Tanning Snake Skin Without Glycerin: 5 Simple Alternatives

tanning snake skin without glycerin
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Last Updated on October 24, 2021 by Mesbah Sakib

Just killed a python with your shotgun and want to keep it as a trophy? Because it sure is a big deal buddy. Now, what happens if you’re about to skin it and find out that there’s no glycerin? It sure hell is frustrating, right? Well, fret not. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

Here’s the thing-

You can also use alternates of glycerin if you don’t have it. 

So what are the methods of tanning snakeskin without glycerin?

There are 5 different methods for tanning snakeskin without glycerin. You can use brain oil made from its brain. You can use tanning chemicals, or a homemade solution with lime and aluminum. You can even use borax. If none of these things work, go for a tanning kit and you should be good.

However, these were just the nitty-gritty of tanning snakeskin without glycerin. If you want to actually learn the step-by-step process of tanning applying these methods, head over to our article. 

With or Without Glycerin: What Matters in Snake Skin Tanning?

If you want that gorgeous skin of a snake, you need a solution to make the skin soft and flexible. Using the solution will not only keep the skin fresh and pretty but also remove the smell. Without the tanning solution, the snakeskin will become dry and lose all its glossy shine. Also, if you’re thinking of a way to preserve snakeskin, a tanning solution is the one that can help you!

The best way to tan a snakeskin is using the glycerin and alcohol solution. However, there are a lot of other options for tanning a snakeskin if glycerin isn’t available. And the good news is you can tan a snakeskin right from your home with your household objects!

What Glycerin Substitutes for Snake Skin You’d Have?

The traditional method usually calls for tanning snakeskin with glycerin and alcohol. But since you’re trying to use alternatives to glycerin, there are 5 different methods for tanning snakeskin. These are quite different from the glycerin method but are definitely quite effective. And you can try them easily at home.

So, how to tan a snakeskin at home?

There are a number of options for tanning snakeskin at home. The most common one is tanning using salt/borax. Besides olive oil/ brain oil will also work. Another effective method is using aluminum. Besides, you can use tanning chemicals or a tanning kit to help you out at home.

Let us take a look at the phases of tanning a snakeskin and the alternate methods in detail-

Phase 1: Skinning The Snake

Before you begin tanning the snakeskin, you’ll need to flesh the skin. Here’s what you’ll need-

  • Fleshing beam/Tarp
  • Fleshing blade

Fleshing the snakeskin right after cutting the skin from the animal’s body is vital unless you want the skin decomposing. Decomposing would cause the skin to fall apart during the tanning process.

To flesh out the skin, you can use either a fleshing beam or a tarp on the ground. Now you can just scrape off the excess flesh or fat using a sharp fleshing blade. 

By the way, here is our top choices of fleshing blades-

Image Product Price
Double Handle Cheese Knife Double Handle Cheese Knife Check Price
Redneck Convent 12 Inch Fleshing Knife Redneck Convent 12 Inch Fleshing Knife Check Price
Standard Fleshing Knife Standard Fleshing Knife Check Price
skinning snake
Source: Realworld survivor.com

Now that the skin is free from flesh and fat, it’s time to wash and clean the skin completely. You can just clean it using fresh water and soap. Make sure there are no traces of blood and other impurities.

Now it’s time to dry the skin for a few days before tanning it.

So how to dry a snakeskin?

Attach the skin to a drying rack to allow even drying. You must make sure that the skin is actually stretched instead of hanging on the rack. If you want a larger hide, then this is the time to stretch out the skin. You’ll need to wait because the drying process may take up to a week.

Phase 2: Tanning The Snake

Now that your snake is skinned and dried, we’ll move onto the tanning process. Now, we’ve listed down the number of tanning options according to two situations. You can tan using the utensils around home. Or you can buy product specialized for tanning. Make sure you choose the one that’s more convenient for you.

When You’re Tanning Snake Skin At Home Without Glycerin

If you want to eat a water moccasin, you’ll have to skin the snake. So what are you going to do with the skin? That’s right you can simply tan it at home. There are many substances at home that you’ll find useful for tanning snakeskin if you don’t have glycerin. Let’s take a look at your options-

Choice 1: Working With Brain Oil

It may sound weird to use the animal’s own brain to tan the skin. But did you know that the animal’s brain oils act as a natural tanning chemical?

So, how to tan a snake skin with brain oil?

Put the brain in a cup of water in a pot. Once the brain mixture looks like a soup, pour it into a blender and smooth out the mixture. Before applying the oil, twist out the skin, and rub it with two towels to soak excess water. Now rub the oil into the skin properly. Once you’ve done that, throw the skin in a bag and freeze for 24 hours.

Freezing allows the snake skin to absorb the oil.

Choice 2: Trying Out Homemade Tanning Chemicals

Did you know you could make your own tanning chemicals? This method again has 5 steps starting from the fleshing to drying the skin. So let’s dive into the process-

Now it’s time to tan the skin that you’ve just salted for weeks. For tanning, use a homemade tanning solution or chemical. Here’s what you’ll need to create your own-

  • 2 gallons of water
  • 1 ½ gallon of bran flake water
  • 8 cups salt
  • 1 ¼ cup battery acid
  • 1 box baking soda
  • 2 large trash cans
  • 1 large stick for stirring

Just put these in a container and stir carefully to get a tanning solution. Now, if you don’t want to go through all the hassle, then you can simply order up a tanning solution. So, here are our top tanning solutions- 

Image Product Price
Fiebing's 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil Fiebing’s 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil Check Price
Knoblochs Deer Hunter's & Trapper's Hide & Fur Tanning Formula Knoblochs Deer Hunter’s & Trapper’s Hide & Fur Tanning Formula Check Price
NuTan Hide & Fur Tanning Solution NuTan Hide & Fur Tanning Solution Check Price

Now that you have all the ingredients ready, jump into the tanning process.

So, how to make a homemade tanning solution for snake skin?

Start by soaking the skin in clear water to allow the skin to absorb. Peel off the dried inner skin. Add the salt into a trash can with 2 gallons of boiling water. Then add the bran flake water into it and stir until the salt dissolves completely. Now add the battery acid and finally. Let it soak in the solution for 40 minutes. 

snake skin
Source: Modern-hunters.com

Choice 3: Tanning Using Pickle Lime And Aluminum 

This is the easiest homemade option for you. If you prefer to use mink oil for the skin, this is the method you should go for.

So, how to tan a snakeskin using pickle lime and aluminum?

Add 1 cup of pickle lime in 1 gallon of water and mix. Keep the skin in the mixture for 7-10 days, making sure you stir it after every 2 days. After 10 days, take the skin out and wash it thoroughly. Mix 3 tablespoons of aluminum powder into a gallon of water. Soak the skin and keep it there for 3 days.

You’ll notice the scales of the skin will start to peel off. Once it’s done, take out the skin and wash it very well. Make sure to squeeze out all the water and aluminum.

When You’re Tanning Snake Skin With The Help Of Products

We get it. Tanning a snakeskin can be overwhelming at first. And that’s why you don’t want to take any risk. In that case, there are some products that might be able to help you out. These products are designed especially for the tanning process. Let’s take a look at the options-

Option 1: Simply Using Borax

Tanning snakeskin with borax is another effective method of the tanning process. This one is slightly easier than the other methods because it only requires a few ingredients.

So, let’s take a look at the process salting the skin or tanning the snakeskin with salt

Rub a generous amount of borax on the skin. Add 1lb of ammonia alum into 1 gallon of water and mix until it dissolves. Now add 8 ounces of borax and 4 ounces of crystallized sodium carbonate in ½ gallon of water. Now pour the borax solution into the ammonia solution and stir. And now it’s time to soak the skin in this solution.

Let the snakeskin soak for 5 days. Soaking the skin in this solution makes the tanning process easier.

Option 2: Use Snake Tanning kit

Now, using a tanning kit is the last resort for you. If nothing seems to work out for you, go ahead and buy yourself a tanning kit. Use this kit to tan the skin of the snake you just killed with your shotgun. However, make sure you’ve fixed all the problems in your Benelli shotgun.

When using the tanning kit, all the other steps are the same. But instead of using tanning oil for snakeskin, you’ll use the tanning kit. This kit usually contains a solution, different oils, and other ingredients. This can work as a great substitute for glycerin.

different types of oil
Source: Southeasternoutdoor.com

By the way, here is our top favorite tanning kit for snakeskin-

Image Product Price

These are all the methods you can use to tan snakeskin without using glycerin. However, using antifreeze is another way to tan snakeskin.

But is tanning snakeskin with antifreeze safe?

Tanning a snakeskin with antifreeze used to be a popular method. But nowadays, that doesn’t work very well. Because it’s known to damage and break the snakeskin.

Phase 3: Washing, Drying, And Preservation Of Snakeskin

Now that the tanning process is over, it’s time to move on to the washing process. For that, you need to take a bucket of clean water and transfer the skin to the bucket using a stick.

Wash the skin by swishing it and adding more water until it’s completely clean. At this point, you can add a box of baking soda if you intend to make clothing from it. Otherwise, you can skip it. After the snakeskin is washed, it’s time to stretch and dry.

Drain away all the water and let it dry on a dry rack. Now place it in a dryer or stretcher and stretch the skin as much as you can. After a few days, it should be dry and flexible. Voila! The snakeskin is now ready.


Question: How do you soften dry snakeskin?

You can soften dry snakeskin by soaking the skin in salt brine. Using a stick to run through the skin hanging over a dry rack can also soften snakeskin.

Question: What kind of salt do you use to tan the skin?

Use a fine-grain non-iodized salt. Make sure you don’t use iodine salt because it causes the skin to stain. So, it’ll be damaged. Moreover, don’t use rock salt.

Question: Is snakeskin expensive?

Although snakeskin is quite available. But real snakeskin, especially that of a python, is rare and costs higher than usual.

Question: How to soften dried snake skin?

In order to soften skin, mix 1 gallon of water with 2 pounds of salt. Allow the skin to soak in the salt brine until soft and flexible. After that, rinse and put it in the pickling solution.

Question: Can you freeze a snake skin before tanning?

Yes, you can. A lot of people think it helps the skin to become soft and flexible. Because freezing makes the skin absorb the oil. However, it’s not really necessary to do so.


Tanning snakeskin without glycerin can be tough as glycerin is vital for the snakeskin. Nonetheless, if you plan to tan a snakeskin without glycerin, make sure you follow all the instructions that we have provided for you. 

Hopefully, this will help you preserve the skin of the cobra or copperhead that you just killed. You can also use the meat for cooking if you like and kill two birds with one stone.

1 thought on “Tanning Snake Skin Without Glycerin: 5 Simple Alternatives”

  1. Question . . . .I have a portion of copper head skin that I cut out. I have had it for two days, pressing and drying it out. I only want to put it in a picture frame. Must I “cure” it?

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