Leather products are known to stretch over time, and this is a good thing for some but bad for others.
I have been through this and lost one of my credit cards when my wallet pocket overstretched. I once gave away my leather shoes after using them a few times as I had no idea how to fix them. They were too loose to wear.
Luckily, just like leather stretches, you can shrink it back.
So, how to shrink leather products? It starts with wetting your leather product in tepid water and then drying it a little faster than usual. The warm water will make the leather fibers soft enough to come back to their original size, and the quick-drying process will help them shrink back.
Different leather products will require different techniques and precautions when you are planning to shrink them. Small items like leather wallets, gloves, bracelets, belts, and purses are a little easy to shrink. Larger items like a leather jacket, pants, long boots, or other wearables are difficult to manage.
Let's dive into the process of shrinking leather products in detail. But let me first tell you, why leather stretches in the first place?
Why Leather Stretches and Shrinks?
Leather is a natural material obtained when raw animal hides are processed using chemical or natural extracts in specialized processing units called tanneries.
The internal anatomy of leather is shown in the below image. When you wear leather, the internal fibers, which are the building block of leather, tend to slide apart.
Let me explain it a little further with an example of how a beefy steak will behave when heated.
Since leather is made of animal skin and comprises 60–65% water, 30–32% protein, approximately 10% fat, and 0.5–1% minerals.
A normal beef steak also comprises the same components arranged a little differently. So, when the meat is fresh & wet, it can be easily stretched. Similarly, when it's time to cook in a frying pan, you can see the steak surface contracting.
Leather also behaves the same, but the stretching and shrinking are very minute. And definitely, we are not going to heat it so much.
Every leather is not made the same, and different types of leather products will stretch differently. A high-quality leather-like full-grain leather will be stretching slowly, and low-quality leather will stretch quickly.
A leather type that is easy to stretch is also easy to shrink.
How to Shrink a Leather Wallet?
Follow these simple steps to shrink a leather wallet.
#1 Empty your wallet: Remove all items from the leather wallet, including credit cards, cash, IDs, coins, and pictures, out of your wallet. Ensure nothing is stuck hidden to leave a mark on the leather when you dry it.
#2 Soak your wallet in water: The next step is soaking your wallet in lukewarm water till it properly absorbs water. Do not use any detergents or cleaning chemicals. Normal tap water will work.
#3 Prepare to dry: Once the wallet is completely wet, it's time to rinse off excess water. Never squeeze your wallet to take out the excess water. Just hold it in your hands and gently jerk it to remove the excess water.
#4 Dry your wallet: Doing this part right is essential. Normal air drying your wallet will not yield great results. In fact, air drying is recommended when you accidentally wet your wallet. In this case, we need to make the drying process a tad faster. You can do this with different methods.
If it's summer, you can keep your wallet under direct sunlight to dry a little quicker. Make sure to keep switching its sides.
In winter, you can use a hairdryer from a distance at a low setting. Please make sure not to overheat the leather as that will make it brittle and cracky.
You can get creative with how you can dry your wallet; remember that overheating is not recommended.
#5 Final Prep: Once the wallet is dry and ready to use, it's time for the final prep. After a thorough wash, the wallet might feel a little dull to touch. What I recommend is using a leather conditioner to make it shine again. Once you start using it, it will again become soft to touch.
How to Shrink Leather Gloves?
For leather gloves, a perfect fit in your hands is very essential. A little loose and it is hard to grip items with precision, a little tight and you can not close your hands properly.
You can shrink leather gloves by following these steps. The method is the same as discussed for shrinking leather wallet.
#1 Soaking in water & alcohol solution: The first step is to soak your gloves in lukewarm water & alcohol solution with a 1:1 mix ratio. Alcohol will help remove the excess oil the leather has absorbed with use. Do not use any detergents or cleaning chemicals.
#2 Prepare to dry: Once the gloves are completely soaked, it's time to rinse off excess water. Please don't squeeze the gloves; gently jerk them a few times.
#3 Dry your gloves: Ok, so as discussed in the previous section, doing this part right is vital. You will have to dry your gloves a little faster for great results. You can use direct sunlight in summer and a hairdryer at low settings in winter. Make sure all sides get the same amount of heating.
#4 Final Prep: Once the gloves are dry and ready to use, it's time for the final prep. After a thorough wash, the gloves will feel a little brittle & uncomfortable. Just spray your gloves with a good quality leather conditioner to make them soft & supple again.
How to Shrink Leather Boots?
Shrinking leather boots, shoes, or sandals are no different from shrinking any leather product, with a few exceptions and precautions.
The major problem you can face is when shrinking leather shoes & boots with leather soles. Generally, the leather sole is made up so that it is hard enough to maintain its shape and provide adequate support for your feet.
So, if your leather boots have a leather sole, wetting the leather sole is a VERY BAD idea.
In this case, you will have to use a spray bottle to spray the top layer of leather shoes, sandals, or boots.
Once properly damped, keep them in the sun or use a hairdryer at low speed to dry it a little quicker.
If your leather shoes, sandals, or boots have rubber sool, you can put them in a tub of lukewarm water let them properly soak.
Once they are properly wet, take them out and keep them in a tilted standing position with a wall for a few minutes so that all excess water drips out.
After that, use a hairdryer at low speeds or keep them in the sun to dry. Make sure to keep changing sides.
Do not keep your shoes upside down to avoid any unwanted crease or deformation.
How to Shrink Leather With Vinegar?
You can shrink leather with vinegar just like with water. With vinegar, the shrinking will be a little faster but can cause a little damage to the leather overall finish.
The process is the same as with water. Wet your leather product with vinegar. Once properly damped, dry it with a hairdryer at a lower setting to shrink your leather product.
You can also spray vinegar on your leather product to avoid damaging your products. For shoes with a leather sole, spraying vinegar on the outer layer is recommended.
For shoes, another technique is keeping a piece of fabric fully soaked in vinegar inside them for a few hours. This way, the leather from the inside will absorb it first, making sure it shrinks properly.
How to Shrink a Leather Jacket?
Shrinking a leather jacket or leather pants requires somehow the same technique.
The process starts the same way with soaking wet your jacket in lukewarm water.
Once the leather jacket or leather pant has absorbed the water properly, you will have to dry it a little faster than it will dry in the open air at room temperature.
Let's discuss the process of shrinking a leather jacket and leather pants in detail.
Step 1: The first step is to place your jacket or pants in a tub filled with lukewarm water. In leather garments like a jacket and pants, you can use some hot water (touchable). Leather garments are made of soft leather (Softer leather has higher oil concentration), so cold water will be less effective.
Step 2: Remove excess water by placing your leather jacket on a flat surface. Don't hang it as the wet jacket will be very heavy and stretch from the hanging spots.
Step 3: When the excess water is removed, but the leather jacket or pant is still wet, use a hairdryer at low speed to dry your jacket. You can keep your jacket in direct sun as well. Don't forget to keep changing its sides, including flipping it inside out, for great results.
Step 4: At the end, use a leather conditioner to make your jacket or pant look like new.
How to Shrink Leather Bracelet?
The basics of shrinking leather bracelets are the same as shrinking all other leather products, but you need to be a little careful with the attachments you may have with the bracelet, like metal hocks or jewelry.
If you can remove these attachments, then well and good, else you will need to use a spray bottle to wet it carefully and quickly to dry the metal parts with a piece of fabric to avoid any corrosion.
Let's discuss the process in detail.
Step 1: Prepare your leather bracelet for shrinking. Remove all metal parts if possible.
Step 2: Fill a cup of water with tap water. Keep it in an electric oven for 30-40 secs to make it lukewarm.
Step 3: Place your bracelet inside the cup for a few minutes so that it is well soaked. If your bracelet has metal attachments and tends to catch corrosion, then use a spray bottle to wet the leather part only. Quickly dry the metal parts with a fabric.
Step 4: Dry your bracelet with a hairdryer or placing it in sunlight to shrink properly.
Step 5: Apply some leather conditioner to give your leather bracelet some shine.
How to Shrink Leather Belt?
A leather belt goes under constant stress when in use, and that can easily make you use another level or hole.
There are a few issues and complications with shrinking a leather belt with the traditional shrinking methods, like soaking it in hot water and then drying it a little faster.
The problem is the thickness and built type of a leather belt.
The effects can be dramatically low as the belt is very thick to have a significant effect.
Secondly, most belts are made of two layers of leather stuck together, making them very hard to shrink again.
You can try by soaking it wet and then drying it, but the best way out is making a new hole :)