There are numerous methods of making hide tanning solutions. These 10 recipes cover every situation for tanning your hide and there is something for everyone amongst these recipes.
The most popular hide tanning solution recipes are brain tanning and bark tanning.
Natural Tanning Solutions
Natural hide tanning recipes use no chemicals and all the ingredients can be found in nature with some recipes like brain tanning using ingredients from the animal itself.
Bark Tanning Recipe and Instructions
Bark tanning, also called vegetable tanning, takes a lot of time and more effort than other methods.
The veg tanning is very flexible. There are many factors involved, and each brings different results, depending on the purpose of your hide after finished tanning.
You can very easily regulate those results with few changes
- the type of bark you use,
- if you use cold or boiled tannins,
- the time you soak your hide,
- if and how you soften the hide,
- whether you leave hair on the hide or not.
The most popular trees used in tanning are mimosa, quebracho, oak, and chestnut. The first two contain tannins called catechols, which gives leather all shades of red, from pink to dark brown, and makes them more solid.
The second pair contains tannin called pyrogallols, which gives the leather all shades of yellow, from cream to light brown, improving water resistance and wearing. It is preferred tannin for treating leather for soles and upholstery.
To make a bark solution, you will need
- 30-gallon bucket – best is plastic or stainless steel, iron or aluminum reacts with tannins and may stain the leather.
- 30 – 40 lbs of bark collected in spring, depending on the size of the hide.
- 20 gallons of boiling water – you will probably have to boil it in batches. The water should be as devoid of any chemicals as possible—especially iron, which will give your hide black spots.
To make the bark tanning solution, you need to grind the bark for best results and pour it into the boiling water. To make the best out of the bark, leave the solution to strengthen for 15 – 20 days.
After that time, you need to strain the “bark tea” to pick out all the bark.
The bark tanning is done in few phases.
- The first phase is to pour 5 gallons of bark solution and dilute it in 15 gallons of clean water. Soak the hide in the diluted solution, stir every ten minutes for the first hour, and leave it for one week.
- The second phase is to drain 5 gallons of water from the container with your hide after the first week and add 5 gallons of undiluted solution to it. Let it sit for another week.
- The next phases are similar to the second one. Continue to drain water from the container every week and adding more undiluted solution in exchange until you run out of the bark tea.
The hide should be tanned throughout. The best way to check it is to cut off a small piece at the edge to see if there is any white color in the middle. If your hide is not tanned correctly, you can repeat the process.
- After the process is finished, take out the hide, and rinse it for two hours under cold water.
- Wring the water from the hide.
- After the hide is wrung, apply the oil. You can use the most common tanning oils – neatsfoot or mink oil.
- Hang the hide to dry.
This process is most popular with hairless hides used for leather.
Brain Tanning Recipe and Instructions
Brain tanning is a very natural tanning method. You get to use more of the animal you harvested. Each animal’s brain is big enough to tan its hide.
To use an animal’s brain in brain tanning, you have to cook the brain first. There are three ways of tanning with the brain, and each calls for a different brain-water ratio.
For paste consistency, you need to prepare 0.5 parts of water for every two parts of the brain. In this way, you need to cover the hide with the paste, roll it and leave it overnight. The next day you need to scrape the paste and apply a new layer of paste. You need to repeat the process few times.
For Slurpee consistency, every two parts of the brain need 1 part of water. This brain mix you have to rub thoroughly into the hide, making sure you treat every inch. It requires two layers to give the necessary results. The second layer put after the first one is nearly dried.
Brain soup consistency requires four parts of water for every two parts of the brain. You can either leave the hide overnight in the solution or soak it repeatedly 5 – 6 times, wringing each time, before leaving it to dry.
Apart from bark and brain tanning, there are few other natural tanning solutions. They are not as popular as the other two natural methods, but also not very complicated, so it is easy to try them out.
Distilled White Vinegar Tanning Recipe and Instructions
For each gallon of vinegar, you need 5 gallons of warm water. Soak the skin in the solution for three days. After that, rinse with cold water. You need to repeat the process three times.
After this solution, the hide will be somewhat stiff, so you need to apply a neatsfoot of mink oil and work the hide in your hands until it softens.
Egg Tanning Recipe and Instructions
For egg tanning, you can use chicken, duck, geese, or turkey eggs.
For every egg yolk, you need 1 – 2 teaspoons of water. The bigger eggs need more water than the smaller eggs.
To use this method, spread the egg tanning mix on the hide with a brush or sponge, and cover with a damp sheet (must be natural fibers) or towel. Leave the hide for 24 – 48 hours, depending on its thickness.
Rinse the egg yolk mix from your hide with lukewarm water.
Egg and Mayo Recipe and Instrcutions
For this mix, you need equal parts of mayonnaise and eggs.
Spread the mix properly on the hide, and cover with a damp cloth or towel. Leave it for 24 – 48 hours, and then rinse thoroughly.
Soap Tanning Recipe and Instructions
This method could be both chemical or natural, depending on the type of soap you will use.
Unless you are using homemade soap, the best store type for this tanning mix is castile soap, which is veg-based, and contains no synthetics or Fels Naptha soap.
You can also use any other soap that you are familiar with that removes heavy stains from your clothes.
How to prepare and use:
- Grate the soap like cheese and mix with enough water to dissolve it.
- Add an equal part of mink oil (the alternative to mink oil can be macadamia nut oil or sea buckthorn oil, both have a similar amount of palmitoleic acid).
- Evenly spread the solution on the hide.
- Roll the hide and leave it for 48 hours.
- Wash with warm water.
Chemical Tanning Solutions
Chemical tanning solution recipes use chemicals to soften the hide, these chemicals are usually some form of acids as they work quickly to break down the hide.
Chemical tanning is a much quicker method than vegetable tanning. After this type of tanning solution, leather and pelt are more water-resistant, but the downfall is the use of harsh chemicals.
Battery Acid Recipe and Instructions
Using battery acid for tanning is a very unconventional method, but it’s simple. It requires you to be careful, though, because the acid can give you a rather painful burn.
This recipe is designed for four deer hides. You can adjust the amount appropriately.
To prepare battery acid tanning solution, you will need:
- 7 gallons water,
- 2 lbs bran flakes,
- 2 lbs non-iodized salt,
- 3.5 cups battery acid,
- 2 boxes of baking soda,
- 2 plastic bin containers,
- wooden stick at least 4 ft long,
- protective gear.
How to prepare:
- Boil 3 gallons of water and pour on the bran flakes. Leave them soaking for an hour and then strain the water into the first plastic bin. Dispose of the bran, as you will no longer need it.
- Boil 4 gallons of water and dissolve the salt in the second bin. Add the strained bran water and set it aside to cool down to lukewarm temperature.
- Very carefully add the battery acid to the bran-salt mix. Make sure you wear protective gloves, mask, goggles, and your arms and legs are covered.
- Stir gently with a wooden stick without splashing. The best is to do it outside if possible. If not, make sure you have plenty of ventilation.
How to use:
- Put the hide in the battery acid solution for 40 minutes. Stir gently with a wooden stick from time to time to soak the hide properly.
- Prepare clean water with baking soda in a plastic container.
- Use the stick to take the hide out from the solution, and soak it for 5 minutes in water with baking soda to neutralize the acid.
- Hang the hide to dry. Check it every day, and when nearly dry but still moist, apply neatsfoot or mink oil.
- Stretch the hide on the wooden frame.
- When the hide is dry but still soft and flexible, take it down and give the flesh side gently scrub with a wire-bristle brush to make it softer. It will give the hide a suede-like appearance.
Warning: Don’t pour the acidic mix into your drain. You can neutralize it by adding few boxes of baking soda but make sure you do it outside. The reaction will produce a lot of bubbles and toxic vapor.
Soda and Alum Recipe and Instructions
Another chemical tanning solution. This one is not as aggressive as the battery acid one.
For soda and alum tanning solution, you need to prepare:
- 1 cup of non-iodized salt,
- 2/3 cup of washing soda,
- 2.5 cups of alum,
- 3 gallons of very warm water,
- plastic bin.
The soda-alum solution is a very simple one, and all you need to do is mix all the ingredients with water in the plastic bin and stir until completely dissolved. After the solution is ready, soak hide for at least 2 – 3 days.
Rinse the hide thoroughly with clean water and dry.
Ammonium Aluminum Recipe and Instructions
Ammonium alum is another one of the simple homemade tanning solutions.
You will need to prepare:
- 2.5 lbs of salt,
- 1 lb of ammonium alum,
- 5 gallons of water,
- plastic container.
How to prepare:
- Dissolve the salt in 4 gallons of warm water in the plastic container.
- Dissolve the ammonium aluminum in one gallon of water.
- Pour ammonium solution into the salt solution.
After the solution is ready, you can soak the hide for four days. When the hide is ready, take it out and rinse and properly.
It is recommended to use the ammonium conditioner after this tanning solution. To do that, you need to partially dry the hide in a shaded place and then rub in the fat liquor.
The recipe for ammonium conditioner is very simple. You need to mix 3.5 oz of neatsfoot or mink oil with 3.5 oz of water and 1 oz of ammonia.
Divide the conditioner in half, and rub one half of the mix first, leaving it for 1 hour. Next, rub the other half of the mix and cover the hide with plastic bags overnight.
Potassium Aluminum Sulfate Recipe and Instructions
Another very simple chemical tanning solution is potassium aluminum sulfate. It sounds like chemistry class, but you can easily get all the ingredients in stores.
This recipe will be enough to tan a beaver hide. You can adjust the amount of each ingredient as needed.
To prepare potassium alum mix, you will need:
- 1lb of potassium aluminum sulfate,
- 4 oz of washing soda,
- 2 gallons of water,
- 1 oz of sodium borate.
The science ends with the name of ingredients. Now you need to dissolve all the ingredients in one gallon of water and soak the skin in the solution for four days.
After the soak is finished, dissolve sodium borate in 1 gallon of water and use it to do the first rinse of the hide. After this process is done, rinse the hide in clean water, and hang it to drain.
This solution may make your hide a little bit stiff, so after draining the hide from water, apply neatsfoot or mink oil to the hide and let it dry for one night. Repeat the oiling process until the hide is soft.