Since 2016


October 07, 2022 3 min read

by Monique Youzwa

Monique has been a full-time freelance writer for over 5 years, plus has a few fiction credits under her belt and is currently working on a novel. When not writing, she spends her time reading, playing video games, hiking, and camping with her husband and daughter.


Tanning is an essential step to turning a hide or skin into wearable leather. It involves removing the moisture from the raw material and preserving it so it won’t deteriorate or decay. The result is a leather garment that can last for decades, even when worn every day. There are two main tanning methods, each with various benefits and drawbacks to consider. Let’s compare chrome-tanned vs vegetable-tanned leather to see the differences between them.

What Is Chrome Tanning?

Chrome tanning is a relatively quick method that can take only a day or so to complete. It involves the use of chromium salts to remove moisture from the collagen of the hide. The hides are placed in barrels or baths with acidic salts and other chemicals until the chromium salts displace the water molecules.

Pros Of Chrome Tanning

There are several benefits to chrome tanning. First, the process is much quicker than vegetable tanning. It is also mostly automated, so it is cheaper to produce chrome-tanned leather. The result is a thin, lightweight piece that can be dyed any color of the rainbow.

The finished product is soft and pliable, so you don’t need to worry about breaking it in, and it maintains its shape, even with regular wear. Despite this softness, the leather is also extremely durable and long-lasting. Chrome leather maintains its color as well, so you don’t need to worry about a faded garment.

The chrome-tanning process adds water resistance to the leather, so you can wear your jacket during light rain without worrying about significant damage. It can even resist heat for a short time, though you shouldn’t expose your leather gear to heat if it can be avoided.

Cons Of Chrome Tanning

Despite all the good points about chrome tanning, there are a few drawbacks to consider. One is the impact the chemicals used for the tanning process have on the environment. The chemicals are not the healthiest for our planet and though there are regulations and studieson ways to prevent such harmful leather waste, not everyone is applying safer methods, especially in developing countries.

There may also be issues with a chemical smell after chrome tanning. Though some companies try to remove that odor, this is still something to consider.

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What is Vegetable Tanning?

Vegetable tanning is the traditional method, using the tannins in vegetable matter to dehydrate the leather. Though highly effective, this process can take up to 2 months for a skilled tanner to complete, which is why most tanners avoid this method.

Pros Of Vegetable Tanning

Vegetable tanning is a safe and natural process that doesn’t negatively affect the environment, making it a more planet-friendly choice. The ancient process and skill required for this method ensure the highest quality for more sought-after leather.

The finished product is thick and rugged enough to handle regular use with ease. The natural scent and earthy tone of the leather are fantastic. Over time, the color darkens into a rich patina, and the leather softens without drying or cracking.

Cons of Vegetable Tanning

Regardless of the high quality of the finished leather, the 2-month timeframe and high cost raise the price of the finished leather, so you’ll pay more for vegetable-tanned products.

Though some people like how the colors darken over time, this is not always the case, so don’t expect vivid colors to stay that way. You likely won’t find any bright colors, with more subdued shades the only options.

Vegetable-tanned products are stiff when you purchase them, requiring a breaking-in period that isn’t always comfortable. The thicker material is somewhat heavier, with reduced heat and water resistance.

Chrome-Tanned Vs Vegetable-Tanned Leather

Final Word

As you can see, there is no right or wrong choice when purchasing tanned products. Both options have good and bad points to consider. Of course, if you want a colorful piece with a soft, supple touch, chrome-tanned is best. For a piece that looks and smells natural, is highly durable, and will develop a gorgeous patina, stick with vegetable tanning.

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