Vegetable Tanning

Leather Termnology / Leather Tanning


Definition of Vegetable Tanning

Vegetable tanning is an organic tanning method that relies on a naturally occurring chemical called tannin, usually derived from leaves, branches, and barks of trees such as mimosa, oak, and chestnut.

vegetable tannins

The tanning method entails a lengthy process of soaking an animal hide into large baths of concentrated tannins until it softens, normally several months.

The hide is regularly exposed to additional baths with higher concentrations to break down the hide’s collagen structure, further making the material pliable.

During the process, the tannin produces shades of beige, red, yellow, deep brown, giving the leather a unique color and texture.

A key factor that makes vegetable tanning so unique is it can be used to make thicker and firmer leather, giving products more character and body.

The products’ excellent shape retention also means that vegetable-tanned leather can be easily molded, curved, or embossed to a desired shape.

However, the vegetable tanning process is laborious, expensive, and time-consuming. Despite being the oldest method of tanning leather, only 10–12% of the world’s leather is tanned this way.

Example of Vegetable Tanning in a Sentence

"What drives up the price of finished leather goods is the cost of vegetable tanning."


Related Terms for Vegetable Tanning

Written by Ryan Popoff

Ryan Popoff is the creative mind behind Popov Leather wallets, iPhone cases, belts, watch bands and journals since 2013. With a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts, my leatherworking journey began at home. I wanted to create a simple leather wallet that could fit into my front pocket and — to my delight — it was a hit with family and friends. Hopefully you love our honest, quality leather goods too! Read more