Vegetable tanned leather vs. chrome tanned leather

In order to turn a hide into a beautiful end product, it is important that the hides are processed. This process of processing is called tanning. In terms of tanning, two ways of tanning are most common, namely vegetable (or organic) tanning and chrome tanning. We regularly get asked what the difference is between vegetable tanned leather and chrome tanned leather and which type of leather is better, so we want to give you more information about this with the help of this blog.

Vegetable tanned leather

Vegetable tanned leather refers to the tanning process or method of working the hide into usable leather. This way of tanning is called vegetable or organic because of the natural materials used in the tanning process, such as tannin, among others. This natural substance can be found in many different trees and vegetables and makes the vegetable tanned leather unique and easy to distinguish. Of the different tanning methods, vegetable tanning is still the most traditional, the most recognizable, the only one that can give leather unique properties. It takes up to 6 weeks to complete the vegetable tanning process.

Some advantages of vegetable tanning are that the leather can be made thicker and firmer and therefore has more body than chrome tanned leather. This helps our bags keep their shape and last for years to come. Vegetable tanned leather also ages better and takes on a rich character and patina over time. In addition, many of the substances used in the tanning process are recovered, recycled, converted into agricultural fertilizer or reused in other industries.

Chrome tanned leather

Chrome tanning, together with the vegetable tanning process, is the most commonly used unloading method. This method refers to the chromium sulfate used in the tanning process to preserve animal hides and prevent rotting. This process gives a soft and very strong leather with many advantages and some disadvantages.

Chrome tanning is a popular tanning method because the tanning process is faster than vegetable tanning and results in a softer, more pliable leather. Chrome tanned leather is usually thinner than vegetable tanned leather. In addition, chrome-tanned leather is usually more water-repellent than vegetable-tanned leather. Because of these properties, chrome tanned leather is more often used for shoes, boots, gloves, furniture and in the automotive industry.

Besides the advantages of chrome tanned leather, there are also some challenges. Chrome tanned leather has a worse reputation than vegetable tanned leather, which is mostly caused by the environmental impact that chrome tanning can have. This is a big problem for small to medium sized tanneries. For large tanneries in Europe, the United States and India, where the regulations are stricter, the challenge is less, especially as the technologies surrounding the tanning process are improving. This limits the possible damage to the environment, but it is by no means perfect. At least, not yet.