Even the classiest wallets start to stretch out and become a little misshapen with time. Leather is a durable material, and while it’s hard to destroy, it stretches easily if too many credit cards get crammed into it!
Plus, it’s more likely that the card slots are wearing out faster than the rest of the wallet. If your credit and debit cards are tired of holding on for dear life, read on to find out how to shrink a leather wallet.
Keeping Your Wallet in Shape
A wallet is a constant companion to the jacket and jean pockets of people around the world. Over time, even the most durable leather items will wear and stretch out. While the outer shape of the wallet will likely be preserved for quite a while, the card pockets will show signs of wear first.
Stretching is good for muscles, but terrible for the card pockets in leather wallets. Despite the durable and long-lasting anatomy of leather goods, leather stretches significantly with use and age.
If the leather gets too stretchy and starts to resemble a giant’s credit card-sized pockets, it’s probably time to think about a repair or a replacement.
Replacement wallets can be expensive, especially if your wallet was a designer brand to begin with. Maybe you’re wondering if it’s possible to rehabilitate the leather without replacing the wallet.
It is possible to shrink a leather wallet, though it’s not a guaranteed fix and can give your wallet a permanent funky leather smell. Before we get into how to do this, it must be said that there is an inherent risk in attempting to change or manipulate the leather of your wallet.
If not performed correctly, there could be permanent damage to the integrity of your wallet. If you’re ready to get started and accept the risks, let’s start by looking at the steps and tools you will need.
How to shrink a leather wallet can be broken down into four major steps:
- Empty the wallet out
- Lukewarm water bath
- Allow adequate drying time
- Use a leather dressing salve
Before you get started, there are a few tools that will make the repair easier. You’ll need a bowl large enough to submerge the wallet in water, a hair dryer, and a leather dressing balm. Gather all your tools and make sure they’re readily accessible. Now, it’s time to get started!
Step 1: Make Sure the Wallet Is Empty
Unless you like bathing your money, business cards, grocery reward cards, and everything else in lukewarm water, you should make sure your wallet is empty! Remove everything from the wallet and set it aside for later.
Once the major items are out of your wallet, take the time to fully clean your wallet before continuing. Any dirt or grime will increase the chances of cracking later.
Step 2: Prepare the Bath
Take the bowl you’re going to use for your wallet triage and fill it with warm water. Yes, you’re going to submerge your leather wallet into the water! It sounds odd since leather and water mix as well as fire and ice, but keep reading. It will make sense soon and shouldn’t ruin that new leather smell if done right.
Depending on the size and condition of your wallet, you might need to use hot water instead of lukewarm. If you’re going to boil water, be sure not to make it too hot, and be careful not to burn yourself.
Fill the bowl with warm or hot water — there should be enough in the bowl to fully submerge the wallet. There should be no corners or points sticking out of the water, or the effectiveness of the repair will be compromised.
Don’t worry about opening the wallet if it’s a bifold or trifold — it will only make the wallet more difficult to fit into the bowl and won’t affect the outcome of the repair. Place the unopened and empty wallet into the hot water bath.
Once the wallet is fully submerged in water, all you’ll need to do for a little while is wait. Let the soaking process continue for at least a couple of minutes.
The length of time that the wallet soaks depends on how large and how damaged the wallet is. For a normal-sized wallet that isn’t sporting some above-average stretching, about 10 minutes should be the sweet spot.
Step 3: Dry! Dry! Dry!
Step 3 is the trickiest part of shrinking a leather wallet and where most of the damage can occur. The drying process is where the actual shrinkage takes hold, and where an unpleasant moldy odor can sink into your wallet if not dried properly.
Start by removing your wallet from the water bath once enough time has passed. Find a nice sunny spot and place the wallet on a table with enough space to fully unfurl.
This is where you should fully open your wallet up. If even a little water lingers in a corner that isn’t exposed to a direct heat source, it can not only ruin the shrinkage but also create an environment for mold spores to grow and take hold.
Once your wallet is fully opened and ready to dry, grab your hair dryer and get ready to help speed the process along. If you live in a hot climate with enough direct sunlight, you can leave the wallet in the sunlight to dry naturally, but this is going to be a risky proposition for most.
Assuming you’re going to help dry it off by using a hair dryer, you need to be careful not to overheat and damage the leather. Set the hair dryer to the “low heat” setting and make sure you keep the nozzle of the dryer at least two to three feet away from the wallet itself.
Carefully use the hair dryer to help fully and completely dry out the wallet. Don’t be afraid to take a while with this step — it’s absolutely imperative to fully dry the wallet without overheating it. Avoid extreme heat while drying your wallet or it will crack and tatter.
Make sure all excess water is gone from the entire surface and from deep in the wallet before moving on to the next and final step.
Step 4: Apply the Leather Dressing
Once all excess water has been dried out, the time has finally come to finish shrinking the wallet. Take the last tool on your table, the leather dressing, and generously apply it all over the surface of your dried-out wallet.
It’s a good idea to apply this leather conditioner to healthy leather garments as well to keep them at their best, and it’s absolutely critical when you’re repairing a leather item. Leather conditioner comes in different forms but is usually made from a type of fat or oil.
Gently massage the leather conditioner into your wallet but don’t press too hard — remember your wallet is in a vulnerable state right now and can’t hold up to the normal wear and tear you usually put on it. If you massage the conditioner too roughly, it can cause cracks to form and weaken the wallet further.
It’s important to note that leather conditioners can be applied to all different types of leather, from full-grain leather to exotic crocodile leather. If your wallet rehabilitation is successful or you want to get the most life out of new leather accessories, make sure to routinely apply a little conditioner.
If ultimately your leather wallet does start to show significant cracking, our guide on how to repair cracked leather could help.
A Second Chance at Life
Hopefully, this guide has helped you bring your leather wallet back to fighting shape. Now that you know how to shrink a leather wallet, it’s important to take great preventative care of the wallet going forward. Even if the repair works, the leather will be less durable than it was originally and could wear quicker.
Don’t overstuff the card slots and consider putting less in them than you used to. Routinely apply a little leather conditioner to help prevent cracks, but be sure not to use as much as you did in step 4 of this guide. Use a lot for repairs, but just a little for maintenance.
Regardless of the type of leather that your wallet is made from, you should be able to use it to hold your cards once again. If you dried your favorite leather wallet out completely, it should still retain that pleasant leather scent as an added bonus.
To really get the most out of your newly shrunk wallet, a waterproofing solution can help to extend its life just a little longer. Now that you’ve gone through this guide, your favorite leather wallet should have many more months by your side!