How To Shrink Leather: Guide for Craftsmen

Sometimes you just need to reduce the size of a leather jacket or a pair of shoes made of raw skin. It is possible to shrink leather without the loss of its quality. However, a craftsman must be very careful and follow a few simple rules to keep the leather product safe during the shrinking process.

How To Shrink Leather

The step-by-step guide for shrinking leather safely

If you have a leather product that requires shrinking, you can dry it hot water or with any hair dryer. The combination of moisture and heat causes the contract of temperatures. The following way to shrink leather is effective for all types of genuine leather products:

  1. Take a leather product (hunting boots, work gloves, and accessories), then just put it in a large bathtub with hot water. The water should not be too hot. If you don’t have a bath or the product is quite small, use a large pot or bucket;
  2. Another way besides plunging the product in water is spraying the leather with an aerosol can filled with hot water. If you need to shrink not the whole item, a large water bottle will be sufficient for this purpose. 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 seats in a car;
  3. Saturate the leather completely with hot water. If you use an aerosol spray, make sure the whole surface of the product is wet. Don’t forget to turn it over to spray with water;
  4. Make sure the whole surface is evenly moist. Otherwise, the leather will shrink differently;
  5. You may place the product on a plastic sheet or cover to prevent water from drying out;
  6. If the item is made of thin leather, for example, soft gloves, it is enough to immerse it in water for a few minutes;
  7. Then you need to dry the product from hot water. The best thing to do this is to let it dry naturally, on the sheet or towel in your backyard. Prevent it from drying too quickly – for example, near a very hot radiator. Drying the leather too quickly can lead to brittleness or even cracking.
  8. When you dry the raw skin indoors, don’t act too fast as well. Slowly move the product back and forth, about 4 inches from the surface. Continue to do this until the item dries completely. If you keep the product in the street for a few hours, unmonitored, this may cause severe burns on the item. Monitor and wait until it is completely dry from water, but not too dry;
  9. Repeat the whole process from step 1 to 8 up to three times, if necessary.
  10. After shrinking leather, restore its natural softness – cover almost dry leather with a clean cloth, all the surface must be completely covered;

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.

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

Craftsmen know that leather is a durable material that can shrink due to the effect of high temperatures. In such a way, raw skin products can be reduced in size. It is permissible to expose leather shoes for high and low temperatures, as well as their differences. To achieve the necessary level of high temperature, the shoes can be put in the boiling water or applied with hot steam.

It is recommended to use a hot solution based on laundry detergent for shrinking leather. If there is no time to dry the shoes for a long time, you can use an alternative option – spraying the shoes inside with a special spray gun. Then you need to leave the shoes to dry near an artificial heat source, for example, near a radiator. One size of shoes, at least, can be reduced due to such a method.

Final thoughts

If you have no idea about shrinking leather products, the following guide can be quite useful. Keep in mind that there are many ways to shrink leather without any special instruments or professional services. Just make sure to test any method on a small piece of leather before applying it to the whole product.


4.5 stars / 26 votes

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!