Vegetable Tanned Leather VS Chrome Tanned Leather
What sort of leather tanning method is used by your favorite brands may look like an esoteric and neglectable part your shopping process, and that’s why most brands utilizes the least expensive and not surprisingly most toxic system of leather tanning available: namely chrome tanning. Why is this method so unsustainable and how can it really compare to the organic system of vegetable tanning? Let’s dive in and find out!
What exactly is tanning?
First things first, let’s discuss leather tanning itself, which is in its character, transforming animal skins into real leather. The transformation of animal skin into a bit of leather is primarily accomplished by eliminating water molecules from the hydration of skin, (which is the protein that the skin consists of). But when drawing out the skin might get destroyed, as it becomes dry and inflexible. Hence, since early times, (literally for thousands of years), folks have been soaking the skins in natural tannins to dehydrate the leather, which divides the water molecules and contrasts with the hydration, preventing the part where the leather goes rigid and inflexible! These vegetable tannin solutions are composed of organic substances found in trees (such as oak, chestnut, or mimosa), or a large number of other kinds of plants and trees.
Vegetable-tanned leather takes up to 2 weeks to develop in a process that’s mostly done by hand. It requires skill, patience, and care and the tanning process uses no harmful chemicals, unlike its chrome-tanned counterpart.
A yellowish or brown bitter-tasting organic substance present in certain galls, barks, and other plant cells, consisting of derivatives of gallic acid, used in leather manufacturing and ink manufacture.
A faster method is invented
This vegetable tanning process, consisting of soaking skins in organic flea remedies is painstakingly slow and complicated, and usually takes a minimum of one-two weeks to complete, requiring the supervision of skilled craftsmen. This wasn’t preferred by the forces industry, who invented a new method in 1858 where leather tanning will be achieved much faster (achieved in 1 day actually ) and cheaper with a mixture of substances, primarily chromium. This chemical tanning method has since been the preferred process of leather tanning, accounting for at least 90 percent of the world’s leather.
The ancient process of vegetable tanned leather has been replaced by chromium (chrome) tanning in 1858, as tanneries looked for ways to expedite the procedure and save money. Currently this procedure accounts for more than 90 percent of the world’s leather.
Unlike vegetable tanning, chrome tanners do not find raw hides, but instead, pre-treated skins put through an initial tanning process where the hides come out with a distinct bluish tinge. The fundamental tanning principles are the same: water molecules are removed from the collagen of the skin but using chromium salts rather than tannins. The chrome ions displacing the water are smaller than vegetable tanning molecules that generally leave chrome-tanned leather thinner and thicker than vegetable-tanned leather. The practice is usually achieved by putting hides in acidic drums or baths, consisting of a mixture of chemicals. This creates plenty of toxic wastewater that if left untreated may lead to massive environmental impacts, such as in India, where farmlands are swamped with blue-tinted wastewater, poisoned with a mixture of chemicals like lead, arsenic Chromium, Methylisothiazolinone, anthracene, and formaldehyde, which can lead to health problems in the eyes, lungs, liver, kidneys, skin, and cause lymphatic systems.
Chrome tanned leather is leather produced using a solution of compounds, salts and acids to dye the conceal. It’s cheap, quick and mass produced, typically requiring little skill in the tanners. Chrome, like every heavy metal, is very toxic and environmentally damaging, thus creating wastewater leftovers which are very poisonous .
The durability issue
In the never-ending quest to reduce the production cost, most companies compromise with the quality concerning the leather quality and the creation of the leather goods when they turn to mass-producing chrome tanned leather goods, and this greatly reduces the lifespan of chrome-tanned leather merchandise. Not only is the leather itself bound to fall apart much earlier than any vegetable-tanned leather counterpart; the cost-cutting production methods for chrome tanned leather products include treating the advantages of bags with oil varnish which causes the material to crack within a couple of years, rather than using techniques like turned edges or burnishing (which are more time-consuming, but create a product that persists for decades), furthermore diminishing its lifespan. Many brands have jeopardized their integrity by pursuing volume and profits at the price of quality while doing considerable harm to the environment and this has led some experts to call for the ban of chrome tanning within the fashion industry.
Chrome Tanned Leather hides are now Blue when it comes from the Tannery! This is known as’wet blue’. The finishing color is used later.
Pros with vegetable-tanned leather:
• Vegetable-tanned leather, using only natural tannins, has no negative environmental effect.
• The tanning technique is historical and requires skilled craftsmen, making vegetable-tanned leather goods more prestigious.
• Because of the careful tanning process and the natural tannins, vegetable-tanned leather develops a rich and gorgeous patina and actually gets better with use and time. It does not crack or dry out and consequently has a lengthy lifespan.
• It has an earthy and natural tone and odor.
• Vegetable-tanned leather is initially a bit stiff and must be broken into becoming completely flexible and functional.
• The colors from vegetable tanning are much less livid as in chrome tanning and darken over time.
• Vegetable-tanned leather takes 30-60 days to make, making the goods generally more expensive.
Pros with chrome tanned leather:
• Chrome tanning is fast and economical and can be easily automated and attained in a single day. Chrome tanned products are thus cheaper and more abundant than vegetable-tanned leather goods.
• The colors of the leather stay unchanged throughout the product’s whole lifespan.
• It is thinner and thicker than vegetable-tanned leather.
• The procedure for chrome tanning creates toxic wastewater which has a detrimental environmental effect, (particularly in the third world).
• Chrome tanned products neither wear well nor lasts quite long and can crack after a couple of months of use.
• Chrome tanned products do not appear very natural and frequently carry a chemical odor.