How to stretch leather

by Albert Varkki updated 08-03-2023

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how to stretch leather

Leather naturally stretches over time.

However, it’s not uncommon for people to want to speed up the process.

There are many processes you can follow whether you’re stretching out leather jackets, shoes or accessories.

Some of these processes include using hairdryers and heating up the leather with alcohol. Stretching spray can also be used.

By identifying the right tactic for you, you can start stretching your leather out in no time at all.

Can leather stretch?

hanging leather pieces

Leather is a natural material. It can stretch when it is used regularly even when no additional products are used to aid this process. Leather is known for its natural flexibility and pliability.

These attributes make leather soft and ensure stretching occurs over time. Shoes and clothes made from leather can feel tight when we first use them, and this can cause discomfort.

Thankfully, various methods can be used to stretch out leather so it’s comfortable for you to wear.

Should you do want to stretch goods made of leather like shoes or clothes yourself, it’s wise to try out a method with a sample to see if you get the results you require.

You should only practice with less valuable goods in order to avoid ruining more expensive ones.

How much can leather be stretched?

Leather can be stretched, but there are limits.

Shoes can normally be stretched up to half of their initial size.

There are no fixed limits – but the quality of the leather in question will play a big role in determining its stretch capabilities.

It’s also vital to note that the leather will stretch but the seams won’t. If you attempt to stretch leather beyond what its seams can cope with, you could risk ruining your garments or footwear. Leather won’t stretch continuously. Each fabric has a limit of flexibility.

5 Methods to Stretch Leather

It’s important to have your leather stretched by experienced professionals if you can. However, there are methods you can experiment with if it’s not possible to get external help or if you’re confident you can do it yourself. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular methods for stretching leather right now.

Method A: Rubbing alcohol

using rubbing alcohol on leather

If you want to stretch leather with alcohol and water, you can mix one part of rubbing alcohol with three parts water.

Mix these in a spray bottle and shake it well. You can then spray the solution on any parts of the leather product you want to stretch.

Don’t submerge the leather products completely within the alcohol solution. Just aim to moisten it. Once the product or part of the product is moist enough, you can begin expanding it with your hands from the areas you wish to stretch your leather.

If you want to stretch a product like a leather jacket, put the jacket on and attempt to stretch and bend the areas you want to be stretched.

Keep wearing the leather until the parts where you applied the mix have completely dried. If you’re spraying leather shoes, spray your alcohol mixture on them. You can further the stretching process by wearing thick socks with your shoes.

Method B – Ice

leather bag inside plastic bag

Most people are aware that water freezes when it contracts. It then expands when the ice thaws out. This property of water can also help us to expand leather.

If you want to use this method, the first thing you need to do is to put your leather items into a secure plastic bag.

The bag then needs to be sealed shut. You can also try vacuum sealing the bag to make it extra secure. The bag can then be added to a larger freezer bag. Fill the bag with water before you zip it up.

You can then keep the bag inside a freezer for a couple of hours until it freezes entirely.

Once this time has elapsed, you can take the bag out and let it thaw. The contraction and expansion associated with this process will allow natural stretching.

The process can be repeated several times until you get the results that you desire.

Do take care when following this method as your leather item could end up filled with water and therefore ruined.

Method C – Heat

One advantage of using heat is that it can open up the leather pores and cause the material to soften.

It’s possible to use a hairdryer and blow it on the leather item several inches away before it warms and softens up. To get the best results, try heating the areas evenly.

You can then switch the hairdryer off and place it on the leather product. Make sure you’re wearing thick clothes before you place the leather item on them. Don’t heat the product too much as this can cause burning.

You can stretch leather items whilst you are wearing them by bending and expanding the areas that you wish to stretch out.

If you’re stretching shoes, wear thick socks. You can then put your shoes on and attempt to move your feet inside them, so the leather is stretched permanently.

Method D – Weight

hanging leather bag

This method is very simple. All you need is a stable source like a metal bar which you can suspend above from the ground.

You can then attach one side of the leather item to the stable source and leave the other end hanging to a heavyweight item or just bags full of rocks.

Ensure you’re using the right weight for the strength of your leather item. Leave your leather item hanging like this for a couple of hours and make checks every ten minutes or so to prevent sudden tearing or breaking.

Once you have the results that you need, you can remove the weights. This option is particularly suitable for products such as leather belts and straps.

Method E - Professional Products

Leather stretching spray

If none of the methods outlined above are suitable for your leather goods, you can opt for stretching sprays which are specifically designed to stretch and loosen up your leather.

Various stretching sprays are available both online and offline.

Apply a leather stretching spray directly to your leather clothing or footwear to ensure the leather is stretchy and soft. You can then put the leather item on and continue wearing it to make sure it stretches effectively.

Maybe you’ve applied the spray to a non-clothing item? If so, you’ll have to hand the leather and put a heavyweight item on the other side to stretch the material.

Leather conditioners

von baer premium leather cream

Leather conditioners are easy to get hold of online and offline. Conditioners enable you to stretch leather both safely and easily.

These products soften the leather and help you to care for it at the same time. These conditioners are particularly suitable for leather furniture items like chairs and sofas. They are also ideal for shoes and clothes.

When you’re using the leather conditioner, apply it to your goods generously and allow it to absorb in the leather. You then need to put the shoes over thick socks. Move your feet inside so the shoes or clothes can be stretched.

If you’re stretching a smaller leather accessory such as a wallet or purse, you can add a conditioner to it and fill it full of paper to ensure it retains its stretch and shape.

We recommend the Premium Leather Cream from Von Baer.

How to use a shoe stretcher

leather shoe being stretched

There are various professional shoe stretching solutions available which will stretch your shoes in the right spots, so they are more comfortable to wear.

Maybe you don’t want to carry out this work yourself?

If so, you can take the shoes to professionals who have access to shoe-stretching machines and can stretch your leather boots or shoes effectively.

How to stretch the shoulder straps of a leather bag

If you have bought a leather shoulder bag and have found that the shoulder straps are too short for your requirements? If so, you can opt for one of the methods outlined below to stretch the straps.

Weigh the straps down

You can add one end of the shoulder straps to some tough support and the other end to a heavyweight item like a brick, a heavy book, or a bag of rocks. Allow it to hang for a couple of hours so the straps become longer. Make sure you’re not using excessive weight. You may ruin your bag if you add more weight than your straps can take.

Warm the leather straps

Another step that you can take is to warm your leather straps. Add warm water to a basin and submerge your straps in the water. Take the bag out and attempt to stretch it with your hands. You can also hang it with a heavy item. When your leather straps dry, you can treat them with a quality leather conditioner. This will prevent them from becoming dry and stiff.

Use alcohol and water

Mix one part alcohol with three-part water in a bottle before shaking it well. Add a generous amount of this spray to the straps and stretch them with your hands. Alternatively, you can hang them with a reasonably heavy item. When you get the results that you need, allow the straps to dry out and treat them with a quality conditioner.

This will enable you to retain the stretch and shape of the straps.

Related leather articles:

Can I stretch genuine leather?

Yes, you can stretch genuine leather. In fact, the leather will stretch itself over time when you wear it. You can speed this process up by using heat, water or one of the many products that have specifically been designed for this purpose. Various leather stretching sprays are available that will make your leather product softer and stretchier. Shoe stretchers are also available that will help you achieve the desired results. The right outcome can even be achieved with a leather conditioner.

Related articles:

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Leather not only looks great but is highly regarded for its flexibility as well as its pliability.

Leather products stretch and become increasingly comfortable with time. If you don’t want to wait for your leather goods to become stretchier, there are many methods you can opt for to get the results you want.

Stretching leather at home by yourself may be very straightforward, but you do face the risk of ruining valuable leather products due to water, heat, and weight. Many leather products are both expensive and luxurious.

This is why it tends to be better to consult the professionals rather than carrying out this work yourself.

Browse all leather pages here.

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Author: Albert Varkki

Albert Varkki is the co-founder of Von Baer. He understands leather products as a consumer, supplier, and a manufacturer, helping you with the inside knowledge you need, to choose the perfect leather product for you.

We always aim to have the highest editorial standards, and only publish accurate information on our website.

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