Ask RiotACT: Concerns about chemicals used at shoe repair

noms 12 February 2016 3

Ask RiotACT

Recently, I had some black leather shoes repaired. In addition to rebuilding the heel they also dyed parts of the leather that had worn away (eg the back of the shoe).

Soon after collecting the shoes I noticed a strong soapy smell coming from the areas that had been dyed black.

After a quick search on the internet it turns out leather dye is quite toxic and today I actually developed a head-ache while sitting at my desk (and I NEVER, EVER get headaches).

Moments ago I took the shoes to the repair place and the lady in charge said she could not smell anything. She showed me a bottle of leather dye (for sale) but it did not smell anything like the fragrance on my shoes. I felt she was hiding something or not telling me the truth. I’m guessing they used leather dye and covered it up with a masking agent/fragrance. She offered to let me use the deodoriser machine but I could not leave the shoes with them as I need to wear them to work.

Does anyone have any similar experiences with newly-dyed leather products?

According to a source on the internet if I leave the shoes in an enclosed space with a packet of baking soda overnight it will absorb the nasty smell. Is the surface of the shoe safe to touch or is it just the gas that is harmful?

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3 Responses to Ask RiotACT: Concerns about chemicals used at shoe repair
Leon Leon 1:21 pm 08 Feb 16
Zan Zan 1:19 pm 08 Feb 16

Agree that many dyes have been used for thousands of years. However many are very toxic and should not be used, even though you can still buy them. A lot should not be used for shoes as they permeate through the skin into the bloodstream. You need a chemist (not a shop chemist) to tell you about it.

Many years ago I bought a lovely pair of shoes which were dyed red inside. After a couple of hours of wearing them I felt tingling in the feet. I called Consumer Affairs and they could not see any problem, administrators (paper pushers) not chemists. I would not wear your shoes. Try to find a leather worker who makes their own goods and ask them about dyes and their toxicity. One I know that is toxic is called Raven Black.

WoodenAgent WoodenAgent 11:01 am 08 Feb 16

No idea which chemicals they use. BUT, as they’ve probably been used for thousands of years and not been banned yet, I think you’re OK. (Leather tanning & dyeing dates back to before agriculture.) As for the closed-bag idea, wouldn’t it be simpler to leave them outside for a day? Then you can avoid having to safely dispose of a salt – sodium bicarb.

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