What is Vegetable Tanned & Chrome Tanned Leather

On my previous post, I talk about the different quality of leather and how many types of leather there are. Today in this post, I’ll be sharing on the tanning process of leather. What are the different tanning process and their pros & cons. Leather comes from the skin of an animal. Before they are called leather, they are called skin, pelts or hide. If there is still fur on the leather, it is called fur not leather. Leather is called leather only after going through the tanning process. There are 2 types of tanning process that tanneries uses. They are Vegetable Tanned & Chrome Tanned. Each one uses different ingredients for the process. That being said, the tanneries may use the same 2 process but their formula will be different. Example Horween leather uses produces the original Shell Cordovan that requires a 6 months tanning process. Where their famous Horween Chromoexcel leather takes a month to tanned. Other tanneries could take be a few weeks or days depending on their formula. So let me share the differences between vegetable tanned and chrome tanned.

Vegetable Tanned leather
Vegetable tanned leather is one of the earliest used methods back in Adam’s time. It uses vegetable extracts that comes in form of powder or liquid. Some of the ingredients like tree bark, soil, wood, fruits, fruit pods, oak wood, chestnut wood & leaves are used for tanning.
Advantages of vegetable tanned
- Since they used natural ingredients, it is environmental friendly.
- Their life span is different from many. As time passes, the leather changes for the better. 
- The patina changes as it ages and produces a nice warm tone that looks very natural. 
- They have high value compared to chrome tanned hence are sold at a higher price.
Disadvantages of vegetable tanned
- Takes a longer time for the tanning process to finish. In average, it could take up to 60 days.
- If left under direct sunlight for a prolong time, it will create crack and shrink.
- Vegetable tanned products are more expensive. 

Chrome Tanned leather
Chrome tan is the fastest tanning process for leather tanning. It could produce a piece of leather within a day. But the ingredients that it uses isn’t natural. It uses chemicals, acids, and salts (including chromium sulfate) to tan. The hide that comes out from chrome tanned looks like light blue in colour (also known as wet blue) before they are brought to dyeing and finishing. 
Advantages of Chrome Tanned
- Fast production. (Leather gets tanned in 1 day)
- Colour remains the same throughout its life span.
- It is cheaper than vegetable tan leather hence it is easier to find.
Disadvantages of Chrome Tanned
- Chrome tan is bad for the environment.
- It doesn’t wear well and or last long and it could get crack after a few months of use.
- It doesn’t appear natural.
- Often smells of chemicals.

To be sure that you buying vegetable tan or chrome tan, I have stated a few options to take note. 
- Firstly,
Our senses are always the first to react when we are shopping. The first will be our sight, follow onto the touch & the smell. One way to identify is to smell the leather. Normally if the leather product gives off a chemical smell, it is probably chrome tanned. Vegetable tanned leather gives off a smell that is sweeter and it doesn’t smell like chemical. 
- Secondly,
You could give the leather surface a slight scratch (pls do not do it when you are in the shop). If the scratch could be easily be buff off with very little effort, the leather will be vegetable tanned.
- Thirdly,
You could try burning it. But only burn those leather that you are willing to throw away or is spoiling. Simply hold a lighter or fire up against the leather product and if it has no affect on the leather, it is most probably vegetable tan. If the product produces any ash and it is grey. Chrome tan leather will be a distinctive green colour.

On my next post sharing, I will talk about the making of a leather product. The tools involved and the method that leather crafters use to create it.