Braintanning And Lyme Disease: How To Stay Safe

Next weekend we’re running a course on braintanning, where we’ll take raw (ie. bloody, and stinky) deer hides, and through a process that’s older than civilization, turn them into beautiful, chamois-like braintan buckskin. If you want to learn it, there are still open spots.

I want to share how we keep people safe from Lyme disease when tanning. When I started tanning in the mid-1990’s, I had never heard of Lyme disease. Now it’s common in our area. Deer, the skins we’re tanning, are often covered in ticks that carry Lyme. So I must be crazy to bring them to our folk school, right?

When I pull a tick off of my kids or dog, I put it in a jar with soapy water. Ticks breathe through their skin. The soap removes the oils that protect them, and they drown.

When I get deer hides, I fill a trash can or other barrel with water and douse it with dish soap. Nothing fancy here, but I want it to be good and soapy. The hides go directly into the barrel of soapy water and get weighed down with a rock or log; anything to keep it below the surface.  They stay in this soapy water for a few days.  This kills the ticks.

Then it’s onto tanning the hides.

As an aside, there was a great article a few years back in the Bulletin Of Primitive Technology by a friend of mine about how soaking in soapy water also aids the tanning process.

If you tan hides, you’re responsible for keeping yourself and those around you safe. Hopefully this helps you to do so.

Want more information about our braintanning course? Click here.

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