A Complete Guide on Veg Tan Leather

Veg Tan Leather

LeatherFact has prepared the most comprehensive guidelines on veg tan leather. Our experts have shared their knowledge about its definition, quality, characteristics and its implications in leather products.

Going through this writeup, you will be able to identify it, have a clear concept regarding the price and a sound knowledge on all its prospects.

What is vegetable tanned leather?

Vegetable tanned leather points to an organic tanning method of the hide. This slow process is different from chrome tanning leather. It taps into all natural materials for tanning. These tanning substances are called ‘tanning agents’ or simply ‘tannins’. The extracts are very often collected from mimosa, tara pods or gall nuts, quebracho wood and chestnut.

Tanning leads to a combative capacity of the leather, essential for repelling withering effects. It also turns the leather increasingly supple as well as good looking. Vegetable tanning breeds a little water resistance. It is actually one of the most ancient leather processing methods in history.

Animal hides contain collagen, the fundamental structural protein component. Tannins effectively stabilize these proteins.

Consequently, the skin gets protection from disintegration. Veg tan leather ages well and brings in a richer patina.

Another name for veg tan leather:

Vegetable tanned leather is also known as ‘natural leather’.

What are the sources of rawhide for veg tan leather?

Usually, rawhide is collected from cows, sheep and goats and all kinds of thick skinned animals. But mostly bovine, ovine and caprine hides are the largest sources. 

Manufacturing process of veg tan leather:

In short, the water molecules are responsible for rotting and degeneration of the hide. Tanning drives out the water and replaces the empty space therein with tannins, less watery components. So the finished goods enjoy durability. However, natural tanning is less appealing, due to its slow production speed.

Rot prevention:

If the grain starts degenerating, there is no way to process leather from the skin. The rawhide is preserved with salt, in order to prevent rotting.

Reaching the tanneries, the hide finds itself in the cutting room as it is the first step. Master cutters execute this vital task. They separate the sides, the buttocks and the shoulders of the skin. 


At opportune time, those are moved into a lime pit. This is actually a drum filled with lime, meant to remove the fur and foreign objects. This is called the dehairing process. Tanners rehydrate it in the drum so that the skin sheds the hair and the unwanted components altogether.

Heavy preparation:

Now they take it for fleshing and splitting. It removes all junk such as flesh and grease. These are sent to another drum, to bring down the pH level. The hides are heavily rinsed. This step restores the optimum state of the skin, to begin with the vegetable tanning.

Add tannins:

Then the skin ends up in another drum full of natural tannins, such as tree bark. The tanning liquid soaks the hide for even weeks. Tanners keep a close eye on the process. The timing and care makes sure that the skin absorbs the tannin components, to its maximum capacity.

Smell & color:

When it is pulled out of the drum, the leather emits unique leathery scents. A sweet fragrance of vegetable substances reach your nose which is strikingly similar to the woods.

It appears in warm and bright colors. You feel the softness to the touches. This softness and resistance is absent in any other types of tanning.. 


Tanners pick up the hide from the tannins to shed glut moisture. This is the time for shaving the leather down to the desired thickness, in complete uniformity to match the product requirements.


Then comes the drying process. They use machines for this purpose. This phase eliminates the most amount of water from the skin. Dry pressing, enlargement and drafting of the skin gets you to the goal.

Now flatten it to remove residual moisture. Skin is hung on an aerial chain in constant temperature and controlled humidity. Or it might be air dried too.

Alterations in sequences:

The recipe is a long and ancient one. The sequences of tanning, dyeing and stuffing remain buried as deep manufacturer secrets.

This sensitive information characterizes the manufacturer and no master tanner is willing to expose the details. So you might eventually unearth the steps but never the ingredients.

Experience of tanners:

The experience of the master tanners in blending various types of ingredients and alternating these phases is crucial to the production of different items.

It also ensures consistent quality all along. Vegetable tanned leather takes from our life but age fails to ruin it.

What are the tannins?

The tannins are usually sourced from quebracho, tara pods or gall nuts, olive leaves, rhubarb roots, and mimosa. These plant substances are inevitable for a successful completion of the process.

Natural tannins are collected from the barks, leaves and branches of trees and plants. These ingredients put the least negative impact upon the environment.

What differentiates veg tan from chrome tan?

Chrome tanning resorts to a mixture of chemicals, acids, and salts to tan the skin. Swiftness marks this process. It might take less than a day to produce a finished leather, in this method. Chrome tanning promises faster output and has gained much popularity since its inception, back in 1858.


Vegetable Tanned Leather

Chrome Tanned Leather


Thousands of years old.

Chrome tan originated in 1858.


Finishing a leather takes a huge time, weeks and even months

Super fast & delivers output in a day.


The treatment calls for extraordinary skills and careful expertise.

Routine skills are enough.

4 Stellar quality and outlook.

Excellent but not at the same level as that of veg tanned items.


An eco-friendly system, relying on natural components.

Depends on hazardous chemicals and inflicts damages upon the ecosystem.

6 Purchasing one costs a fortune.

Cheaper alternative.


Barely tolerates any exposure to the water.

Handles water, temperature and humidity pressures, like a pro


Endures rugged use.

Not reliable in experiencing the tough days.


Offers little variation in colors as it relies on natural substances. But the colors are deep, warm and pleasant to the eyes.

Comes in all imaginable colors. But these are scarcely eye soothing items.


Years of use does not negatively affect the colors.

Fading could be a reality, pretty soon.

How to identify a veg tan leather?

One cannot tell the differences simply from its looks. But your nose never lies. Trust it. A sweet and distinctly woody fragrance emanates from it. No other artificial component can emulate it. It is completely devoid of plastic smells, a mark of heavy chemical presence. 

The hallmark of authenticity can also be inferred from its unique shades as well as nuances. It introduces a superb richness and incredible depth in color as well.

Besides, natural tanning leads to a remarkable inconsistency in both tone and color.

You will certainly notice the softness, suppleness and pleasantness all along. All these desirable attributes are obviously missing in chrome tanning.

Pros & cons of vegetable tanned leather:

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages associated with veg tan leather. We need to have a look.





Strongest leather. Used for all kinds of sturdy products including saddles, holsters, etc.

It is not malleable and is often unsuitable for boots that require a little give..


Absorbs moisture better.

Production needs a lot of water, causing wastage.


Deeper & warmer natural colors bring in nuanced shades

Manufacturing needs weeks and even months to reflect proper craftsmanship.


Ages greatly with patina and all those positive attributes.

Enormous price tag.


Lasts for several generations.



Environment friendly manufacturing process.



Illustrates a unique & original character.



Superb, as a legacy or a reflection of tradition.



Worker and consumer health remains intact as it hardly involves the use of chemical ingredients.





What differentiates veg tan leather & vegan leather?

Despite the homophonic names, there is an insurmountable gap between vegetable tanned leather and vegan leather. We must check it out.


Vegetable Tan Leather

Vegan Leather


Uses rawhide as the main component. Real leather product.

Uses polyurethane or PVC with paper backing and no genuine leather at all. Artificial leather goods.


Eco-friendly as it exploits natural substances.

Not environment friendly as it utilizes chemical substances.


Costly items.

Routine skills are enough.


Takes a lot of time, manual labor and great craftsmanship.

Can be produced quickly on an industrial scale.


Smells natural and pleasing. Soothes your soul with an excellent leathery scent.

Smells of plastic and chemical elements.


Lasts for generations.

Short lived.


Develops patina & the color gets richer as it ages.

No patina. The color fades along with the passage of time.


Not very much available.

Market is flooded with faux leather goods.


Water exposure causes terrible damage.

Water causes a little harm but not that much.




Does veg tan leather cause allergy?

No, veg tan does not harm the skin of an allergic person. Consequently, allergic leather lovers find the vegetable tanned leather suited to their cause. Its production process removes most of the chemical substances which are primarily responsible for this disease. 

Instead of heavy metals and toxic components, this method relies on natural ingredients such as tannins. Unlike other chemical based tanning systems, it maintains safe skin skin contact, even for the kids.

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