How to shrink a leather jacket without damaging it

How to shrink a leather jacket

An expensive leather jacket must fit well to look attractive. Leather stretching and shrinkage occurs naturally over time. You’ll find a leather jacket's fit changes after being worn for some time. To achieve a custom fit, you must shrink the leather jacket to form fit your body. Here are various ways to properly shrink a leather jacket.

This risks of shrinking a leather jacket

Shrinking leather can be risky since leather may shrink at a different rate than the lining. Since the jacket could shrink in unexpected ways, the result can be unpredictable. This is especially pronounced if the lining is made of wool (which will shrink significantly more than the leather material). Additionally, different types of leather shrink differently. For instance, horsehide leather shrinks naturally when worn in wet weather. Lamb shrinks and stretches the most while calf leather does not shrink much at all. Shrinking leather can impact the cut and “look” of the jacket. Typically, leather will become softer when shrunk but the “look” of the leather material may change in varying degrees. The grain may become more pronounced or crinkled and edges may curl. The color of the leather may change. Zippers and cuffs in particular can become “wavy” when leather shrinks. In most cases, the leather material will look more distressed, a look you may be purposely trying to achieve. In worst cases, the leather material may become splotchy looking.

Before shrinking a leather jacket

The leather jacket should be prepped before shrinking. Apply beeswax or water stain protectant to the leather material. This will prevent staining but will still allow the leather to shrink.

Four ways to shrink leather

Shrinking in a tub of water

imageFill a 33-gallon (or larger) plastic bin with water. Don’t use a bathtub. The dye in leather can bleed and stain the tub. Submerge the leather jacket in water for 5 – 10 minutes. Occasionally use a sleeve of the jacket to rub the entire jacket surface. This helps the leather material absorb water. Remove the jacket from the tub and wring out excess water. Pull the leather around the zippers to stretch it a bit and keep it from becoming “wavy”. Lay the jacket on a towel and dry for two days. Check the jacket every 2-3 hours and replace the towel with a clean, dry towel when needed.

Shrinking a leather jacket in a washing machine

To shrink a leather jacket in a washing machine, wash the jacket on regular cycle with cold water. Wash the jacket alone and do not add detergent. Remove the jacket from the wash and wring out excess water. Pull the leather around the zippers to stretch the area and keep it from becoming “wavy”. Place the jacket in the dryer and run on medium heat. You may want to add a few dry towels to provide cushion and protect the leather from scratches and scuffs. While the jacket is drying, run an empty load through the washer (with soap) to remove any dye.

Shrinking a leather jacket with a bottle sprayer

A water sprayer bottle is the safest method to shrink a leather jacket. Zip the jacket up and spray with warm water. Avoid wetting the lining, cuffs, and waist. Spray just enough water to soak the leather but not enough to totally saturate it. Place the leather jacket in a pillow cover and dry in the dryer on the lowest possible setting. Check the jacket occasionally to make sure it’s not shrinking in an unexpected manner. If it is, remove the jacket from the dryer and let it dry naturally to reduce any additional shrinkage. When the jacket is fairly dry (not heavily soaked with water), remove from the dryer. Pull the leather around the zippers to stretch the area and prevent it from becoming “wavy”. Wear the leather jacket for a few hours. If necessary, repeat the process again. You may choose to avoid the dryer altogether and wear the jacket in the hot sun for a few hours for a truly custom fit.

Have a tailor alter the jacket

The ultimate fitted leather jacket requires a tailor. Use a tailor that specializes in leather alterations. In most cases, a leather tailor can alter the jacket to fit as you want.

Post shrinking

After shrinking the jacket, apply leather conditioner to the material. The leather will dry out so it must be conditioned immediately after shrinking.
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