How To Shrink Leather: 9 Easy Steps

If you’re looking to resize a leather jacket or a pair of shoes crafted from pure leather, it’s possible to shrink leather without compromising its quality. However, anyone working with leather must tread cautiously and adhere to specific guidelines to ensure the leather remains intact during the shrinking process.

How To Shrink Leather

The step-by-step guide for shrinking leather safely

When dealing with a leather item that needs shrinking, you can employ hot water or a hair dryer for the task. The marriage of moisture and heat tightens the leather fibers, facilitating the shrinkage. The following method is universally effective for genuine leather goods:

  1. Begin by selecting your leather item, (hunting boots, work gloves, and accessories). Place it in a large bathtub filled with hot water. Ensure the water is sufficiently warm but not scalding. For smaller items or if a bathtub isn’t available, a large pot or bucket should suffice.
  2. Another effective approach is spraying the leather with a mist of hot water. This is particularly useful if you’re aiming to shrink specific parts of an item. A sizable spray bottle filled with hot water will work wonders. However, it is a perfect way to shrink leather parts directly with hot water. Think of this method if you need to reduce the size of leather seat covers in a car;
  3. Fully saturate the leather with the hot water. If using a spray bottle, make sure every inch of the leather surface is dampened. Ensure both sides are evenly moistened.
  4. Ensure the entirety of the leather surface has even moisture to prevent inconsistent shrinkage.
  5. If you’re working with a delicate item like soft gloves, a brief immersion in water should suffice.
  6. To dry the item post its water treatment, allow it to dry naturally, ideally on a sheet or towel placed outdoors. Avoid drying it too swiftly, as exposure to excessive heat sources like radiators can render the leather brittle, risking cracks.
  7. If you choose to dry the leather indoors using a hair dryer, maintain a steady, slow pace. Keep the dryer around 4 inches from the leather surface and continue this till the item is thoroughly dried. It’s crucial to ensure the item dries uniformly but isn’t overly parched.
  8. You might need to repeat these steps up to three times to achieve the desired shrinkage.
  9. Once the shrinking process is complete, it’s vital to condition the leather to restore its supple texture. Gently apply a leather conditioner using a clean cloth, ensuring the entire surface is treated.
Also read:  How To Clean Mold From Leather

Shrinking leather with alcohol

Various factors can affect the leather shrinking. One of the most popular ways to shrink leather is by using hot water. However, sometimes you need to apply another type of liquid – pure alcohol. How does it work? After rubbing alcohol the leather loses its natural protective barriers and then hot water is absorbed quicker and deeper.

How To Shrink Leather Tutorial

If you mix water and alcohol, you get a more effective way to shrink leather without any chemical solutions. Water alone is not effective in most cases. The best thing is that such a method works after the first use. This is how you should apply the mixture of alcohol and water for shrinking raw skin:

  1. At first, it is required to mix hot water with alcohol (1:1);
  2. Then take a bucket or use a bath to fill the half of it with this mixture;
  3. Allow the alcohol to soak in water in the bucket for 10 minutes at least;
  4. Then place a whole product in a container;
  5. Then remove the item from this container;
  6. Rinse the leather with cool water;
  7. Carefully squeeze out the excess liquid;
  8. Let the product dry, but keep it away from the direct sunlight. The required time for drying – from a few hours to 24 hours (depending on the item’s size);
Important advice: you may apply a soft conditioner and clean, white, soft cloth before shrinking. Rub the conditioner into the leather in slow, circular motions.

Shrinking leather clothes with minimum efforts

For example, if you have a leather jacket, you may shrink it in a quite simple way. First, soak the jacket in warm water, but before doing this, apply a special waterproof treatment or rub it with beeswax. In such a way, you may protect the jacket from unwanted damage, and this does not prevent it from gradually decreasing into water. Then hang out the jacket outside (fresh air is required) for drying out. If you did everything properly, the jacket will become one size smaller.

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How To Shrink Leather Instruction

Important advice: leather jackets are not recommended for drying in dryers, because the natural raw skin can easily crack. If you just need to reduce the jacket’s size, you can take a chance and put a dryer on a delicate regime. In this mode, it is necessary to check the condition of the leather from time to time to avoid any severe damage.

The best way to shrink leather shoes

Leather, a resilient material, can contract under high temperatures. This attribute makes it possible to resize leather goods, including shoes. To harness high temperatures for shrinking, shoes can be submerged in boiling water or subjected to hot steam. For quicker results, spraying the inner lining of shoes with a solution based on laundry detergent can be effective. Following this, let the shoes dry near a heat source, like a radiator. This technique can potentially reduce the shoe size considerably.

Final thoughts

For anyone unfamiliar with the nuances of leather shrinkage, this guide is a valuable resource. Numerous methods can help resize leather items without the need for specialized equipment or professional intervention. Always conduct a patch test before applying any method on the entire leather product.


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Steve Coltharp

Hello, my name is Steve and I’m an author of the blog “Leather Toolkits“, sharing everything related to leather and leather care. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

  1. Brooke

    I’ve bought a leather jacket online which ended up being two sizes two big and unfortunately, since it was bought during final sales, I can’t return it. I like the oversized look but in this case it looks pretty bad. Now I have to see how to shrink leather without damaging the metallic caps.

  2. Dianne Miller

    I am so happy I found this post. I have been trying to figure out the best approach to shrink down a leather jacket I own. I have lost quite a bit of weight and don’t want to part with it. A friend suggested shrinking it but didn’t know how herself. Bookmarked this page. I am going to give this a try over the weekend!