What is Vegetable Tanned Leather?

What is Vegetable Tanned Leather?

Vegetable tanning remains a more ecological alternative for dyeing leather than traditional tanning. It is non-toxic, 100% biodegradable, and uses a majority of natural ingredients (barks, fruit shells, plants), unlike conventional tanning whose origin is petrochemical, synthetic. 

We love using this kind of leather in our range, including for our popular leather bdsm wrist & ankle cuffs, bondage collars, impact toys paddles and blindfolds.  

But do you know what exactly it is and its benefits?

 

What is vegetable tanning?

It is a very old technique, slower and much more environmentally friendly. It uses tannins of organic origin, such as tree bark for example.

This type of leather is also much better for the health of the person who makes it and the person who wears it, because it is free of chemicals and therefore without risk of allergy.

Vegetable tanned leather contains less than 0.3% of tanning metals (sum of chromium, aluminum, iron, titanium, zirconium).

Therefore, thanks to its environmental qualities and its harmlessness, it is called " eco-leather ".

In addition to being natural, vegetable tanned leather is stronger and absorbs moisture well. Thanks to its natural tones, it gives off deep and very nuanced colors.

Vegetable tanning can be done by soaking the hides in large vats or by letting the skin rest in a saturated solution of vegetable tannins. This type of tanning is done slowly and can last from a few days to a few months.

To better understand the complexity (in terms of know-how and material) and the cost, let's detail the main stages of extra slow tanning for sole leather:

 

Pre-tanning is the First Step

The skins must first be prepared. So they rehydrate the hides and remove the hair for a few days. The hide is divided into two parts, known as sides.

 

Step 2 is Tanning

After that, the split skins are placed in enormous vats of natural tannins. Tree bark is one source of natural tannins. The hides are soaked in this tanning liquor for a few weeks and must be cared to often to guarantee complete absorption. The skins are then stripped of any extra moisture and shaved to the proper thickness (from the backside).

 

Step 3 is Dyeing, Stuffing with Hot Air, and Drying

The tanned skins come at this phase as a blank canvas, ready to be filled with vibrant color and personality. The skins are coloured in massive drums that revolve in the air and resemble a wine barrel.

The leather can next be hot stuffed, which is a procedure in which waxes and tallows are physically pushed into the leather skin to give it a deep color and increase its durability.

The skins are then staked and let to dry. Staking is a method for slightly softening leather.

 

Step 4 is Putting the Finishing Touch on the Leather

The skins are treated with waxes and a sealant for added protection at this point. The entire procedure takes up to six weeks to complete and is extremely time and labor intensive.

 

Why Soulnight Adopt Vegetable Tanned Leather in BDSM Gear?

Healthy Technique: no chemical products are used, unlike chrome tanning, so there is no danger to the health of the producer. The mineral chromium is a heavy metal and as such is quite toxic to the environment as well as to the people processing it.

More Environmentally Friendly Process: the tannin comes directly from nature, without chemicals and toxic products.

Unique Product: what makes vegetable tanning so unique is it can be used to make thicker leather and results in more body and character. It will become even more comfortable the longer you use it and develops a rich patina over time. And it has that awesome classic leather smell, sweet, woody, and rich.

Vegetable-tanned leather is more expensive than chrome leather. It's usually used for high-end handmade leather goods. The edges of vegetable-tanned leathers are burnished or turned, meaning this leather is created to last for decades.

Below are some of our products use vegetable tanned leather:

Soulnight BDSM Black Paddle, Vegetable Tanned Leather Bondage Ruler SN0018

 

SOULNIGHT BDSM Leather Wrist Cuffs Vegetable Tanned Leather 18K Gold Plated SN0031

 

SOULNIGHT Leather Mistress Masquerade Mask BDSM Blindfold 2 in 1 SN0035

 

Because vegetable-tanned leather is more expensive, you need to take good care of it. But how to care for vegetable-tanned leather?

  • Don’t get it wet, particularly in the first month
  • Keep your leather away from heat sources and never blow-dry it
  • Don’t use brushes with synthetic bristles to clean it, only natural bristles should be used
  • Use oil or conditioner made specifically for leather weekly if the item is used frequently
  • Wax occasionally to keep it in the best condition

 

How to Identify Vegetable Tanned Leather?

Here are some simple tips for identifying the tanning method used for a sample of leather.

Wet a piece and then stamp a mark into it. If the mark has a crisp impression afterward, the leather is vegetable tanned. If the impression is just discernable, it is chrome tanned.

An easy way to test whether leather is 100% vegetable tanned is to drop a small strip of the leather into boiling water (be careful). If it is 100% vegetable tanned it will instantly shrink and curl up like a worm. If it doesn't other tanning agents have been used in tanning the leather. Chrome tanned, undyed leather is a pearl grey with a faintly bluish tint. Dyed chrome tanned leather often retains a grey-blue or white center core.

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