleaning steam press.
As you know, your steam press has a perforated grid plate fastened to the head with three springs on each end. The perforated plate has a metal face that’s covered in Teflon or cloth. Either way, small perforations or pinholes cover the plate’s face.
These pinholes allow head steam to reach the garments pressed. The holes diffuse the steam and deliver it evenly, while the plate applies the heat and pressure needed to get rid of wrinkles.
But as you know, you don’t want live steam to come into contact with skins, unless it can be regulated to 40 psi pressure. Otherwise, it can cause skins to shrivel up.
Using a nonperforated grid plate is an excellent way to ensure that no live steam reaches the skin. The plate is heated by the head steam, and can do an excellent job of pressing without the threat of damage.
Compared to the quality that perforated grid plates with no steam or low steam can deliver, the results are outstanding — the quality of pressing with a nonperforated plate is second only to the quality you can achieve with a hothead press. A nonperforated grid plate is worth its low cost!

About the author

Tom Lucenta

Royaltone Co. Inc.

Vice president

Tom Lucenta is vice president of Royaltone Co., a company specializing in techniques and products for cleaning leathers, suedes and furs. With his father, Frank, Tom trains operators to process leathers, suedes and furs using the Royaltone system; he has also written two texts on the subject, Handling Leather & Suede and Cleaning & Finishing Leather & Suede. Royaltone also offers a training DVD on wetcleaning leathers and suedes. The next live training session is scheduled for February 18-19, 2010. Call Royaltone at 918-622-6677 or e-mail


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