Do Leather Gloves Shrink When Wet? – Here’s What Can Happen

Ever been caught in an unexpected rainstorm and worried about your leather gloves shrinking? You’re not alone.

It’s a common concern whether leather gloves shrink when wet. The answer is yes, leather gloves can shrink when exposed to moisture or get wet.

But don’t worry, there are ways to prevent and fix this. I remember my first experience with wet leather gloves, and the panic that set in as they started to feel tighter.

In this guide, I’m going deeper into the fascinating world of leather gloves and exploring how they respond to moisture.

I’ll discuss why they shrink, the factors that influence this process, and most importantly, how to care for them to avoid any mishaps.

By the end, you’ll know exactly how to keep your gloves looking and fitting perfectly, even after they get wet. So, let’s dive in and ensure your leather gloves stay in top shape!


Do leather gloves shrink when wet - an infographic

Do Leather Gloves Shrink When Wet?

Leather gloves can get a bit smaller and feel different when they get wet, but this doesn’t always mean they’ll stay that way forever. Whether they shrink a lot or just a little depends on the kind of leather and how you treat them when they’re wet.

Leather’s Reaction to Water

Understanding leather’s reaction to water can help you understand do leather gloves shrink when wet?

When leather comes into contact with water, it can undergo changes due to the absorption of moisture.

Leather fibers have a natural tendency to swell when wet, which can result in a temporary alteration in the glove’s size and shape. This is where the myth of leather gloves shrinking when wet originates.

However, it’s crucial to distinguish between the different types of leather and their reactions to water. Not all leather gloves will react in the same way, and the extent of any size change can vary significantly.

The Impact of Leather Type

The type of leather used in glove manufacturing plays a significant role in how gloves respond to water. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Full-Grain Leather: Full-grain leather, known for its durability and natural grain pattern, tends to be more resilient when exposed to moisture. While it may temporarily absorb water and feel stiffer when wet, it often returns to its original shape and size as it dries.
  2. Top-Grain Leather: Top-grain leather, while still of high quality, is generally more processed and may be more susceptible to moisture-induced changes. It can also become stiffer when wet, but with proper care and drying, it often regains its original fit.
  3. Nubuck and Suede: Nubuck and suede leather gloves, prized for their softness and texture, are typically more sensitive to water. They can become discolored and may lose their texture when wet, requiring extra care to restore their appearance.

Preventing and Addressing Shrinkage

While leather gloves can undergo temporary size and texture changes when exposed to water, there are steps you can take to prevent and address shrinkage:

Firstly, ensuring you choose the correct size of leather gloves initially minimizes the risk of significant shrinkage affecting the fit.

If your leather gloves do get wet, avoid using direct heat sources such as radiators or hairdryers, as excessive heat can worsen the damage. Instead, allow them to air dry naturally at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.

Applying a leather conditioner or cream after drying can help restore moisture and suppleness to the leather, preserving its quality and fit over time. This routine care ensures your leather gloves remain comfortable and durable.

    What Makes Leather Gloves Shrink?

    Leather gloves can shrink when exposed to water and heat. The combination of moisture and heat can cause the natural fibers in the leather to contract, resulting in a temporary size reduction.

    However, it’s important to note that this shrinkage is often not permanent, and the gloves can return to their original size and shape with proper care and drying.

    How Do You Wash Leather Gloves Without Shrinking Them?

    To wash leather gloves without causing significant shrinkage, start by spot cleaning any minor stains or dirt with a damp cloth or sponge, focusing on specific areas while avoiding saturating the entire glove.

    If necessary, use a mild, leather-specific soap or a gentle soap and water mixture applied sparingly with a soft cloth or sponge.

    Rinse the gloves thoroughly with a clean, damp cloth to remove any soap residue, avoiding submerging them in water.

    Pat them dry with a clean, dry cloth to remove excess moisture. Allow the gloves to air dry naturally at room temperature, away from direct heat sources or sunlight to prevent damage or shrinkage.

    Once completely dry, apply a leather conditioner or cream to restore moisture and suppleness, following the product’s instructions for optimal leather care.


    Can We Unshrink the Leather Gloves?

    Leather gloves that have experienced temporary shrinkage due to exposure to water and heat can often be restored to their original size and shape with proper care. To unshrink leather gloves, follow these steps:

    1. Rehydrate: Dampen the gloves with a clean, damp cloth or spray them lightly with water. Do not soak them.
    2. Stretch: Gently stretch the gloves while they are damp to their original size and shape. Be careful not to apply excessive force, as this can damage the leather.
    3. Air Dry: Allow the gloves to air dry at room temperature. As they dry, continue to gently stretch and shape them to the desired size.
    4. Condition: Once the gloves are completely dry, apply a leather conditioner or cream to restore moisture and suppleness.

    While this process can often help regain some of the lost size, it may not fully reverse the effects of shrinkage. Prevention through proper care and storage is the best way to maintain the original size and shape of leather gloves.


    Real leather can tolerate exposure to water to some extent, but it’s important to exercise caution to prevent any lasting damage.

    When leather gets wet, it may temporarily change in size, shape, or texture, but this is often not permanent.

    By following proper care techniques, such as spot cleaning, gentle washing with mild soap, and allowing the gloves to air dry at room temperature, you can minimize the risk of significant shrinkage.

    In cases where gloves do experience temporary shrinkage, they can often be gently stretched and rehydrated to regain their original size and shape. With the right care and attention, leather gloves can maintain their elegance, comfort, and functionality, ensuring they remain cherished accessories for years to come.

    James Chiles

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