What Happens When Leather Gets Wet? – Smart Fixes

Leather is a porous material used to make clothing, furniture, and accessories for centuries. But what happens when leather gets wet? I witnessed firsthand how moisture can affect leather – as I discovered, it is not always ideal for wet weather.

My experience was eye-opening and a timely reminder of how delicate leather can be. Leather getting wet can cause various problems, ranging from discoloration or stains on leather to stretching and cracking. If not correctly cared for, leather can develop mold and mildew, resulting in an unpleasant odor and potential health risks.

Fortunately, there are methods for keeping your leather products looking great even after being wet. In this article, I’ll discuss the potential consequences of getting the leather wet and the proper steps to dry and protect this material.

is it bad if leather shoes get wet

What Causes Leather to Get Wet?

Genuine leather is sourced from animal hides and is sufficiently breathable. So, it is a porous material, thanks to the hair follicles on the skin of the animal it is derived from. Thus, leather is not entirely resistant to water, as spills or moisture drops will likely seep through it.

As I have experienced, wet leather doesn’t leave a pleasant experience. And leather can become wet for a variety of reasons. Exposure to water is one of the most common causes – this can be caused by rain and spills.

This delicate material can become wet due to condensation if left in a humid environment for an extended period, as inadequate storage (like storing leather items in plastic bags) can also cause the leather to become wet. Moisture can build up and cause the leather to become wet if it is stored in a sealed container without adequate ventilation.

Certain harsh chemicals have been said to react with the leather, making it wet. Finally, leather can also become wet from sweat, especially during the summer when you feel all sweaty.

what happens when leather gets wet

How to Avoid Getting Leather Wet?

Can leather boots get wet? Yes, and knowing how to protect your leather piece from getting wet would save you a lot of trouble. Most leather experts advise that folks should conduct pre-treatments for their leather products, as this goes a long way in improving the moisture resistance of this product.

However, many precautions are required to keep your leather bag or shoe moisture-free, and here are some tips that should help.

Proper Storage

Keep leather items in a cool, dry place, and avoid storing leather goods in damp or humid environments, such as the basement or attic, as this can lead to mildew and mold growth on the leather. Thus, it would help to properly store leather jackets, bags, shoes, and similar items.

Make your Leather Moisture-Proof

Use a waterproofing product on leather – these products come in various forms, such as sprays, creams, and waxes. Read the product label to determine how often to apply the waterproofing product and any special application instructions.

Use a Protective Cover

If you know your leather goods will be exposed to rain or snow while you are outdoors, cover them with a protective cover to keep them dry. This could range from a plastic bag to a tarp.

Keep leather Away From water

Avoid exposing leather goods to water whenever possible. If your leather gets wet, dry it as soon as possible.

Side effects of Leather Getting Wet

When wet, leather absorbs moisture, causing the fibers to swell and stretch. It can cause the leather to stiffen and brittle, as well as the color to fade or run. The leather may also become moldy or mildewed depending on the type of leather and the amount of moisture. So, what happens if a leather bag gets wet or when there’s spilled water on a leather couch? Let’s dive deep!

Leather may become discolored and stained.

Wetness is the most common cause of leather discoloration and staining. However, the level of stain sustained by a leather piece from being wet depends on the hide’s treatment during its manufacturing process.

While aniline leather quickly gets stained when in contact with moisture, chrome-tanned leather is more resistant. Nevertheless, excessive moisture exposure can cause the dye to run or fade and stain the leather.

Also, if the leather is not allowed to dry completely, the water can cause it to darken or discolor. Furthermore, exposing the leather to soap or other cleaning solutions can cause the leather to become stained.

Leather may become brittle and crack.

Leather is a natural material that, when properly cared for, is highly durable and long-lasting. On the other hand, leather can become brittle and crack when exposed to water. This issue arises due to the loss of the leather’s natural oils, increasing the friction between this material’s fibers.

You should know that the water absorbed by leather causes the hide’s oils to drain and evaporates as you try to get rid of the excess moisture.

Molds and Mildews

Leather is an organic material that can become a breeding ground for molds and mildews when exposed to water. The moist environment, when water is allowed to remain in contact with the leather for extended periods, deteriorates the situation.

Molds and mildews can appear as small, dark spots on leather; these spots may be raised or sunken and appear black or green. Furthermore, the spots could be accompanied by a musty odor.


When leather is exposed to water, the water seeps through the pores and weakens the leather fibers. This deterioration can cause the leather to become brittle, crack, and eventually rot. As the leather rots, it begins to smell and discolor, and its texture and appearance change.

what happens when fake leather gets wet

How to Fix Wet Leather

Whether from a spill, accident, or flood, wet leather can be challenging. Don’t freight; I’ll be sharing some expert tips on how you can rescue your wet leather pieces and keep them in pristine condition.

For this purpose, you would need a few supplies, such as:

  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Microfiber towel
  • Absorbent sheet or Old newspaper
  • Leather conditioner
  • Padded hangers

Here are four effective methods for savaging wet leather items depending on the leather type.

Method One: Patterned or Grained Leather

Most grained leather is often subjected to leather tanning that uses chromium mineral salts during manufacturing. Thus, its protective layers make such pieces more resistant to moisture and stains. However, here’s what to do if your patterned leather gets soaked.

  1. Blot out moisture – The first step is removing excess water on the leather. This can be accomplished by gently blotting the surface with a soft, dry cloth. Avoid rubbing or brushing the leather, as this will cause the pattern to fade.
  2. Dry – After removing the excess water, allow the leather to air dry. Put the leather in a well-ventilated area, such as a shady spot on the porch or balcony. Turn the leather over now and then to ensure that all of the moisture evaporates evenly.
  3. Rub some conditioner – Leather conditioners are intended to keep our treasured leather items soft and supple while protecting them from cracking and fading. So, get a leather conditioner explicitly designed for patterned leather. Using a soft cloth, gently rub a small amount of conditioner into the leather in a circular motion.

Method Two: Vegetable-tanned Leather

Vegetable-tanned leather is mostly full-grain leather sourced from the strongest area of animal skin. While it is naturally finished leather, it lacks protective coatings – hence, it isn’t moisture-resistant and retains stains. So, here are a few steps to repair water damage on veg-tanned leather and protect it from further damage.

  1. Dab – When it comes to wet leather, swiftly wiping the spilled liquid would do your leather item good. Carefully dab the leather surface using a microfiber towel to ensure the liquid does not seep further into the leather material. Once done, you should move on to the drying process.
  2. Dry – If you are wondering how to dry wet leather couches, bags, or shoes, let them sit and dry naturally in a well-ventilated area. For leather bags and shoes, stuff the insides with absorbent sheets or old newspaper – this absorbs the excess moisture from the interior. Padded hangers are recommendable for drying leather clothing.
  3. Condition – Rehydrate the leather item with a leather conditioner explicitly formulated for vegetable-tanned leather; apply it in a circular motion. Allow the leather piece to air dry before buffing it with a soft, clean cloth to restore the original shine.


Nubuck is a variant of full-grain leather, buffed to have a fine, soft, velvet-like texture. Naturally, such pieces are moisture-repellant to a few drops of water and would hold better with a moisture-proofing spray. Nevertheless, here’s how to fix wet nubuck leather.

  1. To remove any excess moisture, wipe the leather with a soft cloth.
  2. Put the leather item somewhere that is adequately ventilated to aid in drying.
  3. Once the leather has dried, brush the nap with a soft brush to restore the velvety texture.
  4. Use a moisture-proofing spray to protect the leather; this will keep it from becoming wet and allow it to last longer.


Suede is a sensitive leather material that can easily get damaged when in contact with liquid. And repairing or drying wet suede leather is a delicate process that requires special care. But here are some efficient tips to help out.

  1. Blot the suede with a dry, absorbent cloth to remove excess water. Rubbing the material may cause it to become damaged.
  2. Allow the leather to air dry once the excess water has been removed. Avoid using a dryer, as the heat could damage the suede.
  3. If the suede has become distorted or wrinkled during the drying process, lightly brush the surface in a direction using a suede brush to restore its shape.
  4. When the suede is completely dry, apply a suede protector or waterproofing spray to protect it from water, dirt, and other elements.

Vegan or Faux Leather

Faux leather is often manufactured from vegan materials like polyurethane and has high water-resistant properties. Thus, most people wonder if such material can get wet – vegan or faux leather can get wet. So, what happens when fake leather gets wet?

Unlike genuine leather, wet faux leather rarely gets damaged, and you can get rid of moisture marks by wiping its surface with a mild detergent. Kindly get a cloth damped with the cleaning solution and wipe the faux leather thoroughly.

Treating Dried Moisture Stain

Dried moisture stains on leather can be an eyesore caused by a spilled beverage or raindrops. However, it’s easy to tackle.

Begin by cleaning the leather with a soft cloth and a mild leather cleaner made for vegetable-tanned leather – this will eliminate any dirt or debris on the leather. Damp a soft, clean cloth with the cleaning solution and carefully wipe the stained part of the leather.

Then, wipe off the residue using another cloth damped with water. Allow the leather to dry before applying a leather conditioner or waterproofing spray. This will help prevent further damage to the leather.

For suede or nubuck leather, use a lint-free cloth (barely damping it) and rub gently across the stained area of the item. Move the cloth from edge to edge to make the entire leather surface even.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

Q: Is it OK for leather to get wet?

Getting leather wet is not recommended because it can cause irreversible damage. Leather can shrink, warp, crack, and discolor when exposed to water. Furthermore, as the leather dries, it can become stiff and brittle, which could cause the leather to peel and tear. If the leather gets wet, dry it as soon as possible with a cloth and let it air dry away from direct heat sources.

Q: Why can’t a luxury bag get wet?

Most bags from luxury brands are designed to be moisture-proof, but that doesn’t mean that you should submerge them in water. You must know that luxury bags are usually made of delicate materials susceptible to water damage, such as leather, suede, or nubuck.

These materials can discolor, stain, or even warp when wet. Furthermore, the hardware on luxury bags, such as zippers and buckles, can rust when exposed to water, making them difficult to use.

Q: Does rain ruin leather bags?

Raindrops on leather, especially if left untreated, can ruin leather bags. You must be wondering, can leather bags get wet? Yes, they do, and moisture can cause the leather to dry out and become brittle, resulting in cracking.

So, avoid taking your luxurious leather bags out in the rain and keep them away from wet places. Use a protective spray and store your leather bag in a waterproof bag when not in use to protect it from rain.

Q: How do you restore leather after getting wet?

It is critical to remove as much water from the leather as possible. You can accomplish this by dabbing it gently with a dry towel or cloth. You should never rub the leather because it will become damaged.

Once the leather has dried, clean the surface with leather cleaner to remove any dirt or other contaminants picked up while the leather was wet.

Q: Is a Louis Vuitton bag waterproof?

Louis Vuitton bags are mostly waterproof. This iconic brand has its monogram print manufactured with coated canvas and has its leather trim treated, which makes it moisture-resistant. While many Louis Vuitton bags are made of long-lasting materials and appear waterproof, they should not be submerged in water. They must be dried as soon as possible to avoid damage if they become wet.

Q: Does humidity ruin leather bags?

Over time, humidity can deteriorate leather bags. Leather is a natural material that is sensitive to humidity and temperature changes. When leather is stored in a humid environment, it can become wet, removing its natural oils and causing it to become brittle, dry, and cracked. It may also cause the bag to discolor and stain. Keep the leather in a dry and cool environment to avoid humidity damage.

Q: Does leather swell when it gets wet?

When wet, leather expands, swells, and softens as it absorbs water, becoming more pliable. This is why it is critical to protect leather items from the elements using a leather conditioner or waterproofing product. Furthermore, leather is more prone to staining when wet, so it is critical to store high-end leather pieces away from moisture.

Q: How long does wet-formed leather take to dry?

Wet-formed leather typically takes 24-48 hours to dry, depending on its thickness and the environment. Higher humidity can slow down the drying process. Furthermore, the type of leather and the finish applied to the leather can influence drying time.

Final Words

Despite its beauty, leather is susceptible to water, and when the leather becomes wet, it can be challenging to manage the damage while maintaining the item’s appearance and integrity.

These are the tricks and tips I applied in case my leather items get wet. You can do the same if you still are not aware of What happens when leather gets wet and what to do? Moist leather can discolor, shrink, become stiff, crack, and mildew.

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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