How to Shrink Leather Shoes with Vinegar?

Have you ever had a perfectly great pair of leather shoes that over stretched with use? Perhaps you’ve experience purchasing leather footwear, but as you wear it, you realize that what you thought was the right size for your feet turned out to be slightly loose. These experiences can be frustrating, but there is a way to achieve a better fit. You can shrink your leather shoes with vinegar!

Produced from the fermentation of ethanol, vinegar is considered as a mild acid. It is a well-known ingredient used in cooking and sauces, and it makes a great cleaning agent that removes stubborn smears and stains. What most people don’t know is that vinegar also effectively shrinks leather.

Using Vinegar to Shrink Leather

Leather is one of the materials commonly used in making shoes. It is breathable, flexible and elastic. Many people prefer leather shoes for the durability, mildness and comfort that they offer to the feet. However, because of its malleable property, it can also stretch and shrink when exposed to certain substances and methods.

When you soak leather in vinegar, it contracts the tissues of the leather and dries it out causing it to shrink. This is a great method to use when your leather shoes are a bit loose and you want to make it smaller, so it can snugly fit your feet.

To do this, you will need the following materials:

  1. White vinegar (Apple cider vinegar may be used as an alternative)
  2. A pair of cotton socks
  3. A large ceramic or plastic bowl


First, pour the white vinegar into the bowl. Next, take the pair of cotton socks and soak it well in the vinegar. Then, put the socks inside the leather shoes. Do not wring the socks to squeeze the vinegar out of it. Just let it drip wet inside the shoes. Leave the wet socks for a couple of hours inside the shoes to allow the vinegar to soak inside the leather.

Lastly, take the socks out and dry the leather shoes under direct sunlight to shrink them more efficiently and dry them fast. If the weather is not favorable, you can use a blower to dry the shoes or place them in a warm location in your home.

Once fully dried, put on your shoes and check if it is the right fit. If you think that they are still a bit loose, you can repeat the procedure to shrink the leather more.

Important Things to Remember When Shrinking Leather Shoes

  1. Check the shoes you’ve put out in the sun every once in a while. When it is thoroughly dried, remove them right away. Over exposure to sunlight causes the leather to have cracks.
  2. If you need to blow dry your leather shoes, turn the blow dryer to the lowest temperature setting. Keep the dryer 6 inches away from the shoes while blow drying. Doing this ensures that you don’t burn or damage your leather shoes.
  3. Consider rubbing some leather conditioner on your leather shoes after shrinking them. This will help smoothen the leather, protect it from drying out and prevent cracks.

Related posts:

How to Darken Leather Shoes

Is Mink Oil Good for Leather Boots

Tips on How to Fix a Cut in Leather Boots

How To Keep Leather Boots From Cracking

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will Using Vinegar Damage My Leather Shoes?

Since vinegar is also a known cleaning agent, it is understandable that you worry that using vinegar may damage your leather shoes. Vinegar is a safe substance that won’t damage your leather shoes. It is best to use white vinegar- the one you use for cooking. Avoid also diluting the vinegar in water. Leather and water don’t go well together. Water makes the leather stiff, especially if your shoes have not been weather proofed.

  • Can I Use Vinegar to Clean Leather Shoes?

You can also use vinegar to clean patent leather and faux leather shoes. You can do this by dipping a cloth in a solution with one part water and one part vinegar. Carefully wipe off any dirt on the leather shoes with the cloth. Don’t worry about mixing vinegar with water when cleaning. Since you are not soaking the leather shoes in water, this will not cause any damage to the shoes.

  • Won’t My Leather Shoes Smell If I Use Vinegar?

Vinegar has a strong odor that may be unpleasant for some people. Your shoes will definitely smell like vinegar after soaking them, but the odor will quickly go away as you dry the shoes. Vinegar, in fact, is a good deodorizing ingredient. It can remove other unpleasant odors in your shoes.

By combining ½ cup of white vinegar, several drops of tea tree essential oil and ½ cup of water, you can make a natural deodorizing spray that can help you remove unpleasant odor in any type of shoes, not just leather. 

Simply spray the solution to a clean cloth and use it to wipe the shoe’s interior. Do not spray the exterior portion of your shoes, though. Air dry or sun dry it afterwards. With this, you can keep your shoes fresh and odor free.

  • Can I Use Water to Shrink My Leather Shoes?

You can use water to shrink leather shoes, but it is risky. Water and leather don’t really go hand in hand, but it doesn’t mean that water will right away damage the leather. Many leather shoes, especially patented leathers, are treated and conditioned to withstand water exposure. If you are uncertain whether your leather footwear had been treated, apply a leather protector solution first.

To shrink the leather shoes, soak it in a bucket of water for a few minutes only. Remove them and follow the drying procedure mentioned above. Don’t soak your shoes in water too long. This method can get your desired results, but based on experience, shrinking with vinegar produces the best shrinking results.

Final Thoughts

Leather is a very durable material and with proper care, your leather shoes can last for a very long time. Being flexible, leather may become soft and stretch over time, making your shoes a bit loose after continuous use. Wearing shoes that don’t snugly fit is uncomfortable.

Using vinegar to shrink your leather shoes can help you achieve the snug fit that your shoes use to have back when it was brand new. This won’t cause any damage to the leather and effectively removes the foul odor in your shoes as well.

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