Everything you need to know about vegetable-tanned leather

Leather is imprinted into our lives in more ways than one. Leather can be found everywhere, from wallets to shoes, belts to handbags, leads, and leashes. If you are a leather connoisseur, you might be aware of veg tan leather and how it is made.

In this blog, we will take you through the process of making vegetable tan leather.

What is leather, and how is it made?

Leather is a material produced from animal skin. Leather material is durable and provides flexibility to the products made out of it. The skin of the animals such as horses, cows, goats, sheep, snakes, crocodiles, and ostriches are often used for making leather.

Different animals have different hide types. Some hides have characteristics like flexibility, durability, or appearance. The unique features of these hides come in handy in making leather for desired purposes. Veg tanned leather can be turned into accessories, footwear, upholstery, garments, reins, leads, and much more.

How is animal skin turned into hides for leather?

Animal skin is made of collagen. Collagen is the main protein in the skin that gives it elasticity and structure. When turning skin into leather, collagen must be persevered and prevented from decomposing and breaking down. This is where tannins come into the picture. Tannins have antioxidant properties that prevent the rotting of collagen when turning animal skin into leather.

Tannins are a yellow or brown coloured organic substance found in plant tissues. The process of using this substance in the leather making is called tanning.

Vegetable tanning is a time-intensive process that requires skilled craftsmanship. The process involves soaking the hides in concentrated tannins for several months. Veg tan leather is superior quality leather majorly used for shoe soles, premium handbags, belts, etc.

What makes vegetable-tanned leather desirable over other leather?

  • Vegetable-tanned leather is made with the traditional approach. The aged-old technique is used to produce this leather material.
  • Veg tanned leather materials are hard-wearing and thick as compared to chrome leathers.
  • Vegetable-tanned leathers are biodegradable and thus environment-friendly.
  • The texture of vegetable tanned leather is natural, and it has an earthy smell. The leather feels more organic and rich.

Vegetable Tanning Leather vs. Chrome Tanning Leather

With the advancement in technology, different techniques of leather tanning have evolved. Vegetable tanning is one of the oldest methods of tanning leather. Veg tanning also involves an intricate process that makes the end product rich in texture and feel. The vegetable tanning method was first developed in 6000 BCE. The process is entirely organic and makes use of naturally found vegetable tannins. Tannins from the bark of mimosa, oak, and chestnuts are usually used for veg tanning.

Nowadays, minerals like chromium sulfate are used for tanning leather. The chrome tanning techniques work the same way in preserving the collagen in the skin hides from decomposition. In this method, chrome salts are bind together with collagen protein to create stable chromium protein structures.

While the chrome tanning process is significantly faster than veg tanning, heavy metal minerals used in the process make it damaging to the ecosystem.