What Happens To Leather When It Gets Wet & What Should You Do?

We've all been there, peering down at our beloved leather item and thinking it's all over but the sobbing - but with swift action, patience, and work, you can restore your favorite purse, jacket, or satchel to its former glory. 

Whether you were caught in an unexpected rainfall, were splashed by a passing automobile, or mistakenly laid your item down on a damp surface, you may avoid tragedy and put things right with the appropriate guidance.

Does leather shrink when it gets wet?

can you wash leather

Some people purposefully shrink their leather gear in order to make it fit better when wet. Yes, that does happen. Your leather jacket may shrink if it gets wet. A common misperception is that using a hairdryer or exposing your damp leather jacket to the sun will dry it. In fact, applying heat to moist leather can shrink it from a size medium to a size small. Keep your expensive premium leather products out of the water to avoid a possibly tragic catastrophe.

What effect does water have on leather?

Leather can become wet, and depending on the finish and treatment, you may be able to get away with it without needing to react. When leather is wet, water molecules bind to the oils in the leather and pull them out when the water evaporates. It also shifts the dyes about, causing blotches and streaks and damaging a smooth, even hue. As a result, the leather may get patchy and discolored, lose its suppleness, and become brittle... even broken. If the water does not evaporate quickly enough, the leather may begin to rot.

If your leather bag gets wet, here's what you should do:

So, whether you're coming out of a rain shower, standing in a dripping mess watching taillights fade into the distance, or picking up your beloved bag from the chair next to you only to see the pool of water on the seat, don't panic! The day – and your favorite leather item – may be saved with a few basic items and swift, determined action.

get leather wet

First and foremost, get your hands on:

  • a sponge and a dry cloth (or microfiber paper towel works)
  • a brush with a delicate bristle (a toothbrush can work)
  • a little amount of leather conditioner, cushioned hangers, and newspapers or other absorbent items

Smooth Vegetable-Tanned Leather is more prone to cracking.

Smooth leather is full-grained and vegetable-tanned and is manufactured from the strongest section of the animal skin. The outermost layer of the animal skin is therefore preserved, and it is frequently kept with its natural finish. This looks beautiful, but because it absorbs water more quickly, it is more vulnerable to harm. A little precaution before the spill is an excellent idea for this type of material. When an accident does occur, however, it is critical to dry the item — and do so correctly!

water on leather items


What is the best way to dry wet leather?

Cleaning your hands with soap and water is the first step. Natural oils on human hands are easily absorbed by leather, which can create further discoloration when the leather is moist. Then, carefully wipe away any extra water drips from the leather, both inside and out, taking care not to rub or scratch the leather's surface.

Some products are also better suited to the drying process in specific positions:

  • A wallet is dry in the closed state, therefore any hardness will result in it remaining closed rather than straining to flatten out and open. It's simple enough to open a stiff wallet, and the leather should soften with time and use.
  • A bag or purse should be stuffed with newspaper or similar absorbent material until it regains its original shape, then dried laying flat, depending on the shape of the bag. Sitting up, wider, chunkier bags with some architectural rigidity may dry faster.
  • If the item's bottom is moist, placing it on a very clean drying rack (for baked products) may aid with ventilation. If you don't mind some crossing patterns on the surface touching the drying rack, go ahead and do it.
  • Apply a leather conditioner to the leather once it is no longer wet but still moist. In this situation, higher quality is always preferable, and Leather Cream is an excellent choice for natural or vegetable-tanned leather products like Vachetta. These conditioners include oils that the leather will absorb thoroughly, replenishing oils that have evaporated with the water. Work the oil into the leather completely. Allow 8-10 hours for drying.

Dry water stains on tanned leather: how to remove them

As we promised before, if you didn't spot that water stain in time, or if you possess an item with water stains that have settled, we won't abandon you. There are still things you can do to enhance the state of your favorite possession.

Begin by cleaning the leather with a high-quality leather cleaner.

It should be alright but try it someplace on the item where a stain won't show (or matter) — inside the sleeve of a jacket, inside a handbag, or on the bottom of a huge bag, for example. If you're treating furniture, turn it over and inspect the underside, where the trim is folded.


Water stains on grained/patterned leathers and how to remove them 

Vegetable-tanned leathers aren't frequently grained or patterned. They are normally chrome-tanned and finished, then painted, and finally protected with a protective covering. The positive thing about all of these layers is that they provide superior water resistance and are less prone to discolor even if some water does get through. If you're not sure if your leather is vegetable-tanned or grained/chrome-tanned, look for terminology like "pebble-grain" or "Saffiano Leather" on the label; these are often grained leathers.

If the leather is still damp, don't use it.

If the texture of your chrome-tanned leather is still wet, you'll need to act quickly. To eliminate dirt and any natural oils from the surface of your skin, wash your hands with soap and water, then dry them.

Gently dab or blot the excess water off the item's surface with a cloth or colorfast sponge - do not rub, wipe, or scrape at this stage or you will likely cause further damage. Allow the leather to dry in a well-ventilated room away from direct sunshine until it is moist but not wet.


Bags and briefcases made of dry and wet leather

Your leather purse or briefcase will be spared a lot of harm if you follow a few simple measures with care. To keep the leather from wrinkling, place it on a table or similar surface. To preserve the form of the bag while absorbing wet, stuff it with crushed newspaper. Allow it to dry naturally in the air rather than rushing it with a drier, radiator, or sunlight.


How to keep leather from getting wet

Treating your leather products before an issue or injury happens is the best way to keep them looking wonderful. Although leather will never be completely waterproof, various treatments (sprays or lotions) can help push it in the right direction.

Leather conditioner should be applied to non-suede and non-nubuck products every six months or so. Rub some on using a clean cloth in a tight, circular motion, then wipe away the excess with a moist towel and let it dry. Here's how to do it:

  • Make sure the leather is clean since dirt might reduce the efficacy of the wax.
  • Apply a tiny amount of wax to a clean dry cloth (not the leather) and then to the leather.
  • If required, repeat the process. Allow for 30 to 60 minutes of drying time. Artificial heat should not be used to speed up the process since it might cause cracking.
  • Buff off the wax with a clean, dry towel after it has completely dried.
  • A wax will simply destroy the skin of suede and nubuck leather. Instead, a waterproofing spray should be applied to the leather. A synthetic spray will produce a waterproof barrier between any water and the faux/vegan leather.

How to Restore Leather – Step-by-Step Instructions

We've all walked into a puddle or gotten trapped in a rainstorm. It occurs all the time. The goal is to be calm and follow these professional suggestions for keeping your favorite leather in good condition. To begin, gather the following supplies: a dry cloth, a sponge or microfibre paper towel, a soft-bristle brush or toothbrush, a leather conditioner, cushioned hangers, and old newspaper or absorbent material.

Remember that speed is key when dealing with wet leather: if you discover water or liquid on your item, respond quickly before it dries. Read on for advice on how to clean leather that has already been discolored.

Apply a dab and let it dry

First, wash your hands since leather, especially bags, absorbs grease and oil readily. The next step is to allow it to air dry. Remove any liquid from the surface and within the material, allowing the soaked-in liquid to evaporate on its own. Wipe as little as possible since this will push the liquid deeper into the skin. The goal is to transform the leather from saturated to damp. 

To dry a damp leather wallet, follow these steps: It's best to dry it closed because if it hardens throughout the drying process, you don't want it to be open.


Apply a fairly thick application of high-quality leather conditioner, such as Carl Friedrik's Leather Cream, to wet leather, which works best on natural/vegetable-tanned leather-like Vachetta. Natural oils in a conditioner restore those lost when the water evaporates. Massage into the leather's surface and let it dry overnight.

Protect and buff

Buff the item's whole surface once it has dried. You may wish to use a water or stain repellent at this time to assist prevent further water exposure.


Suede's sensitivity makes it susceptible to water damage. This makes treatment and prevention more difficult: because a protective wax cannot be rubbed onto the surface, a spray is the best option.


Soak the water away using a dry cloth or microfibre paper towel, taking care not to rub or wipe the liquid into the leather. After you've soaked the suede, don't let it dry on its own; time is of importance. 


Brush the suede back and forth for a few minutes using a soft-bristle brush or a medium-bristle toothbrush. Brush the suede using a hairdryer set to low or cold heat while brushing back and forth, but only after you've blotted. The goal is to restore the suede's nap before it dries and hardens, which is when it's too late.


Apply a suede eraser to the whole suede upper with mild to medium pressure. This aids in the removal of debris as well as the lifting of the moistened suede's nap. Finish by brushing some more.


After the leather has been cleaned and dried, use a water and stain repellent to protect it.

Pre-treating your leather purse, wallet, gloves, or shoes to increase their water resistance makes sense. However, because leather is porous – especially aged leather – it will never be completely waterproof. The most you can expect is water resistance. Remember that if the leather is exposed to water on a regular basis, the general condition can quickly degrade.

Apply a leather conditioner to non-suede and non-nubuck purses and briefcases at least twice a year, employing a circular motion before wiping off with a slightly moist towel to avoid clogging the leather pores. Another alternative is beeswax lotion, which is a natural water-repellent remedy – but be sure to try it first on a tiny region.


Even though leather can survive tiny amounts of water, if your jacket has become soaked as a result of a storm, the first thing you should do is gently tap dry it with a piece of cloth. Allow it to air dry entirely at room temperature. You may also use the leather cleaner to remove any dust or dirt from the leather. Once the leather is totally dry, apply the leather conditioner with your hand or a dry piece of cloth. It will keep the leather from becoming stiff. Allow the conditioner to fully penetrate your leather jacket by hanging it for a few hours.

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