Caring for Vegetable Tanned Leather

Most leather prod­ucts on the market today are made through the process of chrome tanning, a fast and low-cost process that produces color­fast hides of uniform color. In contrast, vegetable tanning is a tradi­tional, slow, and non-toxic process using organic plant matter to cure and preserve the hide. It produces hides with rich, warm, and uniquely varie­gated tones. However, unlike modern chromium tanned hides, vegetable tanned leather wears well, mold­ing to its owner’s habits, much like a raw denim. Vegetable tanned leather dark­ens and devel­ops a patina over time with expo­sure to natural elements. When exposed to water, the leather may form a dappled appear­ance that remains after the leather dries. When exposed to the sun, the leather will also get slowly darker over time. It will also absorb oils. In our opin­ion, these changes are not defects but rather reflec­tive of the indi­vid­ual char­ac­ter and history of the piece that emerges over time.

If light clean­ing is neces­sary, we recom­mend clean­ing the piece with a clean, damp cloth. Saddle soap can be used if neces­sary, but rub lightly and care­fully when clean­ing the printed leather so as not to damage the print. If a deeper clean­ing is needed, the solid-colored leather prod­ucts can be dry cleaned by a profes­sional leather special­ist. The hand-screen printed leather, however, will not stand up to the solvents used in the dry clean­ing process and must be hand cleaned by a leather profes­sional. We recom­mend using an expert such as With­out a Trace (they accept items to be cleaned by mail).

Since the leathers that Produc­tion Mode uses are heav­ily condi­tioned with fats and oils during the tanning process, your leather prod­uct should not need to be oiled or condi­tioned for a long while unless exposed to harsh elements. Always test the condi­tioner on an incon­spic­u­ous area before apply­ing.

Please note that vegetable tanned leathers are not entirely color­fast. The dyes and oils used to condi­tion the leathers can bleed onto lighter colored fabrics, espe­cially if the leather becomes wet. In addi­tion, as with any screen print that sits on top of a surface, the print on the leather may scratch, crack, or peel over time, espe­cially if abraded or exposed to the elements.

When stor­ing vegetable tanned leathers, do not use plas­tic garment bags or other items that do not allow the prod­uct to breath. Also avoid fold­ing the leather back on itself as perma­nent creases may form and the printed leathers may crack or stick if exposed to extreme heat or temper­a­ture change.