What type of acid is best?

Submitted by Kim on 09/19/2002. ( mtnman@ut1.com )

I'm currently using oxalic, which I've been happy with for a long time, but it
doesn't plump the skin as well as the sulferic (yuck) I used to use. I haven't
tried formic or citric or saftee. How do they compare, and does one plump up
the skin better than others? Thanks.

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Kim, how old are you?

This response submitted by George on 09/20/2002. ( georoof@aol.com )

If you're NOT old, then you've been hanging around old people. Sulfuric acid is OLD stuff, and though I tanned my share of hide using that harsh stuff (I think I quit using it around 1980), I'd recommend Bruce's Saftee Acid as one of the best, easiest, and safest ones going around.

Tanning with acid

This response submitted by DL/HIGH COUNTRY on 09/20/2002. ( )

I have used formic with good results. Saftee Acid would be the way to go. Try KROWTAN 2000. OZARK WOODS 1-800-467-0369 Brian Harness.

I know sulfuric is old stuff,

This response submitted by Kim on 09/20/2002. ( mtnman@ut1.com )

but that is what I was first told to use. I know how nasty and bad for the skins
it is (and bad for my skin, lungs, and clothing!). I appreciate the advice, but
can you tell me the reasons for using different acids? Why do some people like
formic the best? I've heard it's expensive, and ants make it. What are its
advantages? What is the best about Saftee acid? Will it plump the skins more? Does
anybody know if oxalic has any bad qualities? How do they all compare?
Thanks for taking the time to answer, and George, I guess I'm not as old as you,
but before I discovered this forum, tanning information was very hard to find,
and very contradictory. (I'm 40, by the way; yikes)


This response submitted by Kim on 09/20/2002. ( )

I've read pages and pages of the archives on acid, and learned a lot, but
I still can't find anything on how acids compare on plumping the skin,
except one person who said formic plumped it the best. Also, does anyone
know how Saftee acid and oxalic compare in price?

Pickling Acids............................!

This response submitted by Bruce Rittel on 09/20/2002. ( rittel@mindspring.com )

There are a lot of Acids which can be used for pickling! Sulphuric is one, Oxalic, Citric, Formic, Saftee, White Vinegar and even Hydrchloric acid has been used! But - they all have advantages and disadvantages to contend with.

Sulphuric, as has already been said, can be touchy to handle (it will definitely burn you) - personal safety-wise! It also, in my own experience, even though they use it a lot in the leather industry, does not plump the skins for shaving, as well as the other acids do! And then there is the old problem of over-sulponating the skin - which leads to eventual acid rot, unless you are tanning with a tanning agent that will "lock" in the sulphates!

Oxalic is a good pickling acid and relatively safe to handle because of its crystal form - however, it is a poison if ingested, so some care must be taken. It does however, plump better than Sulphuric. Skins should be left in it 3 days for maximum effect and a thorough pickling.

Citric Acid is also considered a safe acid, and very environmentally safe, as well as safe to handle. Its a good plumper also, but again, skins should be left for 3 days to get the maximum benefit from a thorough pickling. One of its drawbacks is that it is absorbed by the skins and the PH usually flucuates. This is particularly true on thickly fleshed skins. You have to use a lot of Citric acid to keep the PH down.

Formic and Saftee Acid win my recommendations for providing the best plump to a skin, so it can easily be shaved. Formic is a little faster pickling then Saftee. It usually only takes 2 days to thoroughly pickle with Formic, whereas with Saftee I'd leave my capes for 3 days in Saftee.

The biggest disadvantage of Formic is it can also burn you on contact like Sulphuric and a lot of care must be taken when handling it. It also will not drop your PH lower than a 2.0 - no matter how much acid you add. Thats its bottom level. This really isnt a problem - because it does pickle well at a 2.2-2.5 PH. Since you only need to use 0.9 fl. ozs. of it (85%) to each 1 gallon of Water - it is also economical. But buying it requires hazardous shipping.

Saftee Acid is environmentally safe and safe to handle - but with some caution. Its buffered so if you did handle it pure, you have 5-10 minutes to wash up without burning yourself - but beyond that - in its pure state it can eventually burn you. It's an acid. However, once its added to the pickle and diluted, it requires so little of it - only 0.5 fl. ozs. to each 1 gallon of water - that it is relatively safe. It pickles at a low PH of 1.1-1.5. Skins should be left in the pickle for 3 days to get the maximum effect.

White Vinegar is another safe pickling acid but it takes a lot of White Vinegar to keep the PH at a 2.2-2.5! Actually its the 6% Acetic Acid in it that does the pickling. Again - leave your skins in it for 3 days to gain a maximum plump.

Hyrochloric Acid is an extremely harsh acid to use. Muriatic Acid is simply the same thing in a diluted form. By harsh I am referring to the fact that it may weaken the epidermis. It is used to pickle Alligator and Croc skins because it weakens the cartilideous material in the hrnbacks - but for furs or hair-on - I prefer not to recommend it.

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