FAQ: What is the difference between vegetable-tanned leather vs chrome-tanned leather?


Tanning hide into leather involves a process which permanently alters the protein structure of skin, making it more durable and less susceptible to decomposition. There are two main methods of achieving this:

  • Chrome-Tanned Leather - Modern, chemical-based tanning methods offer a quick and effective way to convert hides into leather and this is the most common method used today. These methods typically rely on a combination of chromium, formic acid, mercury and various solvents to bring the hides to their tanned state. While the techniques and chemicals used continues to evolve, the process is considered toxic and environmentally harmful, particularly when the effluent and solid wastes are not properly disposed of.
  • Vegetable-Tanned Leather - The environmental concerns around chrome tanning have led to a resurgence of traditional tanning methods, particularly so-called vegetable tanning. This process, used since pre-historic times, relies on astringent tannins that occur naturally in the bark and leaves of many plants (including our personal favorite, the mighty oak). Vegetable tanning takes significantly longer and is more labour-intensive than chrome tanning but the result is a very high-quality, supple leather that emerges in a wide range of natural brown tones. Due to both the lower environmental impact and the remarkable character of the resulting leather, we strongly recommend vegetable-tanned leathers whenever possible.

Explore our full selection of vegetable-tanned leather items here on Oak Roads.

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