Once upon a time, keeping leather in good condition was based on wanting to get the most mileage out of your bag, jacket or shoes for as long as possible.
Now with the onset of La Niña and regular downpours, wondering is leather water resistant? Or is leather waterproof, and if not, how can we make sure it is? has become vital.
Aside from learning the basics about leather and just how water resistant it is, it’s important to know how to care for it if it becomes water damaged.
Learning how to get water stains off leather, helping it dry naturally without cracking and safeguarding leather before and after rain is essential if you’re still wanting a decent run out of your leather staples.
For more on if leather is waterproof and how to protect leather goods read our Apostl Q&A guide below.
How To Safeguard Your Leather
We’ve got your common Q&As surrounding leather water stains, damage and shrinkage sorted.
Is leather waterproof?
Yes and no. Genuine leather, such as sustainable cows hyde, will naturally have some resistance to water but due to its permeable nature, it can never be 100 per cent waterproof.
The more excess water soaks into the leather, without being treated or tended to quickly the more likely it will damage or stain the leather.
What happens if leather gets wet?The best thing you can do for your leather after getting caught in the drain or an accidental spill is to dab it with a dry towel and allow it to air dry by a window or in a sunlit part of the house.
Do not use artificial heat on it, such as a hair dryer or heater to speed up the process. It might sound counterintuitive but heating up wet leather with intense heat can actually worsen the leather, as just like any other skin, it will leave it dry and cracked and can often shrink the material.
If it’s a leather bag, you also can stuff newspaper or tissue paper as an alternative to absorbing the moisture from the inside while also allowing the bag to retain its shape.
Does leather shrink in water?
We touched on how applying heat can shrink leather but in reverse can water do the same? The answer is yes but not usually from a drop of rain alone.When it comes to leather shrinking in size, often it’s due to human erro or intentional effort, not from walking down the street without an umbrella.
In the case there’s been an accident, here’s a scenario where you need to be careful.
It’s what you do after water has landed on the leather that will influence its shape and integrity.
Let’s say on the way from work walking home your shoes get drenched in the rain. You know you need to wear the same shoes tomorrow and because it's Winter it will be tough to dry them quickly.
Not thinking much of it, you grab the hair dryer/heater/dryer to quicken the process, no big deal right? Wrong. This is a classic example where shrinkage can often occur - be it a leather jacket, leather bag or leather wallet. When in doubt, air dry, always.
On the other hand, let’s say your shoes are too big. This is the exception where, for those wondering, ‘does leather shrink in water?’ then yes it can and you can help them shrink to your advantage. People have been said to soak their shoes in hot water then dry them intentionally to make loose shoes fit true to size.
We say take this tip at your own risk.
How to get water stains off leather?
The short answer…with delicate care. The moment water appears on leather you want to do your best to gently remove it and dry the affected leather area.Here are a few tips we recommend to keep leather stain-free, dry and safe.
- Dab a dry cloth onto the affected area to remove excess water and then air dry.
- Dampen a soft cloth with room temperature water, make sure its rung out (no excess water ), then circle the cloth from the centre of the stain outward to smooth out the stain.
- Apply a leather stain remover or conditioner, starting from the inside of the stain and circulating out.
- Soak up excess water and moisture with tissue paper, towels or newspapers. This is particularly good for leather bags or leather handbags as it can uphold the integrity and structure / shape of the bag too.
What do I do to protect leather?
The moment you invest in leather, think about longevity. Like any other item you love, you want to preserve it and ensure it’s protected for as long as possible.In the case of leather this looks like storing it away safely, minimizing exposure to elements especially water and waterproofing and conditioning early on and regularly in time.
Here are some other tips we recommend:
Handle with care - always ensure hands are washed and dry before touching your leather jacket, leather bag, leather wallet. Oil and grease stains are just as likely to transfer from hands as water is to drop from the sky, so scrub up first before handling.
Guard your goods - buy and apply a leather waterproof product like Scotch Guard, the same day you buy your leather goods. If you don’t do it then, you likely never will. Think ahead to avoid risk.
- Hydrate your leather like you hydrate your hair - Once or twice a year, cleanse leather goods of dirt or dust with a soft cloth wipe then apply a leather conditioner to hydrate.
Apply in a circular motion across the entire surface of the leather item and then wipe down with a slightly dampened cloth to avoid clogging the pores of the leather.
Yes, if you were wondering, can I clean leather with water? Yes in this case you can, but only with barely damp cloth. For those left wondering, does water ruin leather? No, not if it's being used as a solvent or method to soften the cloth and soak up excess conditioner.
For more tips on how to protect your leather goods, head to Apostl care guide page here.