How to Shrink a Leather Wallet (Safely!) – Our 5 Step Guide

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Wondering How To Shrink a Leather Wallet? 

It can happen to even the highest quality wallets eventually.

If you’ve ended up on this page then you’re probably the victim of a wallet that’s stretched out to the point that your cards have begun to fall out. We can also guarantee you that it no longer holds the original shape it had when you first bought it.

Well good news – it is possible. You can tighten and shrink a leather wallet few degrees if it gets too stretched out and misshapen.

wet leather - how to shrink a leather wallet

Why Would You Need To Do This?

Here’s the reality.

The reason that your wallet is all bent out of shape is because you cram too much stuff in there.  You see, that’s the thing about leather, it only stretches one way — out.  We’ve always encouraged our readers to carry as minimally as possible. 

Things like removing gym membership cards, grocery reward cards and even health insurance cards can really go a long way in helping to minimize the damaging effects on your wallet (and also your back).

overfull wallet

How to Shrink a Leather Wallet

Here’s the five steps we’ll be covering:

  1. Remove Everything
  2. Soak the Wallet
  3. Shape the Wallet
  4. Dry the Wallet (carefully!)
  5. Condition the Wallet

Before you start though, there’s a few things you’ll need:

Things You’ll Need

  • Your stretched-out wallet (duh)
  • A small bowl filled with lukewarm water
  • Hairdryer (optional)
  • Leather conditioner/softener — This is also optional, but you could end up with a rough/cracked wallet if you don’t use it. A lot of this depends on the quality of leather your wallet is made of as well. 
Chamberlain's Leather Milk
For leather conditioners, choose a natural, colorless product for best results. We really like this Leather Milk conditioner from Chamberlain.

Remove Everything

You’ll want to start this process by taking everything out of your wallet.  Now is a great time to think about what you really need to carry (what’s in your wallet, anyway?).  

See Also:  Ekster Wallet Ultimate Review 2024 [Read Before You Buy!]

Don’t spend all this time working on your wallet to bring it back to life – only to stuff it full again.  This process works quite well, but it’s not something that you want to do over and over again – eventually, you’ll be out of luck.

Soak the Wallet

Grab the bowl of lukewarm water and soak your wallet for 10-15 minutes. 

I know it seems counter intuitive to get your wallet wet, but you need to soften the leather at a cellular level for the shrinking to work well.  Don’t go overboard and forget about your wallet for an hour though or you might not be able to save it.

Shape the Wallet

This is a step that’s often overlooked, but it’s super important when salvaging a wallet that’s stretched out too much.  Take some time to actually re-shape the wallet. 

Don’t take it out of the water and just forget about it or let it dry for 24 hours without attending to it.  We’ll go into that more in the steps below, but a few things you can do are to open and close the wallet a few times to loosen it up. 

With the wallet closed, use your hands to press it together and work it around a bit as well.

  • We like to place one card on either side of the wallet to help it maintain its shape when the drying process begins
  • DO NOT place all of the items back in your wallet, or even place a single card in EVERY card pocket.  You only want to use one card to simply give the drying wallet a little guide as it shrinks

Dry the Wallet (Carefully!)

The wallet will dry on its own.  That said, you can help it out, but you don’t want to speed up this process too much.  We usually recommend one of two options at this point:

  1. Set the wallet near a sunlit window
  2. Set the wallet on a FLAT surface in the laundry room while the dryer is going
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After the wallet has been drying for about an hour, grab some of the leather conditioner and rub it in to the wallet and reshape it again. 

You want to use the leather conditioner sparingly at this point, because using too much will lessen the “shrink factor”.  We like to soften the leather at this point to minimize any rough spots or cracking that might occur.

* One thing you don’t want to do is set the wallet outside in the direct sunlight. Doing this, you are almost guaranteed to crack the leather on your wallet.

Hair Dryer for how to shrink a leather wallet
Some people like to use a hairdryer for this

We actually don’t recommend this. But – if you do decide to use a hairdryer – just make sure it’s on the coolest setting and you only use it to help speed up the drying a bit.  Don’t over-dry it with the hairdryer or guess what?  Cracking leather!

Condition the Wallet Again

After 12 hours or so, grab the wallet again and condition more liberally this time.  We like to let the conditioner soak in for another 6-8 hours before filling the wallet with cards.

How to Shrink a Leather Wallet – Wrap Up

And that’s a wrap.

If you’ve followed these steps carefully (and not rushed anything) your wallet should have shrunk back a little closer to its original shape and consistency.

This approach won’t achieve miracles, but it can help bring your favorite wallet back to life. And now for the most important thing:

Don’t Let it Stretch Out Again!

This isn’t something you’re going to be able to do time after time. Leather won’t respond to that well at all. If you’ve managed to salvage a wallet you love the most important thing you can do is not to stretch it out again.

See Also:  Harber London Wallet Review 2024 [Bifold Card Wallet]

Remember, minimalist carry is more of a way of thinking.

You’ll definitely get used to carrying fewer cards.  The cool part is that pretty soon, you’ll realize you don’t even miss all the extra clutter.

Note: If you’re just looking to clean a leather wallet, rather than shrinking one, we wrote an article on that too, do check it out

If your wallet is just too far gone, we put together an awesome list of the best minimalist wallets on the market right now.


Can you put a leather wallet in the washing machine?

We really don’t recommend this! Our step-by-step guide is all about doing this slowly and carefully, respecting that leather is a natural product. The agitation inside a washing machine will almost certainly ruin a leather wallet.

Can you put a leather wallet in the dryer?

We really don’t recommend this either! As above, you may be able to speed up the drying process slightly with a hair dryer on its lowest setting, but you will ruin a wallet in a tumble dryer.

Is it safe to try to shrink a leather wallet?

Clearly it’s much better to never stretch out a wallet in the first place. You *should* be OK if you are careful and follow the steps above, but this sort of thing is never guaranteed. We would only do this if the wallet was otherwise going to need replacing.

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Last update on 2024-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API