The Leather Tanning Process

The Leather Tanning Process

August 31, 2021

In existence for thousands of years, the tanning process is an essential part of creating beautiful leather goods. There are several steps that make up the tanning process, each just as important as the last. Without proper tanning, the animal hide can easily rot, rendering it unusable. Tanning is also known to change the color of certain animal hides.

Animal hides are usually processed in a facility called a tannery, though it is possible for individuals to tan their own hides. Read on if you’re interested in learning about how leather is tanned.


So, how do you tan leather? Before starting the tanning process, it’s important to properly prepare. You’ll first remove any bits of flesh from the animal. Then, you’ll use salt to cure the hide. There are several ways to do this, with one approach utilizing a saltwater brine to soak the hide. Properly salting a hide helps prevent the growth of bacteria and reduces moisture content. After salting for anywhere from several hours to several days, the salt will be removed from the hide by soaking it in a solution of water and several chemicals.

The next step is liming, which involves keeping the hides in a drum filled with a solution called milk of lime. This step helps remove any grease and fat left on the animal hide. You will then remove connective tissue from the flesh in a step called fleshing. After fleshing, you’ll remove excess hair by using chemicals like sodium hydroxide and calcium hydrosulfide. During the last few steps of tanning preparation, you’ll treat and degrease the hides.


After successfully completing all the steps of preparation, the tanning process can begin. There are several different methods used for tanning, including chrome tanning, vegetable tanning, brain tanning and synthetic tanning. Each tanning process utilizes different materials and comes with its own advantages. Vegetable tanning, for example, uses leaves and bark to create a tanning solution that the hides will soak in. This method of tanning has been used for thousands of years and gives hides a distinct look and feel.

These days, most people use the chrome tanning method to tan their hides. In this process, the hides soak in a solution made with chromium tanning agents, which turns the wet hides blue. It usually takes around one to two days for the chrome tanning solution to penetrate an animal hide. Many people use this method of tanning because it’s less time-consuming.

Dressing and finishing

The last few parts of the tanning process involve preparing the hide for sale. During the dressing process, hides are shaved, dyed, re-tanned, dried and trimmed. The finishing process involves adding any gloss and protective surfaces. Any blemishes on the hides will also be removed during this process.

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the tanning process. This process is an important part of ensuring the quality of your leather goods. If you’re in the market for exotic leather shoes, purses, boots and other goods, or for more tips on how leather is tanned, contact or visit Acadian Leather today.

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