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In this article we will take a quick look at what is vegetable tanned leather, how its made, what is special about it, advantages and disadvantages of vegetable tanned leather and how to care your veg-tan goods.


How is vegetable tanning leather made ?

Vegetable tanning refers to leather that is tanned with oak and spruce bark. Also quebracho, tara pods, olive leaves, rhubarb roots or mimosa are common. These substances are placed in a pit along with the skins and hides. As these tannins are derived from plants, the leather is called vegetable-tanned leather. Also the term "natural leather" is used.

Vegetable Tanning is a long process that takes approximately 18 months. In return you will have one of the best quality leather.

Tanning with plant substances has existed for over 5,000 years and was, for many centuries, the main tanning method. Ornaments placed on stone coffins reveal that vegetable tanning was around in the 4th millennium BC in Egypt. Since the discovery of Ötzi in the ice of the Alps it is evident that several leather types were prepared for various uses even 5,000 years ago. Recently, the more modern and industrialised tanning methods have become common and it can be assumed that nowadays only 6 - 10% of all leather is vegetable-tanned.


What is the quality of vegetable tanned leather and how does vegetable leather look?

The vegetable tanning process results in leather with a distinct appearance and unmatched durability.  One of the best features of vegetable-tanned leather is that it develops a patina over time with prolonged use and exposure to the environment.  Due to the gentle processes involving several weeks of treatment, the vegetable-tanned leather has a much longer life than chrome-tanned leather.

The process of vegetable tanning uses organic material and natural tannins derived from the barks, leaves and branches of trees and plants. This results in colors that are rich and deep in natural earthy tones such as browns, beiges, yellows and reds. The fibers of the animal hide used for the leather are visible in the finished product, lending an authenticity and personality to the leather that makes it more unique.

Vegetable-tanned leather also has a distinctively sweet, woody fragrance that is normally associated with leather. Each piece made with this leather has unique shades and nuances, which are a mark of genuineness. The lack of consistency in color and tone is not a defect. Instead, it’s a characteristic of natural tanning processes.


What are the advantages of vegetable tanned leather?

Most importantly vegetable tanned leather is the healthiest leather choice to human body and also environment. Because entire process is natural there is no chemicals to effect you or nature during & after the process or while using the goods.

Due to its sturdy nature, vegetable tanned leather is the only type of leather that is able to be imprinted with intricate tooling. This makes it a part of many products, such as chaps or purses, that are made primarily out of chrome leather, but have tooled inlays.

What are the disadvantages of vegetable tanned leather?

The disadvantages of the tanning method used for traditional vegetable tanning include the heavy use of water. At least the discharge is not harmful to the environment due to the organic materials used. The time taken to produce a batch of leather is around few months, as compared to one day for chrome leather. The cost of such leather is also high due to the specialized craftsmen required, the longer tanning period and less automation involved. However, this method also supports a rich tradition and is an important cultural legacy for many countries.

How do I care my vegetable tanned leather good?

With proper care, vegetable tanned leather can last many decades. And like a fine whiskey, it will only become more valuable and unique the longer you have it. Unlike chrome tanned leather, most veg tanned leather does not come pre-treated with oils and waxes. The fibers will react to water by stiffening and shrinking. Keep veg tanned leather away from water for at least the first month or so of use, to allow the leather fibers time to soften and absorb oils to increase its natural water resistance.

Additionally veg tanned leather is sensitive to high heat and can crack if heated to extreme temperatures, so do not use a blow dryer or heat gun on the leather, and do not store the leather in an excessively hot area.

Every few months we recommend applying a little of our leather balm to the leather and rubbing it in with a soft lint-free cloth and your fingers. A little goes a long way, work it into the leather with soft circles. This will nourish the veg leather and restore its luster as well as replace essential oils and waxes to keep it flexible and resilient.

Once a year we recommend a full cleaning of the leather using our leather oil & cleaner kit to remove any accumulated dirt, deeply refresh it, and fully restore the leather to its natural beauty.


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