What Is Vegetable Tanned Leather?

Leather is a material which has been used in the production of goods and clothing for thousands of years. An often overlooked fact about leather is that it is a natural material and as such, it is perishable. Therefore, there are processes applied to the raw hides to make them production ready and to ensure they are durable. This process is called “tanning”. Commonly, there are two types of tanning used in the industry; vegetable tanning and chromium tanning, with the former being more prestigious and the latter being a harsher process.

Vegetable tanning is an all natural process which utilises the tannic acids which are found in some plants and other vegetable matter to prepare the hides without using chemicals. Such examples would be tree bark, wood, leaves, fruits and roots. Vegetable tanned leather generally has a natural brown colour, however the origin of the tannic acid does have an effect on the overall shade. The process by which it is prepared makes it very supple and gives it a natural smell; the smell which most people would commonly associate with leather. By contrast, chromium tanned leather can lose this smell initially because of the chemical treatment process it undergoes.


What Are The Benefits Of Using Vegetable Tanned Leather?

Although vegetable tanning is a long process, taking around two to three months to effectively tan a single hide, the benefits are great when it comes to the final products. Being a natural process, each leather good will have a slightly different look and feel, giving a unique aesthetic to the item itself which is desired by premium leather goods brands and consumers alike. Vegetable tanned leather also has a much better economic standing than it’s chromium tanned counterparts. For example, vegetable tanned leather is usually full grain and taken from cattle which has lived a good life, giving a strong leather and as a by-product of the meat industry.


What Are The Drawbacks Of Vegetable Tanned Leather?

Just as vegetable tanned leather has it’s benefits, there are some notable negatives which should be considered. The first is the time that it can take to produce vegetable tanned leather, some types taking multiple months. Secondly, is the price. Because of the natural elements and the long production time, vegetable tanned leather can cost considerably more than the alternatives. However, vegetable tanned products can command a higher retail price and as such this cost is offset.