How to differentiate vegetable tanning from chrome tanning

This is the one million question. There are many queries that we find with clients who ask us about vegetable or natural tanning thinking that this type of tanning is of better quality or less polluting than chrome tanning.

A few years ago, the chemical products used to tan leather were highly polluting and harmful to the planet. But today we can affirm that this belief has remained a myth and is totally incorrect since technological advances, environmental legislation and global regulations make it very difficult for any type of tanning to be harmful to health or the environment.

However, we are going to explain a little and well above the tanning process of each one.

Vegetable tanning: It is one of the oldest known leather transformation processes, barks and extracts of oak, chestnut or other species were used, as well as natural pigments and tannins. Vegetable tanned leathers have a more natural appearance, but their finishes are more rigid and the variety of colors is limited. The tanning process is much slower and 4 times more water is needed than with other types of tanning.
    Chrome tanning: Invented in 1858, it replaced natural tannins with minerals. Chrome Tanning became popular and spread rapidly as leather could be tanned, dyed and finished in virtually a single day as soon as weeks or months were needed.
    It also allows smoother, more flexible finishes and with a greater variety of colors.
    The great drawback of Chrome Tanning is that it is a highly polluting mineral. Environmental legislation currently obliges tanneries to have strict recycling processes for water, chrome and other compounds that are later reused.

    Vegetable tanning and chrome tanning produce drastically different leather. But now, how can we differentiate it?

    Most of today's leather products are made from chrome-tanned leather. In fact, it is estimated that more than 80% of leather products on the market are processed with chrome tanning .

    This is so mainly for two reasons, cost and time. As we have said, vegetable tanning is a much slower and more expensive process. That is why the big world tanneries prefer to manufacture their leathers with chrome.

    Chrome tanning also allows leather manufacturers to dye the leather in rich colors, which is not possible with vegetable-tanned pieces.

    The final product is soft, flexible, fine and quite flexible, making it perfect for all types of garments, upholstery and decoration work.

    It is more resistant to water, stains and heat than vegetable tanned leather, which is more sensitive to these factors.

    On the downside, leather is not as durable as vegetable-tanned leather and often cracks or becomes brittle in places over time.

    We can extend its life by applying a protective wax or spray so that the leather delays deterioration, but it will still not last as long as the vegetable one, which with minimal maintenance will last for years and years.

    Another drawback of chrome leather is that it is too thin to allow stamping work, so decorating options are quite limited. The skins are not suitable for embossing, pyrography, etc..., just the opposite of their opponent, which are especially indicated for all this type of craft work.

    In conclusion, clarify that there is no better tanning than another. The leather to choose will depend above all on the final product that we want to make and its characteristics. This is what will decide us for the choice of one article or another.

    Here we leave you a summary table with the advantages and cons of each tanning:

    chrome tanning

    Advantages Disadvantages
    costs less It cracks, it breaks, it becomes brittle
    quickly produced Very cheap types can stink
    More products available seems unnatural
    stain resistant It flies dull and withered
    Much softer in comparison Mass produced
    vibrant colors available Harms the environment
    more colors available

    Vegetable Tanned

    Advantages Disadvantages
    Products tend to be unique and original It costs more to produce
    Gets more flexible over time It takes more time to produce
    Boasts earthy and natural colors overall expensive
    smells natural Colors are not as varied or vibrant
    Able to be recycled Seems hard and stiff at first
    Longer product life
    natural ingredient

    We hope this little explanation will help you. Greetings!!