Step-by-Step Process for the Soap-Tanning of Game Hides

by Robert Preston
Liquid soap mixed with water is an effective tanning solution.

Liquid soap mixed with water is an effective tanning solution.

Tanning a hide is a method of preserving the pelt so it will not decompose over time, allowing it to be used in the construction of items such as clothing or blankets. Despite the name, tanning does not always cause the hide to take on a browner town. When tanning with soap, the hide being tanned will become whiter in color. In addition to preserving the hide, tanning the hide allows it to be stretched and softened.

Saturate the hide with vegetable oil, rubbing the oil into the hide until the hide begins to be translucent.

Prepare a strong soap-and-water solution in a large bowl and place the hide into the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir the hide until it is white in color.

Prepare a pot of boiling water. Cut off a 2-inch by 1/2-inch piece of hide to test if the hide is done in the soap solution by placing the strip in the water for approximately 30 seconds. If the strip becomes stiff and curls, more time is needed. If the strip remains pliable after being removed from the boiling water, it is done tanning.

Rinse the hide under running water until all of the soap solution is off the hide.

Wring out the hide by hand to remove excess water in the hide.

Drape the hide over a dull ax blade, or a similar surface such as a table edge, and pull the hide back and forth to stretch it as the hide dries. Grip opposite ends of the hide, with your forefingers under the hide and your thumbs atop the hide, and press as firmly as you can while sliding side to side.

Items you will need

  • Vegetable oil
  • Large bowl
  • Pot
  • Liquid soap
  • Dull axe

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images