Wet blue

Chrome tanning

The most common tanning method in the world

Today, 80-90% of leathers in the world are tanned by chrome tanning. Chrome tanning uses a solution of chemicals, acids and salts (including chromium sulphate) to tan the hide. It’s a very quick process, taking about a day to produce a piece of tanned leather. First hide are limed to remove hair and then are “pickled” by being left in the acid salt mixture, before being placed in the chromium sulphate. All hides then come out looking light blue (known as “wet blue”).

In 2008, about 24 million tonnes of chromium was produced. About 2% of it has been used for the production of chromium sales, such as chromium sulphate, for the making of leather tanning materials but also for the production of dyestuffs and plastics. Worldwide approximately 480,000 tons of chromium tannins are produced per year.

The most important chrome deposits are found in South Africa accounting for 33% of production, while India and Kazakhstan provided 20% and 17% respectively. Brazil, Finland, Oman, Russia, and Turkey together contributed a further 21%, while some 12 smaller producer countries brought the balance of 9%.

Main advantages of chrome tanning

  • Quick and easy to produce, usually only taking up to a day

  • Water can roll off the surface easily with appropriate retanning and finishing processes

  • Soft and supple to the touch

  • It is possible to obtain leather with a stable colour

  • It is cheaper to buy than vegetable tanned leather, which means it is also easier to find

  • It has a high degree of thermal resistance

Disadvantages of chrome tanning

  • Chrome tanning is very bad for the environment

  • It’s produced with little craftsmanship and very often mass produced

  • It doesn’t wear well with time

  • Chrome tanning often smells of chemicals

  • It doesn’t appear (neither is it) very natural

  • Lacks of charm and warmth