Difference Between Chrome-Tanned VS Vegetable-Tanned Leather: Get The Facts
Leather tanning is the most crucial part of leather making as it prepares the hides for the production process by cleaning them from all the dirt and gore. This process of preparing hides for the leather-making process is called tanning. Through the tanning process, the fibers of the hide are strengthened, giving the leather more sustainability. Tanning is also crucial because otherwise, the hide would go rotten and decompose.
There are two widely used methods to undertake the tanning process. 1) Chrome Tanning. 2) Vegetable Tanning. Here is all that you need to know about these two tanning processes and what distinguishes them.
1. Chrome Tanning
The chrome tanning process is widely used today, but is comparatively new. The chrome tanning process uses a mixture of chemicals, acidic properties and salt to tan animal hides. Hence, the chrome tanning process is highly toxic and environmentally unfriendly as it involves harsh chromium chemicals. The name chrome originates from “chromium.”
The chrome tanning process undertakes its process through the following materials:
- Chromium (III) sulfate - widely used as a tanning material, chromium sulfate is inorganic and contains various molecule properties, oxidants and CAS. Because of its active dissolving capacity, the chromium sulfate works like the stabilizer and merges the fibers.
- Chrome alum - containing the high soluble properties, alum or aluminum chrome is used for leather tanning in powdered form. Because of its soluble properties, it reaches the vast depths of the hide and dissolves in the fibers.
- Chromium salts - although the use of chromium salts has been limited due to their effect on the skin and causing skin allergies, tanneries persist in using the chemical for tanning hides. Due to its anti-corrosive properties, it prevents the hide from deforming and renders it no-fade quality.
What chrome tanning process has:
- Simple procedure, which could be undertaken without the expertise of craftsmen
- Chrome tanned hides yield softer leather.
The downside of chrome tanning:
The chrome tanning process is environmentally unfriendly as it involves harsh chemicals, resulting in a faster process but can be hazardous for nature. Another downside of chrome-tanned leather is that it lacks that vegetable-tanned leather shine and can break easily because of the hasty tanning process.
Apart from environmental effects, the chrome tanning process can adversely affect your health and lead to severe skin conditions too.
2. Vegetable Tanning
The vegetable tanning process dates back to more than 200 years. It was widely famous for its slow but gradual and remarkable results. The vegetable tanning method procures tanning materials from natural means such as plants and water. The name vegetable was given to this method of tanning because of the way the tanning materials are extracted through natural tannins. It has been proven that the leather extracted through the vegetable tanning process is said to be thicker and more voluminous, making it suitable for leather bags. The vegetable tanning process is environmentally friendly, as it does not involve the use of chemicals and is the tanning materials are extracted through natural means.
— the primary roots through which the tanning materials are extracted are in vegetable tanning are:
- Chestnut wood - containing a high amount of natural acidic properties, is particularly appropriate for heavy tanning hides, such as cows. Apart from their robust nature, leather tanned with chestnut wood leather is rich in color.
- Quebracho wood - originating its name from the Spanish word which means “very hard,” quebracho is used for tanning fine quality leather as its extract is rich in quality, which heaves in nice color in the leather.
- Tara pods - extracted from a precious fruit called “pods” from a tree that grows widely in the South African region, tara tannins are rich in acidic properties and blessed with catechin, which is a natural type of antioxidant that protects leather hide from damages.
- Catechu - extracted from acacia trees, catechu has high natural tannins capacity, which could be credited to its astringent effects.
Apart from these, other extractions are made through Chinese gallnut, Turkish gallnut gambier and oak wood.
The vegetable tanning method is:
- Environmentally friendly
- Develops patina overtime
- Improves with use
- Natural look
- Timely and skillful
The downside of vegetable tanning:
The downside of vegetable tanning is that it is time-consuming and takes a lot of time to develop. However, the results always are fruitful, but tanning is a pre-production process, and it can test your patience while you wait for it.
Apart from that, tanning through the vegetable method needs a special, insightfully aware craftsman.
Conclusion: With both the tanning processes having advantages and disadvantages, the use of both methods have been vast; however, at two different times and both methods are essential, in one way or another. On the one hand, leather generated from vegetable tanning is shining and pristine; on the other hand, leather developed through the chrome tanning process is softer. Idealizing, using both in different circumstances and considering their pros and cons is inevitable.
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