What Is Vegetable-Tanned Leather? Here’s What You Need to Know

What is vegetable-tanned leather? Find out here from the leather experts at Stonestreet Leather.


Vegetable-tanned leather is a type of leather that is dyed using only natural dyes and is not treated with potentially harmful chemicals.

This type of leather is known for its distinct look. Vegetable tanning is a method of tanning animal skins and hides that has been used for thousands of years.

For centuries, it was the only way to process hide, and the main reason for its popularity was because it produced leather that was both beautiful and durable. To understand how vegetable-tanned leather is made, we must first understand the process of tanning in general. 

What Does Vegetable-Tanned Leather Mean?

Tanning leather is a unique process involving a series of subsequent procedures where chemicals are used to help transform animal hides into leather. There are various tanning methods: chromium tanning and vegetable tanning. 

Vegetable-tanned leather is made from vegetable-based oils and waxes applied to rawhide, or other animal hides for the purpose of making a soft, supple finish. The hide is first soaked in water or saltwater called "pickle." This removes all of the hair from the surface of the hide and makes it supple.

The vegetable tanning process is quite complex. Once an animal has been slaughtered, the fresh hide is separated from the animal almost immediately. Fresh animal hide is taken to a beam house, a section of tannery where the animal hide is prepared for tanning. Beam house processes include soaking, liming, fleshing, and deliming, where leather production begins. 

Pre-tanning involves quickly salting the skin to prevent the growth of bacteria. Soaking removes excess salt, blood, and dung from the hides. Liming is then done to enhance hair removal and weaken collagen for proper tannage. The artisanal nature of vegetable-tanned leather makes it a unique product. 

What is Unique About Vegetable Tanning?

What is unique about it? Let's dig deep into the vegetable tanning process to find out. 

Vegetable leather tanning involves using natural tannins such as organic materials and tree bark. The most common natural tanning agents are obtained from chestnut wood, oak, etc.

Different tree barks give a different look to the animal hide in the tanning process, depending on the concentration of the tree bark solution. The hides are immersed in the tanning solution. The process is intended to suck moisture out of the leather. This tanning process will make it more resistant to water and bacteria.

The process causes the leathers to soften and become more flexible. The veg tan process takes up to 54 to 70 days to complete. The resultant vegetable-tanned leather goods come out of great quality without any hair and fat residues. The amount of time used in vegan leather formation led to the invention of chrome tanned leather. Below, we'll explore the difference between chrome leather and vegetable leather.


Vegetable-tanned leather is one of the most favored types of leather created with traditional craftsmanship using vegetable tannins and is thick and robust. Veg-tanned leather produces some of the highest quality leather products, such as sturdy bags and belts. 

To view an example of this, you can check out Stonestreet's caramel brown vegetable-tanned leather, which has excellent quality and color.

The Benefits of Vegetable-Tanned Leather

This artistic piece produces higher quality and durable leather. Due to its robust nature and durability, it can serve your or your customer's family from generation to generation. 

The production process is environmentally friendly due to the minimal levels of pollution it creates. On the other hand, chrome leather uses toxic substances in the tanning process.

Unlike chrome leather, veg-tanned leather possesses a naturally rich color of the tanning liquor. Over time, the leather gets darker in color, becomes supple, and develops a rich patina (soft sheen).

Veg tanning gives this material a sweet woody fragrance, unlike chrome tanning, which gives it a chromium smell.


Due to the popularity of vegetable tanning, counterfeits are all too common. If the artistry of quality leather is appealing to you, then veg-tan leather is a fantastic choice. Be sure to purchase your leather from a reputable supplier.

Where to Buy Vegetable-Tanned Leather?

When searching for a trustworthy vegetable-tanned leather supplier, look no further than Stonestreet Leather. We have you covered with a wide selection of leather materials. 

Check out our website to see the exquisite variety in our collection, including many different colors and looks to meet your needs, such as our green vegetable-tanned leather strip from the Monet line or our green vegetable-tanned leather coaster shapes. 


Keeping your vegetable-tanned leather clean is an excellent way to extend its lifespan. However, you may be uncertain about the process of cleaning your leather product because veg-tanned is water-resistant.

Let's start with a simple method of general cleaning. Here are some key tips to keep in mind:

  • You will need a clean cloth.
  • Dampen the cloth.
  • Lather the damp cloth with a saddle soap of your choice.
  • Be careful not to wet the surface of your leather.
  • Wipe the leather with the lather and wipe off with a clean, dry cloth.
  • Apply oil to your product to make it softer and give it a sheen look.
  • Finish off by applying some wax.
  • You can use leather bleach to remove any stains on your leather, such as oil stains. 
    • Be careful since too much of the bleach will leave your leather dull.

With these steps, you can restore the original shine and the beautiful patina of the veg-tan leather.


One of the oldest methods of achieving rich color is tanning through sun exposure. Veg tan leather naturally develops a rich patina when exposed to the sun. However, you may choose to dye it yourself. There are a variety of dyes in the market that aim to create a perfect colored vegetable-tanned leather. 

First off, you will need some dye, a piece of cloth, a clean working surface, a pair of gloves, and some neatsfoot oil. 

Quickly coat your veg tan with neats oil before you start to avoid drying your leathers. The oil will keep it bate. 

Mix your selected dye with alcohol(50-50) and start applying using a piece of cloth in a circular motion. Leave it to dry for a few minutes, and then apply oil to bring back moisture and restore the levels of oil needed in the leathers.


Here is everything you need to know about vegetable-tanned leather, from how to identify it to the perfect way to keep it looking good and fashionable.

Guide to Vegetable-Tanned Leather 

How do you tell whether the leather is vegetable tan?

  1. Immerse a piece of leather in hot water. Vegetable-tanned leather usually curls in hot water. Chrome-tanned leather floats in water.
  2. Burn a small strip of leather; veg tan leather does not burn up in flames. However, it will produce gray or black ash. Chrome leather burns very fast and produces green ash.

How do you take care of your veg-tanned leather? 

Vegetable-tanned leather takes much time to produce and is expensive to acquire, so it needs a lot of love and care.

 Here are a few tips you can practice:

  • Keep away from sources of heat, such as prolonged sun exposure. You are advised not to blow dry your product.
  • For cleaning purposes, use brushes with natural bristles. Avoid the use of brushes with synthetic bristles!
  • Keep away from water. This type of leather is not water-resistant. Water will form marks on your product.
  • Moisturize your leather using natural leather conditioning oils to keep leather supple and flexible.
  • Apply protectants to keep it waterproof.


Vegetable-tanned leather is known for its thick, robust nature. It is meant to soften as time goes by.

How do you achieve a soft feel to your leather goods? The key is to apply natural olive and neatsfoot oil from seam to seam and dry.

If you appreciate the natural beauty of high-quality leather goods, browse the selection offered by Stonestreet Leather to get vegetable leather products made with passion and craftsmanship. Let's create a world where beauty and function meet halfway!