How to Shrink a Leather Wallet Without Damaging It
A leather wallet is an accessory that looks classy no matter which outfit you pair it with. However, they can begin to stretch over time especially if you’ve placed more items in them than they have room to store.
This is because leather is a supple material that can adapt quickly to any strain and stress that it’s exposed to. Placing an excessive amount of cards, notes and coins can cause your leather wallet to stretch out permanently.
An overstretched wallet not only looks unattractive but can cause your items to fall out more easily. To prevent valuable cards or cash from falling out, we suggest that you revert your leather wallet to its original shape by shrinking it.
This process can help you restore your wallet’s initial shape and save you some money from buying a new one. The best way to shrink your leather wallet is by first removing its contents, preparing a bowl of lukewarm water to soak your wallet in, shaping it, leaving it to dry, and finally conditioning it for added protection.
In this guide, we share easy-to-follow instructions on how you can achieve this. We’ll also be sharing some creative tips, best practices, and answer some frequently asked questions on the shrinking process.
1. Remove the Contents of Your Leather Wallet
As a first step, you’ll need to remove all contents of the leather wallet. This is because you’ll need to gauge by how much you want to shrink it and you will also need to soak it in water. Removing all of the items beforehand will also prevent damaging them during this process.
Therefore, remove all contents, including coins, cards, notes, photos, and anything else that you keep in your leather wallet. Place them somewhere safe and decide on the essential items that you want to carry with you the next time.
If you’ve overstuffed your leather wallet, we suggest only keeping as much in it as needed, to avoid the risk of further damaging it in the future.
2. Prepare a Bowl of Lukewarm Water
Using water is one of the most effective ways to shrink leather since its fibers loosen up when they are exposed to warm water and bind together tightly after drying. Take note that you shouldn’t do this regularly.
While water is a great way to shrink leather, overdoing it will cause water damage, which can prove to be problematic. Start by taking a medium-sized bowl and adding lukewarm water to it – anything between 100 and 110 °F (36.5 and 40.5 °C) will work well.
If you live in an environment where the room temperature is well below this, then take note that you’ll need to act a little faster so that the water doesn’t cool off too much.
Additional Tip: If you’re doing this on a table, place a towel underneath the bowl. This ensures that the water won’t drip onto your table when removing your leather wallet.
3. Soak Your Leather Wallet
After preparing the bowl of lukewarm water, place your leather wallet into it, so that it’s fully submerged. You do not need to open it to soak it from the inside but make sure that it’s fully submerged.
If parts of your leather wallet stick out, you can use any type of object to push it beneath the surface. This will allow the water will permeate into the leather through its pores and spread throughout the fiber structure. As the fibers begin to loosen up, your leather becomes more malleable – more on this later!
Leave the leather wallet in the bowl for around 8 to 10 minutes so that it can begin absorbing the lukewarm water. If you’re unsure how long your leather wallet should be exposed to water, then check out our elaborated answer.
If your wallet is large, you should soak it for a couple of minutes longer. Take note that you won’t need to flip or rotate your wallet while it’s soaking. Also ensure that you don’t over-soak the wallet, as this can cause it to stiffen, making it hard to shape later on.
4. Shape Your Leather Wallet
After taking your leather wallet out of the water, move on to shaping it. Start by opening and reopening the wallet a couple of times. Then, use your hands to shape the pockets, card slots, and coin pouch using moderate pressure.
As leather becomes more malleable when it’s wet, it will retain its newly molded shape during the drying process. Make sure to press down any bulges or misshapen components of your leather wallet to achieve an even, natural, and slim look.
Don’t stretch, bend or apply too much pressure, as this can further misshape your leather wallet. The goal is to restore its original size by shrinking it slightly.
5. Let Your Leather Wallet Dry
You need to allow your leather wallet to dry completely before use since it is the most critical step of the process. Allowing it to dry, will ensure that it retains its shape from the previous step, as the fibers begin to harden.
The best way to dry your leather wallet is to keep it in a well-ventilated, dry, and cool area. Simply place it on a table near a window, on the patio, or a verandah. If you want to dry your wallet more quickly, you can use a hairdryer in a non-heated setting.
Extra Tip: Place any type of card into the card slots during the drying process (one card per slot). This allows a natural gap to form, making it easier to store credit, membership, or gym cards once your leather wallet has dried and is ready to be used. Remember to avoid overstuffing!
6. Use a Conditioner on Your Leather Wallet
After your leather wallet has dried completely, you should conclude this process by applying a leather conditioner. A leather conditioner can prevent your wallet from losing its original polished texture.
We find the Bick 4 Leather Conditioner to be the most effective leather conditioner for small leather objects such as wallets. Our results show that it can keep your leather wallet soft and supple while maintaining its original shine.
However, you may also use any other leather-friendly conditioner. It’s important not to skip this step because any form of water treatment will strip the leather of its natural oils. This can cause it to become dry and brittle, once the wallet has completely dried.
Conditioning your leather wallet is also commonly known as dressing your wallet. This is because conditioning is a vital regular maintenance step for leather items you use frequently.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve received several requests to add a section where we answer some of your questions about the process of reshaping your leather wallet by shrinking it. You can find a list of these questions and our answers below.
Should I Use a Washing Machine to Soak & Shrink My Leather Wallet?
No, we recommend against using a washing machine as there is a high chance that your leather wallet can get damaged, due to the turbulent water flow and pressure that it will be exposed to.
Instead, shrink it by using lukewarm water and shape your leather wallet by hand with moderate pressure.
Should I Use a Dryer to Shrink My Leather Wallet?
No, you should not use a dryer. Although using a dryer may sound like it makes sense, this will end up damaging your leather wallet. Using a dryer will cause leather products to lose their original shape, texture, and color due to excessive heat.
This will cause the leather to become brittle, discolored, and soft. Moreover, it will also be more prone to over-shrinking, which is hard to reverse. Instead, let it dry naturally.
Does Cold Water Work for Shrinking Leather Wallets?
While cold water may work to some degree, it’s not as effective as lukewarm water. Leather fibers relax more easily when placed in warm water, making the shaping process more effective and easier.
Why Should I Condition My Leather Wallet after Shrinking & Shaping It?
When leather is exposed to water, it absorbs it due to its porous and absorbent qualities. However, as the water begins to dry over time, the essential oils present in the leather mix with the water and start to evaporate along with it.
This leaves the material dry and brittle. Since the oils keep leather supple, it is essential that you renourish your wallet with a leather-friendly conditioner so that it can retain its lustrous appearance.
How Long Do I Need To Soak My Leather Wallet For?
As a rule of thumb, the average time that you should soak your leather wallet in lukewarm water is about 8 to 10 minutes. However, larger or ticker leather wallets may need to soak for a little longer so that they can be more easily shaped.
Co-Founder, Researcher & Writer At Leatherskill
I’m a leather enthusiast who spends most of his free time crafting, researching, and writing about the many facets of this versatile material. Thanks for reading!