tanning snake skin without glycerin

Alternates of Tanning Snake Skin Without Glycerin

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 snake skin without glycerin. You can use brain oil made from its brain. You can use tanning chemicals, or 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. 

Tanning Snakeskin Without Glycerin- 5 Different Methods

The traditional method usually calls for tanning snakeskin with glycerin and alcohol. But since you’re trying to use alternatives of glycerin, here are 5 different methods of tanning snakeskin. These are quite different from the glycerin method but are definitely quite effective.

Method 1 of 5: Use Brain Oil

Using brain oil as a substitute for glycerin sounds crazy. Doesn’t it? But it actually works very well on snakeskin. This method has 5 steps and if you follow them thoroughly, it will work wonders.

Step 1 of 6: Fleshing the Skin

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-

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Winco Double Handle Cheese KnifeBuy from Amazon
Redneck Convent 12 Inch Fleshing Knife Hide Tanning Fleshing Tool Buy from Amazon
Trapping Standard Fleshing Knife - 8"Buy from Amazon
skinning snake
Source: Realworld survivor.com

Step 2 of 6: Wash the Skin

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. 

Step 3 of 6: Dry the Snakeskin

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.

Step 4 of 6: Soak the Skin in 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? Moreover, the brain is huge enough to tan its own skin. That is a fun fact right there.

Here’s what to do with the brain- Throw in the brain and one cup of water in a pot. Cook it until the brain breaks down. Once the brain mixture looks like a soup, pour it into a blender and smooth out the mixture. Your brain oil is now ready for use.

Before applying the oil onto the skin, twist out the skin, and rub it with two towels to soak excess water. Now rub the oil into the skin properly without missing any spots. Once you’ve done that, roll out the skin and put it in a freezer bag or a jar. Throw in the bag in your freezer for 24 hours to allow the skin to absorb the oil.

Step 5 of 6: Soften the Skin

It’s been 24 hours so now it’s time to take out the skin from the freezer. If the skin is too dry, you’ll need to soften it. So how to soften dry snakeskin? You may ask.

Here’s how- place the skin on the drying rack again and wipe away all the brain oil. Now use a heavy stick or hide breaker to soften the skin. Run the stick back and forth over the skin to properly soften it.

Step 6 of 6: Smoke the Skin

The skin is ready and tanned but you just need to glaze it. Simply smoke the skin to seal it in. 

You can start the smoke using fire and charcoal. Put the skin over a garden cage and place it on top of the fire. Keep the fire low. Make sure to smoke both sides of the skin. 

Method 2 of 5: Use Tanning Chemicals

Did you know you could make your own tanning chemicals? In fact, it’s quite easy if you can use the right quantity of all the ingredients. This method again has 5 steps starting from the fleshing to drying the skin. So let’s dive into the steps.

Step 1 of 5: Flesh the Skin

To tan the skin, you must de-flesh the skin. So flesh the skin properly, just like we’ve talked about it in the first method. Make sure there are no traces of flesh and oil. 

Since our next step is to salt the skin, you may wonder if you can freeze the skin before tanning. There’s a myth that says freezing the skin helps in tanning but that won’t be necessary so don’t fret over it.

Step 2 of 5: Salt the Skin

Once you’ve fleshed out the skin, lay it on a tarp and cover all of the skin in salt. You’ll need 3-5 pounds of salt. Now, this has to be done right away.

You’ll need to salt the skin over the course of a few weeks until the skin becomes crispy.

Step 3 of 5:  Tan with Homemade Snake Tanning chemical

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- 

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Fiebing's 100% Pure Neatsfoot OilBuy from Amazon
Knoblochs & Trapper's Hide & Fur Tanning Formula Buy from Amazon
NuTan 32oz DIY Hide & Fur Tanning SolutionBuy from Amazon

Now that you have all the ingredients ready, jump into the tanning process. Here’s what you need to do-

Start by soaking the skin in clear water to allow the skin to absorb the chemical. At this point, 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 put the skin into the can using a stick. Let it soak in the solution for 40 minutes. 

Step 4 of 5: Wash the Skin

Now’s the time to use that other trash can you’ve collected. Fill that with clean water. After 40 minutes, use a stick to transfer the skin to the second can. 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.

Step 5 of 5: Dry the Skin & Stretch

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.

snake skin
Source: Modern-hunters.com

Method 3 of 5: Use Pickle Lime and Aluminium 

Now, this method is also a homemade recipe that works just as fine as the other two methods. If you prefer to use mink oil for the skin, this is the method you should go for.

Step 1 of 5: Flesh the skin

Flesh the skin just like the one in methods 1 and 2. All of the processes are the same.

Step 2 of 5: Soak the Skin in Lime 

Add 1 cup of pickle lime in 1 gallon of water and mix. Soak the skin in the mixture and keep it for 7-10 days, making sure you stir it after every 2 days.

Once you’ve let the skin absorb all the chemicals for 10 days, take the skin out and wash it thoroughly.

Step 3 of 5: Soak in Aluminium Solution

To make your own aluminium solution, here’s what you’ll need just two ingredients-

  • Aluminium powder
  • Water

Mix 3 tablespoons of aluminum powder into a gallon of water and mix the solution well. Soak the skin into the solution 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.

Step 4 of 5: Dry the skin

Hang the skin on a drying rack and let it dry out. Follow the instructions mentioned in step 3 of method 1.

Step 5 of 5: Add Mink Oil & Stretch

You’re finally at the last step of this method. Now, all you need to do is rub mink oil over the skin and stretch as much as you can. The skin should be ready as soon as you’re done stretching.

Method 4 of 5: Use Borax

Tanning snakeskin with borax is another effective method of the tanning process. This one is slightly easier than the other methods as there are only 4 steps using few ingredients.

Step 1 of 4: Flesh the Skin

Fleshing the skin is basically the first step for all of the methods. Do the same thing all over again.

Step 2 of 4: Salt the Skin

Now that all the flesh and fat are separated from the skin, rub a generous amount of borax on the skin. This process is called salting the skin or tanning the snakeskin with salt.

But there’s a catch- You‘ll need to rinse away the borax with water. Dry the skin after the borax is washed off. Then again apply borax over the skin. This is done to draw out the moisture from the skin.

Step 3 of 4: Soak in Ammonia & Sodium Carbonate

To soak the skin, you’ll need to make a solution first. Here’s what you need-

  • Ammonia alum
  • Water
  • Borax
  • Crystallized sodium carbonate

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.  Mix until it dissolves.

Now pour the borax solution into the ammonia solution and stir. And now it’s time to soak the skin in this solution. Let it soak for 5 days.

Soaking the skin in this solution makes the tanning process easier.

Step 4 of 4: Dry the Skin

After 5 days, take the skin out of the solution. Dry it by patting it with a towel first. Then hang it on a drying rack and let it dry. While drying you may stretch the skin if you wish to. The snakeskin will be ready in a few days when it is completely dry.

Method 5 of 5: 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 homemade pistol shotshells.

When using the tanning kit, all the other steps are the same as method 1 but instead of using the brain oil, 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-

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These are all the methods you can use to tan snakeskin without using glycerin. Tanning snakeskin with antifreeze used to be a popular method but that doesn’t work very well as it damages the skin. 


Question: How do you soften dry snakeskin?

Answer: 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?

Answer: 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?

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


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.

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