Leather in the Freezer: Does It Work, or Is It Just a Myth?

Freezing clothes is a very old method of reducing or eliminating odors. Technically, freezing is a form of dry cleaning as well. However, will it work for leather? Is freezing even good for leather? In this article, we will explore what freezing will do to leather and whether you should do it or not.

Does freezing leather damage it?

Putting your leather items in the freezer can damage them because it loses their natural oils causing them to become brittle. The leather fibers when exposed to extreme freezing temperatures will start contracting causing them to harden and may potentially cause cracking if not treated afterward. However, the damage is still reversible so there’s no need to worry just yet.

Advantages and disadvantages

A lot of people try freezing their leather shoes or leather garments for various reasons. The most common is to stretch it out for a better fit. This can be effective if you follow the proper steps, but it also poses a risk of leather drying out. If you want to weigh out the pros and cons of freezing leather, continue reading.

Advantages of freezing leather:

Here are some of the most important benefits of putting your leather items in the freezer:

It can stretch it out

As we mentioned above, freezing your leather pair of shoes can help them stretch out a bit if they’re too tight on you. This also works on other types of leather items that can fit in your freezer, but generally, the idea is that the cold temperature changes the structure so you won’t have to spend money on professional shoe stretching services.

It prevents mildew and mold

If you want to prevent the growth of mold and mildew on leather, you can put them in the freezer especially if you live somewhere with a very humid climate. Just note that this process won’t kill any mold that’s already on the leather surface– it will only make it dormant. This is ideal if you can’t clean your leather jacket yet and you want to control the mold spread.

It helps kill bacteria and remove bad smells

Freezing your leather goods can help kill bacteria that cause an unpleasant odor. This is because a lot of bacteria thrive in warm and humid environments. Putting your leather in the freezer can essentially kill them without needing to use harsh chemicals.

Disadvantages of freezing leather:

Despite the benefits of freezing your leather, there are still downsides to this method. Here are some of the risks and disadvantages of freezing leather:

It could dry the leather

This is the most obvious and most common risk when it comes to freezing leather. Exposing the leather material to extreme cold for a long period of time can dry it out which will eventually cause cracks or tears on the surface. However, there are ways to prevent this from happening.

It can warp the leather material

Since you’re essentially storing the leather in extremely cold temperatures, it will cause the fibers to contract. This is great for stretching the material, but at the same time, it can also cause leather warping. Warped leather will look wonky and overall just not very classy-looking.

It can make your leather sticky

There are different components inside leather that can freeze easier than the other components. Fats and lipids inside the leather tend to get gooey instead of freeze solid like water. Leather is full of all sorts of oils that keep it soft. When leather freezes, some of these oils will stay sticky and may even seep out of the pores.

What temperature does leather freeze?

Leather freezes at about -20 degrees Fahrenheit or about -6 degrees Celsius. There is no exact point at which leather freezes as it can be made of a variety of components that can affect the freezing point of leather.

Some parts of the leather can freeze sooner than others. If the leather has high water content, it can freeze much sooner, but the oils will take a much lower temperature to freeze. However, below -20 degrees Fahrenheit, most if not all parts of the leather would have frozen by that point.

How to stretch leather shoes in the freezer

If your leather boots or leather shoes are too tight, you’ll need a fast and effective way to stretch them out. Putting them in the freezer allows the fibers to expand thus, making it easier for you to stretch them out after. Here’s how you can do it safely:

Things you will need:

  • Plastic bags
  • Water


  1. Get your plastic bags and fill them with water. Make sure it’s just the right size to fit inside your shoes.
  2. Place the plastic bags with water inside each of the shoes. Water expands as it freezes and when it does, it will also effectively start stretching out your leather shoes.
  3. Place it inside the freezer overnight or for 12 hours. You can check on them from time to time to gauge if it’s stretched enough to your size.

How long should I leave my shoes in the freezer?

If you’re going to be freezing your leather shoes, you need to make sure that you give it enough time to freeze. However, it will depend on your use case and why you’re freezing it.

Freezing for odors

If you’re freezing your leather shoes to get rid of bad odors, you don’t need to freeze them for too long. You just need to freeze it for long enough so that the odor-causing bacteria will die. To get rid of odors by freezing, you should keep your shoes in the freezer for about 5-6 hours.

Freezing for stretching

If you want to stretch your shoes with the water bag method above, you’ll need enough time to freeze that large amount of water in the bag. That would take about 12 hours or so to fully freeze unless you have a pretty powerful freezer.

If you’re not doing it with the water bag, you could wait around 6-8 hours until the fibers of the leather start to freeze up as well.


Freezing leather is an effective method if you want to stretch out your leather shoes or if you want to prevent bacterial and mold growth. Now that you know the risks when it comes to this, you can now confidently use this technique to have a more well-fitting leather garment.


What happens if leather cleaner or conditioner freezes?

If you happen to accidentally leave your leather cleaner or conditioner in the freezer, don’t worry. Freezing is only a physical reaction and not a chemical one, so if you immediately thaw the conditioner or leather cleaner, it should still be fine and return to its original state. The efficacy also won’t be affected during this process.

Does freezing leather shrink it?

Freezing leather won’t necessarily shrink it, but the leather fibers will still contract causing it to warp and stretch. A lot of people wear leather garments during the freezing winter and it doesn’t really cause them to shrink. If you want an easy way to shrink your leather jacket, try using a hair dryer on its lowest heat setting.

What happens if you freeze wet leather?

Frozen leather material can cause its shape to change the longer you leave it in the freezer. If the leather is wet and you decide to freeze it, it will dry out the material. However, this isn’t a good way to dry leather since it will only cause the material to become brittle as the natural oils are also removed during the freezing process.

Does leather crack in the cold?

Not necessarily. People wear leather gloves and a pair of boots in the cold and the material remains in great condition. If you store leather in the freezer for a long time, it will dry out and can crack over time. However, a normal cold climate won’t cause leather cracking as long as you apply a leather conditioner once every 6 months to keep it supple.


  • Luke

    With a 14-year journey dedicated to preserving and enhancing leather goods, his unwavering passion continues to fuel his expertise. When he's not immersed in the world of leather, you can find Luke enjoying exhilarating bicycle rides or exploring nature through invigorating hikes.

  • Ralf

    Ralf is a multifaceted creative enthusiast with a deep passion for various crafting hobbies, including sewing, pottery, and the captivating world of leathercraft.