Leather pants can help you make an incredible fashion statement and look like one of your favorite rock stars. However, since these sleek pants are made of leather, which is a natural material, they can stretch over time with use.
If your stretched-out leather pants do not fit nicely anymore and you’re unwilling to let go of them, you should strongly consider shrinking them. Whether you decide to temporarily or permanently shrink your leather pants, this guide will help you achieve the desired results using the best practices.
The best and safest way to shrink leather pants is to soak them in warm water, select an appropriate drying method, and protect them using a good conditioning product. This guide will take you through all these steps in detail, so they also remain supple and smooth.
1. Soak Your Leather Pants in Warm Water
The first step to shrinking your leather pants is to soak them in warm or lukewarm water. Ensure the water’s temperature is not too hot since extremely hot water may damage the leather.
We recommend using warm water which is about 150°F (65°C), as this is the point where most tanned leather starts to shrink. When the warm water enters, it softens the leather fibers to subsequently set them up for restoration to their original size.
Leather generally has layers and internal fibers that slide apart under tension, making them stretch over time. Similarly, you can use shrinking techniques to somewhat restore the fiber layers to their original place and size.
Start by submerging your leather pants in a bathtub by laying them in as the most effective method. You will be able to then achieve a more even, universal shrinkage effect.
If you are looking at shrinking localized areas of your leather pants, you can use a water spray bottle to target specific areas of your leather pants that are sagging or over-stretched since this method is better for spot shrinking.
2. Select a Drying Method
Drying your leather pants after fully submerging them is one of the most critical steps in the process. This step is responsible for retaining the shape of your leather pants after shrinking them with warm water.
There are various ways you can dry your leather pants, and the next sections will detail the most effective and convenient ones. Take note that drying leather pants also carries a risk.
Therefore, we will be sharing 4 of the best methods to dry them, which have been ranked in order of effectiveness with the possible trade-off of damaging your leather pants.
Starting from the least effective method to the most effective one, this step requires you to proceed with caution since incorrect shrinking and more effective shrinking methods may damage your leather pants.
Method 1: Hairdryer to Shrink Leather Pants
The hairdryer method is not the most effective one we have tried, but it can be great for shrinking small or targeted areas. Since the hairdryer method is for spot shrinking, it would be best accompanied by using a water spray bottle to soak the leather pants.
Afterward, turn your hair dryer on medium or low heat and hover and wave it above the leather pants at about a distance of 3 to 4 inches (8 – 10 cm). The heat from the hairdryer will shrink and firm up the layers of the leather material.
Ensure to be careful with the hairdryer since excessive heat in a single region can cause the leather to become damaged or discolored. You may want to experiment with a lower heat setting if you’re trying this for the first time.
Method 2: Naturally Air Dry to Shrink Leather Pants
Another method is to naturally air dry your leather pants to shrink them. Once you take them out after having submerged them in the bathtub, you can leave them in a clean place on the patio to dry.
Ensure the place you choose does not get direct sunlight and is well-ventilated to dry the leather pants properly. This method is one of the safest methods of drying your pants since you do not risk damaging the leather with any heat.
Method 3: Sun Drying to Shrink Leather Pants
If you have leather pants made of genuine leather and want them to fit your exact body shape, this shrinking method will work wonders. For this method, you can either wear soaked leather pants or get them soaking wet as you are wearing them.
As you walk around in damp leather pants, the leather will shrink around your body and stay as it is as it dries. You can wear these damp leather pants outside in the sun for some time to dry them even quicker.
Naturally, this is not necessarily the most comfortable or practical way that we recommend. However, the personal discomfort that this method brings about can easily be alleviated if you have a waterproof interior lining that you can wear. Think about this lining as an interior raincoat of sorts.
Another approach that can help with this process would be to take a motorbike ride whilst wearing your wet leather pants. Needless to say, weather conditions must allow for you to do so safely.
Wet weather during a motorbike ride would simply be counterproductive; you would want to undertake this when the sky is clear and the sun is shining brightly. If you are able to use this method comfortably, this is probably the method that will yield the best results.
Not only do you minimize the possibilities of damage to your leather pants, but you are also shrinking them against your own body serving as a mold. The fitting that you will get from this method will be the most personalized possible.
Method 4: Dryer to Shrink Leather Pants
The most effective way of shrinking leather pants is to put them in a dryer after thoroughly soaking them. You can leave the leather pants in for 20 minutes in the dryer to shrink them.
Take note that the dryer’s considerably stronger heat shrinks the leather pants effectively, especially after having soaked them in warm water. While this is the most effective way to shrink your leather pants, it is also the method amongst those we listed that will most likely damage the leather itself.
Take special care to not use the highest heat setting or to leave your leather pants in the dryer any longer than necessary. We recommend that you go this route only if necessary, and you must be prepared for the trade-off that can happen.
3. Protect Your Leather Pants
Water and heat can be detrimental to leather if care is not taken to protect it. To mitigate and minimize any damage to your leather pants, you should rub beeswax on their exterior.
Beeswax protects the leather from getting water stains, waterproofs it, and even conditions the material to prevent wrinkling and cracking in the future. You can choose any leather-friendly beeswax product for your leather pants, but we recommend Cobbler’s Choice Co’s All-Natural Leather Cream.
This leather beeswax cream protects your leather pants against moisture, conditions them, and restores them to their original suppleness. You can apply a thin layer of cream on top after your leather pants have shrunk and dried.
Also, ensure that you store your leather pants in well-ventilated and dry closets after shrinking and conditioning them, especially if you live in environments with higher humidity levels.
Alternative Shrinking Solutions for Leather Pants
Although the methods mentioned above focus on shrinking leather pants (some harsher methods may, unfortunately, compromise the quality and condition of leather), the methods below are alternate options that you can consider to shrink your leather pants:
- Tailor – A good tailor can help you alter the measurements of your leather pants to match your current size. This is a much safer way without risking any damage to your leather pants. However, keep in mind that a tailor might find it difficult to tailor pants that have prints embellished on them without affecting the visuals of the prints.
- Leather Workshop – A leather workshop has trained leather workers experienced in shrinking, resizing, and tightening leather pants. Depending on how much shrinkage you are trying to achieve, leatherworkers will be likely in the know-how of the most effective method whilst minimizing chances for damage. As an added bonus, they will likely be able to offer advice for proper care moving forward.
- Buying a Smaller Size – If you want to avoid water and heat damage on your leather pants altogether, you should consider buying a tighter pair of leather pants. They will stretch over time and mold according to your body shape, which prevents the need for any shrinkage in the future.
You will need to take note of common reasons as to why leather pants expand and stretch in the first place, and look to avoid these conditions to prevent a need for shrinkage to get back a good fit.
Why Leather Pants Expand & Stretch
There is a variety of reasons why leather pants shrink. The tricky part with leather pants is that lower bodies are not very uniform in shape, often leading to stretched-out areas of your leather pants.
Secondly, everyone’s lower and upper leg proportions, as well as waist sizes are different. Unless you’re wearing tailored leather pants, there is a chance that any standard size may not fit you perfectly, which can lead to stretched-out areas.
When You Should Consider Shrinking Your leather pants
As leather is a natural and sensitive material, any form of stretching and shrinking can leave it brittle. Therefore, we always recommend that you use our guides with caution and that you carefully read and understand the methods we listed above.
We recommend shrinking leather pants that have simply stretched over time and that no longer fit the contour of your lower body. If you’re dealing with branded or expensive leather pants (or some that may have sentimental value), we suggest that you use a professional service.
Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief & Writer At Leatherskill
I’m a leather enthusiast turned artisan. Apart from crafting leather products, I’m passionate about writing in-depth guides and reviews on all things leather!