All About Vegetable Tanned Leather: An Environmentally Friendly Alternative to Chrome Tanning
When many hear the words, “vegetable tanned leather,” they think of tanned vegetables used in place of traditional leather. However, vegetable tanned leather is animal skins tanned using the old technique of treating the skins with vegetable tannins, rather than the chemical tanning process, which uses chromium. What many do not realize is that this method of tanning leather can be much more sustainable for the environment and can produce a much more beautiful and unique leather hide. Here’s what you need to know about the vegetable tanning process and vegetable tanned leather products.
What is vegetable tanning and how does it occur?
Tanning is the process through which animal hides are softened into leathers in preparation for the creation of leather goods like belts, wallets, jackets, bags, and other products or accessories. Vegetable tanning uses acids called tannins that are found naturally in bark, leaves, and seeds in order to soften the animal skins. The skins are first cleaned, hydrated, and dried before the natural tannins are applied to them or before they are submerged in the acid. This process was utilized long ago and took a long time, though today vegetable tanning an animal hide could just take a few days.
What are the benefits of vegetable tanned leather?
The benefits of vegetable tanned leather as opposed to traditional chrome tanned leather are many. For one, the vegetable tanning process is longer, is not rushed, and produces leather that, to many, looks superior to traditionally tanned leather. Chrome tanned leather is often rushed and uses cheaper materials in an effort to increase production. However, the chemicals used in chrome tanning are not naturally derived and can be detrimental to the environment, as they are pollutants. The cleaner properties of vegetable tannins also makes the tanning process much healthier and safer for the workers who are doing the tanning process. The output of a vegetable tanning process may be lower than that of the chrome tanning, but it creates leather that does not have a harsh effect on the environment.
What makes vegetable tanned leather unique?
Vegetable tanned leather is unique for a few reasons. For one, its long, natural process produces leather goods that are stronger, more resistant to drying out, and are stiffer. Additionally, the handcrafted leather that is resultant of the vegetable tanning process naturally develops a fine, unique patina over time. With exposure to sun and daily use, your vegetable tanned leather pieces will evolve that patina and will look better and better. Another unique aspect of vegetable tanned leather to consider when shopping for pieces is that owning handcrafted vegetable tanned leather means that you are owning a piece of history. This process has been around for a long, long time, and those who complete the process are typically skilled craftsmen.
So, when shopping around for leather goods, keep in mind the natural process of vegetable tanning. Opting for the naturally-based and sustainable vegetable tanned leather means you will receive a higher quality, stronger leather good that comes with an organic feel.