Does leather shrink when wet? (Read this!)

Do you ever get frustrated when your new leather jacket starts to look a little too snug after the first rainstorm? Or have you ever wondered why your leather sofa always seems to be a little less comfortable after you’ve given it a good cleaning?

Well, in case you didn’t know, leather shrinkage is actually a thing. But, whether or not your leather items could shrink after getting wet will depend on a number of factors.

In this article, we’ll look at the reasons why leather shrinks when wet and what you can do to prevent this from happening to your leather furniture, clothing, or accessories.

Does leather shrink when wet?

Does leather shrink when wet?

Yes, leather does shrink when wet. This happens when it’s overexposed to water, which strips off the protective finish on the surface causing leather to lose its natural oils as it dries. Additionally, when wet leather is exposed to too much heat, the fibers might tighten up as it dries resulting in the shrinkage of your shoes, boots, or clothing.

Here are some reasons why leather shrinks when exposed to water.

1. Too much water

Too much water can cause irreparable damage to leather since it strips off the protective finish that is meant to make your leather items water-resistant.

When the protective coating or finish is stripped off, the pores of the leather are left open and soak up easily when exposed to water.

As the leather dries, the moisture evaporates along with the natural oils leaving it dry and stiff. The stiffness tightens up the fibers so your shoes or jacket might feel smaller than before.

To loosen the fibers, you will need to condition the leather using a suitable leather conditioner or oil. This will moisturize and soften it and make your clothing more flexible and comfortable to wear.

2. Heat and sun

Most people are tempted to dry their leather clothing or shoes and boots using the highest heat setting on their hair dryer. Others throw their leather clothing into the dryer to dry it quickly.

Unfortunately, heat dries out leather and can cause it to shrink or stretch.  In fact, when leather is wet, the surest way to shrink leather a jacket, shoes, pants, or any other item is by using heat.

This is because heat causes wet leather to lose moisture and natural oils quickly causing the fibers to tighten up and shrink.

Additionally, don’t leave your wet leather garments under the sun for a prolonged period for the same reason we have given above.

3. Untreated leather

Leather is usually treated with a protective finish that acts as a sealant and prevents it from absorbing liquids, dirt, or grease.

So your leather shoes, jackets, and pants may be able to resist water to a certain extent if they are treated.

To test this, pour water on the leather and see whether it beads on the surface and then drops off or gets absorbed into the leather.

If the water beads and drops off, and your leather surface does not darken, then it is treated. But, if the water soaks into the leather making it turn darker, then it is untreated.

Untreated leather soaks up water easily since its pores are open and it becomes excessively wet. So as it dries, the fibers lose water and tight up ultimately causing the leather to shrink.

4. Poor storage

Despite the fact that leather is very tough, it can get damaged if not stored properly, especially when wet.

Avoid storing the items in direct sunlight or directly on a cemented floor. Also, keeping leather in tightly closed containers will prevent breathing and result in the growth of mold and mildew.

Is there a way to unshrink leather?

Unfortunately, there is no known way how to unshrink leather except to have your leather item tailored or altered by a professional.

Unshrinking leather that has significantly gotten smaller after drying is a pretty tough job. This is because the fibers have tightened up and so getting them to loosen up might result in irreparable damage.

However, if you find yourself in this situation, I would suggest you wet your leather jacket, pant, or bag again and then try to stretch it out with your hands.

Well, this might take a while and there is no guarantee that it will work, but it’s definitely worth a shot.

Some people have however found a bit of success with unshrinking leather pants by wearing them while wet.

This is of course extremely uncomfortable so consider doing it when the weather is warm so that you can keep yourself busy with outdoor activities.

Note that sitting might cause the pants to stretch more on the knees. So avoid sitting down until the pants are completely dry. This will take time, so be patient.

Can you shrink fake or faux leather?

Yes, you can shrink faux leather but unfortunately, it involves using a dryer or hair dryer.

Fake or faux leather is made from polyurethane (PU) or plastic so there is a 75% chance that it may get damaged by heat.

Thus, to shrink it safely, wash the item in warm water first to get it completely soaked and wet. Put it in a pillowcase and make sure it is completely closed so that it does not come out in the dryer. Throw the leather item into the dryer and use a medium heat setting for about an hour.

Once done, leave it to cool down in an airy place before trying it on.


There is no doubt that leather does shrink when wet. This happens when it is exposed to too much water and dried using heat or under direct sunlight. Poor storage is also another cause of shrinkage and can cause mold growth.

If the shrinkage was accidental, you might try to unshrink it by soaking it in water and stretching it out with your hands.



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