What Does It Mean When A Work Glove Is Marked Chrome-free?

Written on Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When a work glove is marked chrome-free, this refers to the processing of the leather used to construct durable and absorbent work gloves, children’s shoes, and also used in automobile interiors. The tanning process used in a chrome-free work glove utilizes a variety of different substances in order to attain softness and the ability to withstand rotting when exposed to water. Chrome-free tanning also reduces the incidence of allergic reactions as opposed to leather tanned with chromium sulfate.

Tanning is the process that turns animal skins into leather. A variety of different materials are used in the tanning process, to include:

  • Vegetable tanning: a process using tannin and other ingredients found in tree bark or vegetable matter. This form of leather is the only one suitable for use in leather carving or stamping. Unstable in water, after soaking and drying it shrinks and become harder and much less supple.
  • Chrome tanning: this process uses chromium sulfate and was invented in 1858. This process yields a leather that is more pliable than vegetable tanning and is more stable in water.
  • Aldehyde tanning: formaldehyde, animal brains, and oil are used in this process of tanning leather, although formaldehyde has been primarily discontinued due to the toxicity danger and sensitivity of many. This process is what is known as chrome-free and yields a very absorbent and supple leather.
  • Synthetic tanning: a process that uses aromatic polymers, developed when vegetable tanners were in short supply in World War II.

When a work glove is marked as chrome-free, this means the leather was processed using oils or animal encephalon to enhance the characteristics of suppleness and to prevent water rot. The hue of the leather is usually very light or cream colored, and the leather itself is quite absorbent. Other leathers treated this way include chamois, which is usually processed with cod oil.

Using the aldehyde tanning process is safe and environmentally friendly as opposed to chrome tanning. To care for your chrome-free work gloves, never use strong detergents or cleaners or dry in front of a direct heat source. A mild soap, such as baby shampoo or a cleaner designed for leather goods, can be used, and chrome-free work gloves should be allowed to air dry. Makes sure to keep them dust free, and store them in a ventilated area. With the proper care, chrome-free work gloves can last for many years of use.