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Chrome Tanned VS Vegetable Tanned Leather. What are the differences?

When it comes to buying leather products, you might have come across terms like vegetable tanned leather and chrome tanned leather. Both are popular methods of tanning leather, but they differ in terms of their processes, properties, and environmental impact. Let's explore the differences between vegetable tanned leather and chrome tanned leather to help you make an informed decision.

What is vegetable tanned leather?

Vegetable tanned leather is a traditional and natural tanning process that uses organic materials such as tree bark and plant extracts to treat animal hides. This process can take several weeks and is environmentally friendly. Vegetable tanning results in leather that is firm, durable, and breathable. It is often used for high-end leather products such as bags, belts, and shoes.

What is chrome tanned leather?

Chrome tanning is a modern and popular method that uses a chemical solution called chromium sulfate to tan leather. This process can be completed in a few hours and results in leather that is soft, flexible, and water-resistant. Chrome tanned leather is widely used in the fashion industry and is less expensive than vegetable tanned leather.

Differences between vegetable tanned leather and chrome tanned leather

  1. Environmental impact: Vegetable tanning is an eco-friendly process, as it uses natural materials and produces biodegradable waste. Chrome tanning, on the other hand, uses chemicals that can be harmful to the environment and takes longer to break down. This is why many environmentalists and animal rights activists prefer vegetable tanned leather.

  2. Durability: Vegetable tanned leather is known for its firmness and durability. It ages well, develops a patina, and lasts longer than chrome tanned leather. In contrast, chrome tanned leather is softer and more pliable, but it is less durable and can lose its shape over time.

  3. Color: Vegetable tanned leather has a natural and distinctive color that can vary depending on the type of plant extract used. The color of the leather darkens with age and exposure to light. Chrome tanned leather, on the other hand, can be dyed in a variety of colors and has a consistent color throughout.

  4. Comfort: Vegetable tanned leather is breathable, and it absorbs moisture, which makes it more comfortable to wear. Chrome tanned leather is water-resistant, and it repels moisture, which can make it less comfortable to wear.

In conclusion, vegetable tanned leather and chrome tanned leather are two different tanning methods with their own advantages and disadvantages. If you're looking for leather products that are durable, natural, and eco-friendly, then vegetable tanned leather is the best option. However, if you're looking for leather products that are soft, flexible, and water-resistant, then chrome tanned leather is a better option.

At the Flint & Steel Leather Company, we mostly use vegetable tanned leather. However, we will use chrome tanned leather from time to time depending on the inspiration and availability. A good example is the famous Chromexcel by the american tannery Horween.

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