By Cemerle from Memphis, TN
Hot is the worst, but any water can shrink leather if it's dried to fast. Like for example, if you put wet leather in the sun to dry, or if you used a blow dryer, the heat could make it shrink. This is one reason why they put newly tanned leather tightly laced to board to cure. In the old days when people wanted to break in their leather boots, they'd sometimes soak them in water then wear them until they were almost dry. This way they would conform to the shape of their feet. But I wouldn't recommend this!
But the answer is, use cold to lukewarm water (never hot!) & It's best to let the leather dry slowly & at room temperature. After washing your leather use a leather conditioner to help re-soften & re-condition the leather again.
Also: You will often hear that mink-oil is bad for leather, but it's not actually bad for the leather, what happens is, the mink oil will more quickly break down the cotton thread (at the seams) that is used to sew the leather together.
According to some other forums, leather will reshape itself when it is wet (see forum link below). One woman mentions her husband and other people soaking in a hot bath and then walking around the rest of the day in the wet leather waiting for it to dry and reshape to their bodies.
I think it's probably a bad idea to wash in a washing machine since the leather would probably wrinkle and reshape in a bad way.
It's not clear that it would actually shrink much, but probably mostly reshape, so if it's already too big I'm not sure if it will reshape or shrink enough to fit you the way you want it to. You could try it, but it might reshape in a way that isn't good. Especially if it's too big, it might reshape in wrinkles and a droopy way.
If it's your last resort you could try it, but be aware it might not do what you want it to.
Source(s): http://community.discoverychannel.co.uk/ Good luck.
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