Tanning is an essential leathermaking process. Whether you’re looking to buy a leather jacket, trench coat, trousers or even a dress, it will probably be made of tanned leather. Leather garments such as these aren’t constructed of raw animal hide. Rather, the animal hide used in their construction is exposed to various chemicals for dehydration and preservation purposes. Known as tanning, it promotes long-lasting leather garments that are able to withstand the hands of time.
There are different types of tanned leather, however. Two of the most common types include chrome-tanned leather and vegetable-tanned leather. They both contain animal hide that’s processed using chemicals. Nonetheless, chrome-tanned leather isn’t the same as vegetable-tanned leather. They are two unique types of leather with their own respective benefits. To learn more about the differences between chrome-tanned leather and vegetable-tanned leather, keep reading.
What Is Chrome-Tanned Leather?
The most common type of leather, chrome-tanned leather is characterized by its use of chromium. In other words, it’s made by exposing raw animal hide to chromium salts (and in some casts chromium sulfate). Chrome-tanned leather has been around for about a half-century. Since then, it’s been used to make all types of leather garments and leather products. Chrome-tanned leather simply refers to any type of real leather that’s processed using chromium salts.
What Is Vegetable-Tanned Leather?
Vegetable-tanned leather is a type of leather that’s made using vegetable matter. More specifically, vegetable-tanned leather is made using vegetable tannins. It’s not exposed to chromium salts or chromium sulfate. As the name suggests, vegetable-tanned leather is made using all-natural vegetable matter.
Long before chrome-tanned leather was invented, there was vegetable-tanned leather. Vegetable-tanned leather is considered one of the oldest types of leather. For centuries, people have made leather garments and products by exposing them to vegetable matter. There are different ways to make vegetable-tanned leather, some of which involve tree bark, whereas others involve plant leaves. Regardless, all vegetable-tanned leather is made by exposing animal hide to natural plant matter.
Benefits of Chrome-Tanned Leather
There’s a reason why most leather garments are made of chrome-tanned leather. For starters, chrome-tanned leather is softer and more pliable than its vegetable-tanned counterpart. It offers an exceptional level of softness and pliability that’s not found elsewhere. For jackets and other garments, this makes chrome-tanned leather a popular choice.
Chrome-tanned leather also retains its shape better than vegetable-tanned leather. All materials can lose their original shape. Over time, some materials may deform while subsequently changing into a new and different shape. Chrome-tanned leather is less susceptible to shape deformation such as this than vegetable-tanned leather. You can wear a garment made of chrome-tanned leather for many years without fear of it losing its original shape.
You might be surprised to learn that chrome-tanned leather is water resistant. Chromium salts are resistant to water. When exposed to chromium salts, leather receives these same water-resistant properties. You can wear a chrome-tanned leather jacket or garment outdoors in the rain. Even when exposed to water, it won’t succumb to damage. You should still try to keep your leather jacket relatively. Short-term exposure to water, though, won’t damage it. Chrome-tanned leather is water resistant, which is one of the ways that it differs from vegetable-tanned leather.
Benefits of Vegetable-Tanned Leather
What benefits does vegetable-tanned leather offer exactly? When compared to chrome-tanned leather, it takes less time to produce. Chrome-tanned leather can take over a day. In other words, the animal hide must soak in a bath of chromium salts for at least a full 24 hours. Vegetable-tanned leather allows for a faster tanning process. It typically just takes a few hours of bathing in vegetable matter.
Vegetable-tanned leather is usually thicker than chrome-tanned leather, which some people may prefer. It has a thicker texture thanks to its use of vegetable matter as the tanning agent. If you prefer thin leather garments, there’s no better choice than chrome-tanned leather. For thick leather garments, on the other hand, vegetable-tanned leather is the way to go.
Vegetable-tanned leather is also hypoallergenic. While the condition is somewhat rare, there are people who are allergic to chromium salts. With this skin allergy, they may break out in hives or rashes when their skin is exposed to chrome-tanned leather or other materials containing chromium salts. Vegetable-tanned leather has a lower risk of triggering skin allergies. If you suffer from sensitive skin that’s characterized by allergies, you may want to choose garments made of vegetable-tanned leather. If skin allergies isn’t a concern, however, you can choose either vegetable-tanned or chrome-tanned leather.
Other Types of Tanned Leather
While chrome-tanned and vegetable-tanned are two of the most common types of leather, there are other types worth noting. There’s aldehyde-tanned leather. for instance. This alternative type of leather is defined by its use of glutaraldehyde or oxazolidine tanning compounds. It’s not made of chromium salts, nor is it made of vegetable matter. Aldehyde-tanned leather is made using the aforementioned compounds.
Some types of leather are made using both chromium salts and vegetable matter. This hybrid tanning process essentially offers the best of both worlds. It’s not as common as using only chromium salts or vegetable matter. Nonetheless, some leather garments are made using this hybrid tanning process.
Tanning is a requirement for making real leather. Since real leather consists of animal hide, it must be tanned. Without tanning, animal hide may spoil and degrade. Tanning offers protection by drying out the animal hide so that it’s preserved and protected from degradation.
Tanning is an essential leathermaking process. It’s used to dry out and preserve animal hide, essentially turning it into leather. Chrome-tanned leather is the most common type. As revealed above, chrome-tanned leather is made using chromium salts. There’s also vegetable-tanned leather that, as the name suggests, is made using vegetable matter. You can find leather garments made of other types of tanned leather, but chrome-tanned and vegetable-tanned are by far the most common.