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June 21, 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.


Leather is a durable and stylish material with several uses, such as jackets, pants, belts, shoes, handbags, and wallets. Leather upholstery for furniture and car seats is also prized for its long-lasting strength and aesthetic appeal. This material comes in four main types, full-grain, top-grain, corrected grain, and bonded leather. Though most people are already aware of these facts, one rarely considered aspect is how the material is created before it becomes the leather we purchase in stores. So, how is leather made? Let’s find out.

Sourcing The Animal

Most leather on the market comes from cows, though several different animals contribute to the market. Some popular options are sheep, lamb, goat, crocodile, snake, ostriches, deer, and kangaroo. Cow leather is the most popular, though, due to its high strength and accessibility.

When sourcing animals for leather products, most manufacturers partner with the meat industry. Rather than discarding the skins removed from animals used for food, leather companies purchase these skins for less waste. Leather makers also consider how the animal is raised and cared for before aligning themselves with any company.

Preparing the Skin

When the leather company has sourced their skins, it’s time to prepare them for tanning. This process includes techniques like soaking the skin to remove any dirt, preserving salt, flesh, wool, or hair, and degreasing the hide to ensure it is completely clean.

It is at this point that the hide may be split into the types of leather we mentioned above. This determines the thickness of the leather, depending on what it will be used for. Skins won’t be split since they are already too thin for this process.


Tanning is one of the most important parts of leather production since it prevents the material from decomposing. This process involves placing the prepared hides into a drum with special chemicals, such as a chromium salt mix, vegetable tanning agents, or a chrome-free alternative. The hides are soaked in the tanning chemicals for a set timeframe. When the tanning process is complete, the hides are now considered leather.

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Retanning isn’t used for all leather, though high-quality products require this process. It uses specific chemicals that alter the color and texture to ensure the leather is marketable for items like clothing or purses. Once retanning is complete, the leather is placed between two rollers to remove any remaining moisture.


At this stage, leather is ready to be dyed. The most popular colors for leather products are brown and black but there are also an array of colors to give the product a more unique look. The dyeing process can take 8 hours or more to complete, so dyed items are more expensive than classic brown leather products.


Fatliquoring involves adding oil to the leather to soften the texture and make it more flexible. The tanning process removes most of the moisture in the hide, so the finished leather could dry out and harden or crack without the addition of these oils


The finishing stage gives the leather the desired look, depending on what it’s intended for. One option is polishing using a velvet wheel for a shiny finish. Another possible finish includes the use of a roller or heated hydraulic press to emboss the material. Some leather makers add a surface coating to alter the color or design while adding a protective layer to the material.

how is leather made

Final Grading

Once all of the above steps are completed, the leather is ready to be graded on its feel, softness, flexibility, thickness, pattern, and color. After it receives its grade, it is sent out to the customer, where it is made into clothing, accessories, luggage, or furniture.

Final Word

Leather is one of the most durable materials on the market. Of course, it wouldn’t be so long-lasting without the manufacturing process we’ve discussed above. Without this method, leather would decompose and fall apart long before we could make use of it. If you liked our article or have anything to add, please let us know in the comments.

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