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How to Tan a Cow Hide For a Rug

When preparing cowhide for use in a rug, there are a few steps you should follow. First, you should wash the hide in clean, cool water several times. Then, you will need to remove any excess fat, flesh, or sinewy bits. Once the hide is clean, you should apply a vegetable or mineral tanning solution to the hide. You can follow the instructions below or contact your local tanning store for assistance.

Bark tanning

Bark tanning cowhide for rugs is a common method of animal hide preparation. Using tannic acid found in the bark of tree branches, this process can take six months. While it does a good job of enhancing the color and texture of cowhide, this method can stain the hide, causing a dark, unappealing color. While it is faster and more environmentally friendly than chrome tanning, this method is a less environmentally friendly choice.

Chrome tanning

Unlike a vegetable tan, chrome tanning is not a common practice, but it does produce the highest quality tanned cowhide rug. A chrome-tanned cowhide will last much longer than one tanned with a different process. Although chromium tanning is expensive and high-tech, many countries still do not tan cow hides this way.

Vegetable tanning

Vegetable tanning of cowhide takes much longer than chemical tanning but is a more sustainable method. The process is an 8,000-year-old tradition. Vegetable tanning uses tannic acid from trees. The process takes six months, while chrome tanning can take just two weeks. The process can also be used to produce a more supple hide that matches patterns.


Before you start salting cowhide for a rug, you need to know how to properly clean it. Rinse the hide in a tub of cool water several times. Be sure to remove any fat, flesh, and sinewy bits. Then, hang the hide to dry. Do not hang it directly over your eyes, nose, or ears. Then, drape it across a rack to finish drying.

Using a cowhide rug as a tanner

The best way to keep a cowhide rug looking its best is to vacuum it regularly. Do not use the beater bar attachment on the vacuum as this will damage the leather and cause it to tear easier. Simply use a damp cloth and allow the rug to air dry. Regular brushing will also help to remove any dirt that may have accumulated over time. However, it is important not to use too much pressure when brushing a cowhide rug.

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