Does Dry Cleaning Leather Make It Shrink?

schöne frau mit jacke image by Jörg Jahn from

You may have spent weeks wearing your new leather jacket, fitting it just to your shape, only to send it to the cleaners and have it come back shrunken. Leather is a malleable fabric, able to stretch, shrink and relax. You may notice a small amount of shrinkage after picking your leather clothes up from the cleaners, or you might see one of these other changes, as well.


The dry cleaning process causes leather to dry up, and natural oils used in the tanning process are lost. This may cause a slight amount of shrinkage to your leather goods. Usually, this shrinkage is eased out with normal wear. A cleaner who specializes in leather and suede can also return some of the oils with a chemical that will help speed up the relaxing process.

Color Loss

Depending on how the color was applied to your leather garment, the dry cleaning process can change the hue of your clothing. Some dyes penetrate the leather fully and are more likely to be colorfast. Others are surface dyes, which may show color variation after cleaning, or surface dyes that are solvent soluble. This dying process is the most likely to result in excessive color loss. It is very difficult to return the color to a leather piece that has had excessive color loss.

Loss of Finish

If your leather piece has a special finish, such as a metallic or antiqued finish, dry cleaning may strip the finish from the garment. When this happens, a new finish must be applied to the garment. Since patterns cannot be exactly replicated from the original, you may notice a slight change in the color and feel of your leather.

Skin Defects and Wrinkles

Many leather skins have defects caused by lice, scars or wrinkles. Leather tanners and manufacturers use a combination of dyes, oils and/or pigments to mask the imperfections. During cleaning, the imperfections become noticeable as the masks clean away from the leather. A pale or darkened spot may appear where the mask was placed. Dry cleaning can also damage the weakened areas of leather around wrinkles, thinning the skin and, over time, possibly causing holes in the garment.