How to Shrink Leather for the Perfect Fit

My journey with expanding leather items has been an adventure. From stretched leather jackets to stretched leather gloves, I have been through it all. Mind you, almost all types of leather items stretch over time, with constant use.

Like many others, you may worry about how to shrink leather items without damaging them. I also had no idea what to do when I first encountered this issue. But, I researched and tried several methods to shrink my treasured leather pieces – some worked, and others didn’t.

In this article, I’ll tell you about my experiences and the most effective technique I use to shrink my leather items back to their original size. So, if you are wondering how to shrink leather pants or jackets, read on.

how to shrink leather jacket

Why Does Leather Stretch and Shrink?

Whether you wear a leather belt or carry leather bags, you may have noticed that leather pieces lose their original shape with time. Here are some reasons why leather may stretch or shrink.

Natural Makeup

Genuine leather is sourced from animal hides containing natural oils that keep it supple. These substances can also help leather adjust into different shapes without tearing or cracking. And a combination of the leather’s natural makeup and other factors like heat and humidity can make leather expand or contract. Kindly, note that when leather loses its natural oil, it shrinks and becomes brittle.


The leather hide surface is prominently porous and so absorbs moisture and lubrication from external sources. When moisture penetrates leather, it stretches and makes it more flexible. However, moisture also causes leather to lose its natural oil content – as wet leather dries up, it loses some of its natural oil, making the leather shrink.


The primary cause of leather stretching and shrinking is temperature rise and drop. The leather will stretch as the temperature rises. This remains true as the leather fibers expand when heated, making the material more elastic.

When the temperature drops, however, the fibers contract causing the leather to shrink. But with the proper treatment, you could make any stretching or shrinkage permanent.


Leather will shrink or stretch depending on the stress you subject it to. The pliant nature of leather causes it to adjust when stretched or compressed. However, leather will never stretch or shrink past its natural limit. Applying oil to the leather surface will ease the stretching process, but stretching leather beyond its limit will cause unexpected tear and premature wear.


Leather requires adequate care to retain its supple nature and remain flexible. Without proper cleaning and conditioning, leather will shrink due to moisture loss. You can stretch leather wallets, bags, and purses by overloading or stuffing them with plenty of items that can cause them to lose shape.

Stretching Leather Using Simple Techniques

Shrinking leather is the best way to make it as tight and fit as desired. Whether you are trying to shrink a new leather outfit and make it tighter or restore an old piece to its original snug fit, here is how to shrink any leather shoes, gloves, and hats.

How to Shrink Leather Gloves

You can quickly shrink leather gloves using warm water. So, fill a container with warm water; if you are using a tub or large bucket, fill it to the extent that will let you submerge the leather piece completely.

Now, submerge the leather in the container, ensuring all leather parts are entirely underwater. After a while, remove the leather gloves from the bowl, and let it dry in a clean and well-ventilated area. Once the gloves get dried, apply some leather conditioner to keep them supple.

How to Shrink Leather Pants

Before attempting to shrink leather pants, it is essential to ensure they are clean. Then, get a sink or bucket filled with some lukewarm water, and mix some mild detergent into it. Now, soak your leather pants and allow them to soak for at least one hour.

Take the trousers out of the water and wring them out to remove excess moisture. To dry away from extreme heat, hang your leather pants on a clothesline or drying rack. Treat your leather pants afterward with some leather conditioner to maintain and keep them supple.

How to Shrink Leather Jackets

While this may sound weird, one effective way of shrinking leather jackets is running them through a washing machine. Since there is a significant chance of ruining your precious leather piece using during the process, you must know that this technique requires patience and accuracy.

First, clean the leather jackets to eliminate any stains that could interfere with the shrinking process. Now, toss the jacket into the washer; a moderate wash cycle should be used with the temperature set to cool.

After a short cycle of 5-10 minutes, take the jacket out of the washer and hang it to dry. Because leather can shrink when exposed to heat, hang it somewhere well-ventilated and out of the sun. Also, don’t forget to condition the leather to increase its durability and replenish its luster.

How to Shrink Leather Wallets

You can quickly shrink leather wallets using a damp cloth and some heat. Before commencing, ensure everything is clean, dry, and empty of any items. Now, here’s how to shrink leather wallets and purses without damaging them:

Kick-start the process by moistening your leather wallet using a wet, clean cloth. Now, employ a hairdryer to continue the shrinking process. Hold the hairdryer (set on low heat) a few inches away from the wallet while setting the temperature to medium heat.

As the leather on the wallet becomes hotter, move the hairdryer back and forth over it. Turn off the hairdryer and let the leather cool naturally.

While a combination of water and heat will help you shrink leather, it also causes the leather to dry out and become very brittle. Thus, applying a conditioner helps to soften the leather and stop it from cracking.

How to Shrink Leather Bracelets

You can shrink a leather bracelet by soaking it in lukewarm water and isopropyl alcohol. Kindly soak the leather bracelets in a basin filled with three parts water and one part alcohol. Allow this piece to sit in this solution for about 15 minutes. After that, take it out of the liquid and use a towel to wipe it dry.

The wallet should then be heated with a hair dryer until moist. The leather will shrink and tighten due to the dryer’s heat. To heat the bracelet evenly, rotate the hair dryer around while keeping it a few inches away from the wallet.

Note: If you are wondering how to shrink leather belts, boots, bags, and hats, you can achieve an outstanding result using similar techniques.

how to shrink leather gloves

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

Q: How do you shrink leather without ruining it?

The most common method of shrinking leather is to soak it in water and let it dry under the sun or by applying direct heat. However, you could ruin your favorite leather bag or purse if you don’t follow this process carefully.

  • Fill a large bucket or sink halfway with hot water, ensuring it is hot enough to shrink the leather without damaging it.
  • Place the leather item in hot water, submerging it completely.
  • Soak the leather item for approximately 15 – 30 minutes.
  • Gently squeeze out any excess water after removing the leather item from the hot water.
  • Lay the leather item out on a dry towel to air dry, or use a hand dryer on low settings.
  • When the leather item has dried, it should have shrunk to the desired size.

Q: Does heat make leather shrink?

Leather contains natural moisture and oils that make it flexible and pliant. When exposed to heat, leather loses the moisture and oils it contains, causing it to shrink. An extreme loss of this moisture and oils could also cause the leather to wrinkle and become misshapen.

Extreme heat could also char leather pieces and leave them with permanent burn marks. Besides shrinking leather, heat could also cause the leather to lose its natural tone and become discolored. Hence, you must be careful when exposing your leather pieces to direct heat.

Q: Does leather shrink when soaked?

Generally, when leather gets wet or submerged in water, the fibers of the material become saturated. As the fibers absorb water, they swell, and the leather contracts during drying. Thus, this causes the leather to shrink and change shape – the amount of shrinkage varies depending on the leather quality and how long it is submerged.

Hence, it would help if you protected your leather pieces from moisture. Also, treat the material with suitable conditioners after soaking and drying them. Such an action would replenish the natural oils that leather loses and prevent it from excessive shrinking.

Q: Does leather shrink in boiling water?

Boiling water causes leather to shrink, reducing it to two-thirds of its original size by draining the natural oils. If you put leather in boiling water, ensure that you regulate the temperature and prevent it from getting too hot.

Extreme temperatures will cause the leather to harden irregularly, making the surface thicker and stiffer than its insides. It could also make the surface more brittle and crack easily. Also, avoid leaving leather in boiling water for too long, which could deform the material.

Q: Can you permanently shrink leather?

Leather will expand or shrink based on several factors, including the leather type, climatic conditions, and maintenance. Shrunken leather will gradually loosen up and stretch after you shrink it. But you can slow the expansion by protecting it from moisture and oils.

Nevertheless, exposing your leather items to a certain amount of heat can shrink them for an extended period. The heat rapidly drains the leather of any moisture or oil it may contain. But it is essential to take the proper steps to ensure the leather is not damaged.

Q: Does leather shrink in the freezer?

Leaving leather boots and bags in the freezer is a good option if you are wondering how to shrink leather boots and sandals.

  • Seal the leather item in a plastic bag, ensuring no air is trapped inside.
  • Place the frozen item in the bag.
  • Freeze the leather for several hours.
  • Take the item out of the freezer and carefully remove it from the plastic bag.
  • Place the leather on a flat surface and gently stretch and shape it as desired with your hands.
  • Thaw the leather for several hours before using it.

Q: How do you shrink and stiffen leather?

If your leather gloves or wallets get too loose, here’s an easy way to shrink and stiffen them:

Submerge the leather piece in a tub of hot water – be sure to find a sizeable container that will enable you to submerge all parts of the material. Then, let the leather piece sit in hot water for a few minutes. You should notice the tone getting a bit darker after the first 30 seconds of submerging the material. Finally, please remove the leather and let it dry at room temperature.

The material will be moist and flexible for the first few minutes after taking it out of the water. It would help if you worked out any tough spots and wrinkles during this period before leaving it to dry. Kindly, note that the leather gets stiffer and thicker when it dries, so it would be best to rub some leather conditioning oils.

Q: Does rubbing alcohol shrink leather?

Just like water, alcohol penetrates the pores on the surface of leather skins and interacts with the oils and residual moisture, and makes them evaporate – it is a viable option if you are wondering how to shrink leather sandals, shoes, or boots. Without proper care, alcohol rapidly strips the leather of its moisture, causes it to dry and crack, and lightens leather items with dark coloring.

To prevent rubbing alcohol from permanently deforming your leather piece, dilute the required amount of alcohol in three parts of water and lightly spray the mixture all over the leather piece. Once the leather piece dries, rub a generous amount of leather conditioning balms to make this piece look shiny and supple.

Q: Does leather shrink in the wash?

There is a high chance for leather to shrink in the wash. However, the amount of shrinkage will vary depending on the type of leather, the wash temperature, and the method used. Natural leather, such as cowhide, shrinks more than synthetic leather.

Furthermore, hot water and vigorous agitation can shrink leather more than cold and gentle agitation. So, the best way to prevent the leather from shrinking in the wash is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when washing the item.

Final Words

Finding out your leather pants no longer fit or that your boots are now slack around the edges can be a real mood spoiler. However, there are practical solutions to reverse the situation and restore your favorite leather piece to its perfect snug fit.

Shrinking leather is a delicate process; you need the right supplies and techniques to achieve an excellent result. Hence, this piece on how to shrink leather should guide you in getting the best results. So if you’re having trouble with stretched leather, read this article to find out how I managed to shrink mine.

Evina Naomi

Ewofere, Evina Naomi is a biotechnologist and passionate content writer. As a great lover of leather and various leather crafts, she broadly addresses leather-related issues. She is a writer of many excellent articles on leather. With great knowledge and enthusiasm, readers can access researched pieces on various leather types and the best techniques that work on them. Naomi is here to lead you through the journey of choosing excellent leather products and ensure you handle them rightly. So you can embark on your leather sewing and crafting journey with her and have an incredible experience.

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