How to Shrink or Soften Leather

Written by karen curinga
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How to Shrink or Soften Leather
Shrinking and softening can give new life to old leather. (Photos.com/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

You love the pair of leather shoes you got last Christmas. Unfortunately, they have stretched out and no longer fit like a glove. Or perhaps the perfect fitting leather trousers now bag in the seat. Fortunately, there are some options available to bring your leather items back into shape. Not only can leather be stretched, it can be shrunk. Whether shrinking or softening your leather item, using a leather conditioner as a final step is always recommended.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Spray bottle
  • Warm water
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soft cloth
  • Leather conditioner

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Instructions

    Shrink Leather

  1. 1

    Spray your shoes with clean, warm tap water until saturated.

  2. 2

    Set the leather shoes in the sun to dry, weather permitting. Both heat and water cause leather to shrink.

  3. 3

    Place a damp leather item in the dryer, if you cannot air-dry the item in the sun. Set the controls on low heat and tumble the item in the dryer for 10 minutes. Remove the item from the dryer and put it on to check the amount of shrinkage that has occurred. Continue drying the item a few more minutes if more shrinking is desired.

  4. 4

    Apply a commercial liquid or paste leather conditioner to the leather, following the manufacturer's package instructions. Work the conditioner into the leather, applying pressure in small, circular strokes. Let the conditioner dry.

  5. 5

    Wipe the leather item with a clean, dry cloth, removing any excess conditioner.

    Soften Leather

  1. 1

    Saturate the leather with warm water, either by soaking or spraying. Allow the leather to air-dry completely.

  2. 2

    Dip a soft cloth in rubbing alcohol and begin working it into the leather surface. Use a generous amount of alcohol, since it dries quickly and will not saturate the leather. Repeat this process two or three times, allowing the alcohol to dry between treatments.

  3. 3

    Apply a commercial liquid or paste leather conditioner to the leather, following the manufacturer's package instructions. Work the conditioner into the leather, applying pressure in small, circular strokes. Make sure to cover the entire item with the conditioner. Let the conditioner dry.

  4. 4

    Wipe the leather item with a clean, dry cloth, removing any excess conditioner.

Tips and warnings

  • Olive oil is a good alternative conditioner for leather. Leather tends to soak it up. Wipe olive oil on the item, working it into the leather. Let the leather sit overnight. Wipe the excess oil off with a soft, dry cloth.
  • Always treat your leather item with a leather conditioner after the shrinking process to bring back flexibility and to increase pliability, since leather can stiffen and sometimes crack.

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