April 25, 2022 4 min read

Making jackets is an art. And every art includes a checklist and several best practices. Some of the best practices that we follow today (with regards to manufacturing leather jackets) are a result of discoveries we made hundreds and thousands of years back. Some of these practices date back to the times of BC (Before Christ). One such practice and arguably the most crucial practice in leather production is leather tanning. While you might have heard of the term before, not many are aware of what exactly leather tanning is, what its types are, and how it is performed. It's also important to know the kind of impact tanning - especially chrome tanning - might have on the environment. Confused? ShopperFiesta will answer all your questions. Read on to find out more.

What is leather tanning?

The process of treating the skins and hides of animals to produce leather is called leather tanning.

Where is leather tanning performed?

The majority of leather tanning tasks are performed in a place called a tannery.

What steps are taken before tanning?

The pre-tanning process involves dehairing, degreasing, desalting of the animal skin as well as soaking it in water over six to forty-eight hours. Back in the 20th century, most of these tasks were restricted to city outskirts but that's not the case anymore. You will find leather tanning factories in cities as well as the outskirts.

Why is leather tanning performed on animal hides?

The answer is very straightforward: to make it more durable. The idea is to permanently alter the protein structure of the animal hide. This makes it less susceptible to decomposition and bad odor, and hence, more durable and strong enough to ensure later stages of manufacturing. It's also worth noting that tanning can be a tedious and long task that can last for days. Hence, it is hardly a surprise that genuine leather items are very expensive. The price of fine-quality leather jackets and accessories is a reflection of the hard work that goes into the manufacturing process.

What is the meaning of beamhouse operations?

If you're a leather enthusiast, there's a good chance you've come across this term plenty of times. Beamhouse operations refer to the steps in the production of leather between curing and tanning. These steps include:


Soak the hide in clean water to remove any amount of salt leftover from curing.


The process of treating the hide with a saturated aqueous solution of calcium hydroxide. Liming removes the hair, keratinous matter (if still present), some of the interfibrillar soluble proteins such as mucins, swells up and splits up the fibers to an extent, removes the natural grease and certain fats, and brings the collagen in the hide to the desired condition. Liming is followed by deliming and bating the animal hide.


Once bating is complete, the animal hide is treated with common salt.

Why is the process called tanning?

It's down to the use of tannin during the process. Tannin is derived from the bark of certain trees. The said component occurs naturally in the leaves and barks of a few plants. The use of tannin is also a sign of Vegetable Tanning. The use of tannins binds to the collagen proteins in the hide and causes them to become less water-soluble as well as become more resistant to bacterial attack. We stated how vegetable tanning can be tedious and time-consuming. Hence, it is no surprise that despite being the better method, vegetable tanning accounts for less than 20% of the current leather production. More and more companies have started opting for an alternative method - developed in the 1800s - where chromium salts are used instead of natural tannins. This method is called chrome tanning.

What is chrome tanning?

Introduced in 1858, chrome tanning's discovery can be attributed to not one, not two but three different scientists and technologists from three different countries. German technologist, Friedrich Knapp, and Swedish scientist, Hylten Cavalin were the ones who invented chrome tanning but it was American scientist, Augustus Schultz who became the first person to patent it.

What are the dangers of chrome tanning on the environment?

Unlike vegetable tanning, chrome tanning is a breeze with regard to duration. While vegetable tanning can take days and weeks, chrome tanning is a relatively quick process. It can be completed in less than a single day. Yes, that's right. That's how quick and effective it is. Hence, it is no surprise that it accounts for about 95% of shoe leather production, up to 75% of leather upholstery production, and a big chunk of leather clothing production. However, despite the positives related to production, there are a bunch of negative factors that cannot be ignored. And the most important factor is the harm it causes to the environment. The process of chrome tanning involves many chemicals that can cause human beings as well as animals several life-threatening diseases. Apart from various heart, lungs, and kidney diseases, chrome tanning also involves many carcinogenic chemicals that could cause cancer. The dumping of chrome tanning chemicals in rivers, natural water bodies, and forests need to be stopped before it is too late.

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