How to Soften Animal Hides

Written by robert preston
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How to Soften Animal Hides
Rabbit hides must be softened before they can be used for crafting. (NA/ Images)

While some hunters only use their game for food, the hides of hunted animals can also be used to create a variety of attractive and useful items. Before attempting to make a blanket or clothing out of an animal hide, you must first soften it. To soften a hide, excess matter on the hide, such as fats and muscle tissues, must be removed through a detailed cleaning process until only the soft fur and skin remain.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Plastic bucket
  • Borax powder
  • Wooden spoon
  • Knife
  • Needle
  • Thread

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  1. 1

    Submerge the hide in a bucket of cool water until it is soft, changing the water every 30 minutes. This process can take as little as two hours, but may take longer. Continue changing and soaking until the hide is not stiff.

  2. 2

    Drape the hide over a table edge and pull back and forth while applying downward pressure. This stretches the hide while softening it. The more the hide is stretched over an edge the softer it will become.

  3. 3

    Prepare a bucket of lukewarm water with one ounce of borax powder per gallon of water.

  4. 4

    Place the hide in the water and stir with a wooden spoon. This helps to soften the extra matter on the skin, making it easier to remove.

  5. 5

    Lay the hide on a flat surface with the flesh side up, then rub over the hide with the back of a knife.

  6. 6

    Repeat the process, stirring the skin in the borax and water when the skin becomes dry, then removing and scraping with the back of the knife until all fat and other tissue is removed.

  7. 7

    Rinse the skin in warm water then squeeze the skin.

  8. 8

    Mend any holes with a needle and thread then tan the hide with your preferred tanning method.

Tips and warnings

  • This method of hide softening works for hides which will keep their fur as well as bare hides.
  • Be careful when using the knife to scrape to avoid personal injury. Always start a scrape near you and push the knife away from you.

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