How to Shrink Leather?

All we need to be aware of when shrinking this sturdy material

Written by Olivia Paxton. Updated on All we need to be aware of when shrinking this sturdy material

If you want to find out how to shrink leather wallet, shoes, boots, jacket, leggings, gloves, upholstery, or sandals. You should know that leather tends to shrink when soaked in water and then have heat applied to it. To shrink leather fast, soak it in lukewarm water and then dry fast by excessive heat.

So, how to shrink leather? At first, you have to put your leather into the warm water, then you have to dry it in a hot place. You can dry leather with the hair dryer, on the element, or in the dryer. The leather becomes firmer and will shink at least to 10%-15%.

Leather is not the kind of material that we need to manipulate often. Most of us are used to the idea that it is very sturdy and can perfectly last for quite a long time without our attention.

However, even leather may sometimes need certain corrections, for instance, if the new boots are too big. If this is the problem, then we need to know exactly how to shrink leather, and how to do it correctly and safely for the material.

Shrinking Leather. Is It Possible?

We may ask such a question when facing the necessity to make a certain item smaller. Fortunately, leather is relatively malleable to shrinking, of course, if we know how to perform the procedure correctly. 

Leather tends to stretch over time, especially if we wear it frequently, this is why the apparels and accessories such as gloves made of it need certain adjustments time after time. 

And since it is a common thing to shrink fabrics, and we don’t even question such a possibility, when it comes to leather that is a way more sturdy stuff, it might seem complicated to force it to get smaller. 

However, by applying water and heat, and some other additional methods and ingredients, we can safely reach the desired result. The only thing that must be done prior to proceeding to shrink is that we shall take care of all the stains on the item’s surface so that we could focus on the procedure.

What Can Be Harmful To Leather?

Imagine our leather jacket was caught in the rain, will that ruin the apparel? Of, if we left the leather item under the direct sun for a long time, will it become damaged as well?

The owners of leather apparels often ask such questions like “Does water ruin leather?” or “Will wet leathers get ruined?”. To begin with, this material is rather durable but still, it doesn’t mean leather can last eternally no matter what is done to it.

Before buying an item made of it, take into account the most harmful factors that can turn your belonging into a useless mess:

  • The direct heat (for instance, sunlight) can damage leather, especially if the material was previously moisturized. For this reason, never hang-dry leather apparel outside under the sun. In the worst case, the material will be faded and will look worn.
  • Never place leather clothing into the washing spinner.
  • This material can’t stand temperature fluctuations, so try not to remove leather items from heat to cold and vise versa.
  • Clean all the stains immediately, otherwise, they will become permanent.
  • The excessive heat can also harm your favorite leather apparel or footwear. 
Shrinking Leather. Is It Possible
Photo by Andrew Neel

Fortunately, this sturdy material can be fixed quite easily by applying either olive oil or some baby oil to fix the minor scratches. Nevertheless, it is always good to have a leather-restoring kit at hand to be able to return its shiny look back again and keep it protected from damages longer.

How to Maintain Leather Items

The owners of leather items, no matter whether it’s clothing, accessories, or footwear, often wonder how they can take care of their belongings made of this material to keep those last to their longest.

We can suggest several handy options that will allow everyone to reach the desired result:

  • Leather needs air

To protect this material from mildew or even rotting, we must provide it with proper ventilation. Normally, air passes through leather naturally letting the moisture evaporate. However, if we keep our leather stuff tightly packed in a plastic cover or packets, it will make the material suffocate.

This is why we must never both store and even transport leather items being tightly sealed! The best that we can do is to place it into the storage bag specially meant for leather or wrap in any breathable material, for instance, a pillowcase.

  • Be careful with wetting leather

Usually, leather is considered to be some kind of waterproof material since most items made of it are already pre-treated with a protective product that repels water. For this reason, if we wet our leather jacket or boots in heavy rain, it will not normally result in their damage. Of course, if we take care of them and make sure the footwear or clothing is dried properly and correctly.

Nevertheless, if you are the kind of person who is often outside in deep snow or you hike regularly in leather boots and often get caught with heavy rains, your leather items need to be waterproofed.

But even in this case, that protective “shield” will be more for your feet or yourself rather than for the material itself.

One more thing to keep in mind is that washing a leather jacket or any other item is not allowed! Such a massive exposure to water will ruin the material.

How to Maintain Leather Item
Photo by Robbie Noble

  • Stay away from heat

 If we wet leather and then dry it right after by the source of heat, it will lead to its shrinking and drying out. That is why remember the major rule of thumb: no blow-dryers, fireplaces, heaters, or any other heat-producing devices for drying it!

The best that we can do in this situation is to let it dry itself even if we will have to spend several days on that. 

  • Go for neutral products

Neutral-colored polishers and other care remedies are better than black or brown since we can never be 100% sure that the black/brown shade of the remedy will fit the black or brown shade of the item we are going to clean or treat.

To avoid having a leather item colored in all shades of brown, better go for a neutrally colored product.

  • Do regular damp cleaning

The best way to keep your leather apparel or accessory from too fast aging is to regularly wipe it down with a wet cloth. This material accumulates dirt and dust pretty fast which leads to quick wear and tear.

However, when wiped weekly, our favorite bags or boots can serve us way longer.

One Of The Easiest Ways to Shrink Leather

Bespoke Addict Series 1 - Episode 3: Steam Shrinking Leather ShoesBespoke Addict Series 1 – Episode 3: Steam Shrinking Leather Shoes

Sometimes, when we are wearing or using our leather items for too long, they tend to stretch to a certain point. In order not to go out in a stretched leather jacket or wear slightly oversized gloves, go for the simplest method for shrinking it.

First, your leather item will have to be wetted.

If it is possible, submerge it in a bucket with very hot water. If the item is very big, opt for using a bath instead.

In case the item has elements that can’t or must not get in contact with water, use a pulverizer to wet the material avoiding those areas.

The next step is to saturate the item with water completely. 

When doing that in a bath or bucket, press the item deep under the surface to ensure it’s totally soaked. When pulverizing, spray the material several times to get it soaked thoroughly.

Remember: leather must be wet evenly!

Leave it in water

The best is to make it soak for one hour to be sure the item is soaked as it should be. However, thicker apparels might need more time, and thin ones, on the contrary, can only be plunged into the liquid, consider that!

Dry it


If it is possible, place the item flat outside under the sun until it’s dry. If it’s cold outside, opt for a blow-dryer set to the lowest speed. 

However, never dry leather in front of the heater or radiator: too much heat will make it brittle and crack! Also, hang-drying is forbidden since the weight of the wet item will lead to its stretching.

If needed, repeat the whole procedure one or two times more until you see the item is shrunk as much as you need it. The very final step will be to apply a leather conditioner to soften the material after exposure to sun/heat and water.

Shrinking Leather With Alcohol. How to Do It Correctly

Sometimes, when we need to make our leather item smaller faster, simply using water can be too long to get the result. In this case, opt for some rubbing alcohol to speed up the procedure.

This liquid, when blended with aqua, removes the protective layer from leather which allows water to do its job quickly. Also, such shrinking will work after the first attempt.

  • Mix hot aqua with alcohol in 1:1 ratio
  • Fill half of the bucket with that mixture, and allow alcohol to soak in aqua for ten minutes at least
  • Submerge what must be shrunk in that solution, and take it out
  • Rinse with cool aqua and carefully delete the excessive liquid

The final stage is to let the item dry, only remember to keep it away from direct heat.

Suggestions For Shrinking Leather Clothes With Minimum Efforts

Suggestions For Shrinking Leather Clothes With Minimum Efforts
Photo by Milad Shams

Since we are all quite busy nowadays, it might be complicated to find enough time to shrink the leather item we need to make smaller. But does it mean we should just discard it and go for a new one?!

Of course, not! For any leather apparel, a very simple and fast method can be used to make them smaller. All we need to do is to treat the apparel with the special waterproof product or rub it with beeswax, and then safely soak that item in warm water.

The protective coating will save the leather from moisture, and at the same time, leather will be able to decrease gradually.

To dry such an item, hang it outside. If everything was done correctly, expect your apparel to become one size smaller!

How to Shink Leather Jacket Instruction

After long-term use, our leather jacket may become somewhat stretched. Since this fashionable item is often a staple in men’s or women’s wardrobe, it is essential to keep it good-looking longer.

Fortunately, one can opt for a couple of handy ways of restoring its initial shape and size!

Bathtub wash

Bathtub wash
Photo by ONNE Beauty

Simply fill a bath with hot aqua, and immerse the jacket into it. Keep it underwater for ten minutes at the longest remembering to rub the surface gently: like this, we will help the dye to leak out and will make the shrinkage procedure faster.

When you take the jacket out, wring it over the bath to prevent staining the floor with the dye, and spread it evenly on a towel. In this position, the item must be left for a couple of days to dry. Remember that we will have to turn the item over now and then, and of course, the towels will have to be changed for the dry ones to avoid damaging the material.

Laundering machine

This is a somewhat faster method since we just need to launder the jacket in a special bag at the regular cycle in cold water. No detergent is needed, but the item must be laundered alone to avoid staining the other apparels with the dye.

After the laundry is done, wring the jacket and toss into the dryer set on the medium heat regime.


If none of the previous approaches worked as you expected, or if you would like to skip doing that yourself, the only option is to bring the item to the tailor and get it fixed. The tailor will take your measures and alter the jacket so that it will fit you perfectly. This is a more pricey way but it will not need your participation. 

How to Shrink Leather Gloves with Water and Rubbing Alcohol

How to Fit and Care for Your GlovesHow to Fit and Care for Your Gloves

And, how to shrink leather gloves? Put your leather gloves into the mix of alcohol and water 1:1 for 3 minutes. Then place flat on a dry towel and press to delete the excess moisture. To shrink gloves fast, dry them with a  hairdryer. The gloves become firmer and will shrink for approximately 1 size.

Gloves are usually made of rather thin leather which means shrinking them will not require much effort. We just need to blend alcohol and aqua in a 1:1 ratio, and quickly submerge the gloves into this remedy for several minutes. To do it faster, we can pulverize them with the same mixture, by the way.

Once it’s clear that they are properly soaked, place flat on a dry towel and press to delete the excess moisture. Now we just need to wait until the gloves are dry!

Hints For Shrinking Leather Boots

If you wear leather footwear outside often, one day you might need to figure out how to shrink leather boots safely. In order not to mess up with such a pricey material, we will describe how to make leather boots smaller with your own hands.

  • Place the footwear in a bathtub filled with hot water (it must not be too hot, however).
  • Once the surface is evenly moist, take it out and place horizontally on a flat even surface.
  • Let the boots dry themselves by placing them outside since forcing the process (by using a dryer, for instance) can lead to the cracks on the leather surface, and the boots will be ruined.

Also, remember to monitor the drying process: if the boots get too dry, it will also have no positive effect. The footwear must be almost dry.

  • Check the result. If necessary, go through the overall procedure once again or more until the desired effect is reached.

After completing the procedure, cover the boots with a clean cloth to restore their natural softness.

How to Shrink Leather Shoes?

How to Shrink Leather Shoes
Photo by Radek Skrzypczak

Did you buy a pair of leather shoes that appeared to be a bit lose? That’s not a tragedy! To make them fit your feet, do the following:

  • Pour some water in a pulverizing bottle and spray over the shoes. Don’t make them soak, just get them wet enough.
  • Now take a blow-dryer and work on them on medium heat. 

Once the shoe is dry, try it on. Still too big? Then repeat the procedure. This is the simplest way how to shrink shoes quickly and effortlessly almost anywhere.

How to shrink leather pants?

And, how to shrink leather pants? Put your leather pants into the hot water for 10 minutes, then dry them in a warm place. You can shrink your leather pants fast if you dry them with a  hair dryer or in the dryer. The pants become firmer and will shrink for approximately 1 size.

Now you are informed about how to shrink leather clothing and footwear, and we hope that using these items will only be delightful to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

⭐ Will steam shrink leather?

Yes, steaming can also make leather items smaller.

⭐ Should you size down in leather jackets?

Yes, it’s better to buy an item that’s one size smaller since leather will stretch with time.

⭐ Is it okay for leather to get wet?

Normally, yes since leather clothing is pre-treated with a protective waterproof solution. However, heavy soaking is not allowed.

⭐ How do you rehydrate leather?

Special leather oils can help to hydrate the material.

⭐ How can I make my leather wallet tighter?

Try to soak it with water and then dry.

Written by
Olivia shares all she knows about the hotels, houses, and home cleaning with Beezzly readers. And she knows a lot! 15 years of work experience as a Manager in a former Four Season Service gave Olivia an exceptional base of professional knowledge and practical experience.
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