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Any experiences with soaking and drying leather to slightly alter the size?

Ole K. Vik

One of the Regulars
Messages
286
I am considering doing a hot soak on one of my leather jackets to hopefully shrink it by maybe up to half a size. I also imagine it would bring out the grain some more and make the leather feel a bit thicker and coarser. Does anyone have any experience with this first hand? Any experience with how different leather react, for example deerskin, horsehide and cow hide? Does the shrinkage happen during the soak or more durig the drying process? Is the drying temperature important for the result? Hang dry or flat dry?Please enlighten me...
 

tmitchell59

I'll Lock Up
Messages
6,177
Location
Illinois
Yes, I've shrunk a jacket about a half size. Not hot water, just left it out in a rain storm for 24 hours. It is veg tanned horsehide.

Shrink to Fit like the old 501 Levis.

I do not recommend my method although it did shrink the jacket rather significantly.

Folks here have done controlled soakings with some success. I've never tried that.

Ever variable you mentioned is important, so be careful.
 

TooManyHatsOnlyOneHead

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,161
I've done multiple jackets, multiple ways. Kind of depends how much it needs to shrink. Half to full size is within reason, but the more aggressive you get, the more the odds of bad side effects.

The biggest issue is the zipper waves and possible sagging liner (depending on how close the liner is to the edge of the jacket).

If you want the safest route, soak down with a hose, very thorough. You want to make sure the whole jacket is wet through. Don't try spot shrinking. Hang in hot sun, zipper closed, flip sides every once in a while, etc. That should give you a half size.

If you need more, you got to get wet and stick in hot dryer. Try on every 10 minutes until it gets to where you want.

YMMV, but I've done it to at least 15 jackets no problems (other than the wavy zipper). Depending on how old/new the jacket is and how much heat you give it, you might want to hit with some conditioner after it's completely dry.

edit: PS not hot water. Might scold the finish. Just room temp, hose water or in the shower. Soak in bath tub or bucket. Just make sure water penetrates everywhere. Harder to do with a thick top coat. If it absorbs quickly, don't over do it.
 

Ole K. Vik

One of the Regulars
Messages
286
Yes, I've shrunk a jacket about a half size. Not hot water, just left it out in a rain storm for 24 hours. It is veg tanned horsehide.

Shrink to Fit like the old 501 Levis.

I do not recommend my method although it did shrink the jacket rather significantly.

Folks here have done controlled soakings with some success. I've never tried that.

Ever variable you mentioned is important, so be careful.
Interesting... So you just let it hang on a regular hanger to soak in the cold rain and then slowly dried it in the same position to shrink it a bit? Interested to know what your concern is since you don't recommend your method? Did it affect the leather in a negative way?
 

Ole K. Vik

One of the Regulars
Messages
286
I've done multiple jackets, multiple ways. Kind of depends how much it needs to shrink. Half to full size is within reason, but the more aggressive you get, the more the odds of bad side effects.

The biggest issue is the zipper waves and possible sagging liner (depending on how close the liner is to the edge of the jacket).

If you want the safest route, soak down with a hose, very thorough. You want to make sure the whole jacket is wet through. Don't try spot shrinking. Hang in hot sun, zipper closed, flip sides every once in a while, etc. That should give you a half size.

If you need more, you got to get wet and stick in hot dryer. Try on every 10 minutes until it gets to where you want.

YMMV, but I've done it to at least 15 jackets no problems (other than the wavy zipper). Depending on how old/new the jacket is and how much heat you give it, you might want to hit with some conditioner after it's completely dry.
Thanks! Very useful information! Have you done both horsehide and deerskin? I would think deerskin would sag a bit if left hanging wet? Since it is a softer leather, I mean. Would it be better to lay soft Leathers down to dry?
 

TooManyHatsOnlyOneHead

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,161
I haven't done deer skin. I have done horse hide many times.

You could put in a spin cycle to get out the excess water and also make sure the water has invaded every crevice LOL. That should lighten it up. Assuming it's not super thick, you'd be surprised how quickly it dries. With something lighter though, just try on every once in a while. The more fool proof way if you can bear it is wear it dry in the hot sun. Like the 501 example Terry gave.
 

Canuck Panda

Call Me a Cab
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2,433
The washing part - Cold water only. If you do no spin there will be more water and it will take longer to dry. But also no washing machine drum dimples. If you use drum spin then its best with two jackets to balance the drum, otherwise you get premature wear on your expensive washing machine. If your washing machine has the center agitator (top load), then don't use that for leather jacket or any delicates. Hand wash in sink. Always cold water.

The drying part - wire racks are your best friend. Room temperature. Can take up to two weeks if the leather is thick and you didn't use the spin cycle. You can pull the jacket into shape when wet, and if you want to stretch a few spots, this is the time to do it. Not all leather can be stretched. Sometimes they dry and return to original size. But sometimes wet stretch works. Condition the leather only when it is fully dry otherwise moisture gets trapped in there and rot.

The same principal applies to all delicate fabrics. I stopped paying the dry cleaner bills long ago. Cold water and room temp rack dry will not harm anything. Good luck.
 

Gr8Lakes

Familiar Face
Messages
54
Location
Mid-Michigan, USA
About six weeks ago I soaked a Lucky Brand leather jacket in warm water in the bath tub to try and shrink. It wasn’t an expensive jacket, so it was worth experimenting. I’m not sure if it’s made of very soft cowhide, or goat. I suspect goat because it has really pebbled grain, is super soft, and it’s kinda spongy and stretchy.

Filled tub with hot bath water, allowed to soak until water was cool. Then I put it in the dryer on low heat until jacket was damp. Then let it lie flat on an ironing board for a couple days. Jacket did shrink a bit, but I lost more arm length than I wanted. Overall, about half size smaller, but arms about a full size.

So shrinking can be a little inconsistent. But the jacket is still totally fine and wearable. Overall, I was pleased. Oh yeah, as ton pointed out, liner doesn't shrink.
IMG_20220308_151946423_HDR~2.jpg
 
Last edited:
Messages
15,294
Location
Chicago
Water itself is unlikely to shrink leather. Maybe veggie is more prone? Don’t have any veg tans myself. I’ve intentionally and unintentionally done both, leather and rough out. In my experience only heat applied to wet leather will cause it to shrink. It’s a wildly unpredictable experiment. In most cases the liner and certainly the zipper will not shrink. Odd proportions are the result. Tread with caution.

Soaking leather will certainly help it take your shape. I would avoid the atomic option of a heat source to dry. Ultimately, if it doesn’t fit, no amount of water will improve that significantly enough to be satisfactory.
Better to sell and rebuy with a better size based on what you know.
 

tmitchell59

I'll Lock Up
Messages
6,177
Location
Illinois
Interesting... So you just let it hang on a regular hanger to soak in the cold rain and then slowly dried it in the same position to shrink it a bit? Interested to know what your concern is since you don't recommend your method? Did it affect the leather in a negative way?

NO, mine was an accident-they do shrink-ignore me. good advice here
 

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