Chrome Tanned vs Vegetable Tanned Leather; Which is Better?

Chrome Tanned vs Vegetable Tanned Leather; Which is Better?

All leather needs to be tanned before a finished product can be produced. Tanning is the process of treating the skin or hide of an animal to make it more durable and prevent decomposition. Tanning also makes leather more flexible and pliable. There are two main methods for tanning; vegetable tanned leather and chrome tanned leather.

Once tanned, leather can be used for everything from footwear and clothing to car seats and furniture. But, what’s better chrome tanned or vegetable tanned leather?

Chrome Tanned Leather

Chrome tanned leather is the most commonly used process for treating commercial goods. The method can sometimes be referred to as mineral tanned leather. If you’ve ever ridden in a car with leather seats or sat on a box-store leather sofa, chances are good that it was chrome tanned leather.

Chrome tanning uses a solution of chemicals, acids, and harsh salts. Chromium sulfate (where the process gets its name) is used to dye the hide. Why use toxic chemicals for tanning? Short answer ‒because it’s cheaper and it’s faster to make.

Like with many items that are cheaper to manufacture, chrome tanned leather often makes for an inferior product. The process is so quick and easy that it can be done in just a single day. As you can imagine, chrome tanning produces a lot of unnecessary waste and isn’t the best for the environment either.

Advantages of Chrome Tanning
  • Quick, and easy to produce

  • Water resistant

  • Can be dyed any color

  • Cheaper

  • Thinner and more pliable

Disadvantages of Chrome Tanning
  • Very bad for the environment

  • Mass produced by unskilled labor

  • Leather cracks easily

  • Doesn't look like natural leather

Vegetable Tanned Leather

Vegetable tanned leather has been around for centuries. The traditional tanning method uses all natural ingredients and takes great skill and craftsmanship to make. Only tannins extracted from vegetable matter (like tree bark) are used making the process incredibly environmentally-friendly.

Veg tanned leather isn’t made in a day like chrome tanned leather, or even a week. It can take up to 2-months to tan leather the traditional way. Vegetable tanned leather is a more intensive process that requires frequent tending to ensure maximum absorption of the tanning liquor. The outcome, however, is well worth the wait.

Simply put, vegetable tanned leather is a superior product that only gets better with age. But buyer beware. With a superior quality product comes a higher price tag.

Advantages of Vegetable Tanning
  • All natural & Eco-friendly

  • Improves with age and wear

  • Creates a unique, one-of-a-kind product

  • Produced in small batches by skilled artisans

  • Longer product life

  • Acquires unique patina

Disadvantages of Vegetable Tanning
  • Water stains easily

  • Only natural colors available

  • More expensive (but lasts much longer)

In Conclusion

So, which is better chrome tanned leather or vegetable tanned leather? Well, better is often subjective. Depending on the use, you may find that one type of leather works better for your individual needs.

Chrome tanning can be better for home/car upholstery since its cheaper, thinner, and more pliable. If you’re looking for a high-quality leather for backpacks, purses, or shoes vegetable tanned leather is probably your best bet.