Tanning is the process of treating skins and hides to prevent decomposition (rotting) and produce leather.
Tanning permanently alters the protein structure of the skin ( be it cows, horses or sometimes exotic animals like ostriches, snakes, crocodiles, even fish such as salmon, perch or sturgeon such being popular for their pigmentation, these being generally used for bags or shoes)
Most tanning today is tanned by chrome or mineral processes using a solution of chemicals. It is very quick taking only about a day to produce tanned leather.
The other classical process which has been used for over 6 000 years is vegetable tanning where tannins are extracted from various tree barks such as oak, chestnut or mimosa and these tannins are as a consequence unlike mineral tanning, not any threat to the environment.
What are the comparative advantages of the two processes?
- Quick to produce
- Produces a lasting, thinner and softer finish
- Can be produces in a wide range of colours
- It is resistant to water and heat.
- Does not scratch or mark easily
- Thick and hard wearing
- Materials used are biodegradable
- Has a natural feel and smell feels more “alive”
- Durable with colour enrichment over time
In considering the above be aware that the latter vegetable tanning process produces a garment NOT so resistant to water splotches where not treated and certainly not to heat. This must be carefully taken into account when cleaning.
If you decide to clean yourself a 50:50 solution of white vinegar and water or Dove soap can be used but always test first on an inconspicuous area of the garment first.
Is leather treated and coated to leave a high gloss shiny finish. It is impervious to water and products can be easily cleaned with a damp sponge.
Real leather is expensive and often synthetic fabric based artificial leather is difficult to tell apart. One way to test is to place a drop of water on the surface. If it puddles then the surface is synthetic if absorbed then the product is genuine leather.
Generally such “leather” is not as prone to peel or crack and is easy to clean with a soapy damp cloth (not dripping) wiped down and finished with a dry cloth.
Genuine leather and indeed suede need specialist cleaning techniques. While The Real Don Dry Cleaners will gladly polish and refresh your garments we do not provide such specialist cleaning.
Care should be taken when committing your expensive leather or suede jacket or coat to any professed cleaner as they are expensive items and can be easily damaged.
Take a look at an interesting video on how they tan leather in Kanpur.