I ruined a leather coat by hand washing it. :( Can it be salvaged?

Last week, I found a beautiful long leather 70’s ladies’ coat at the thrift store. Dark green, a wide green sheepskin collar, a long leather “skirt” to my knees… I felt like a female Shaft in that coat.

But it did smell like, well, l thrift store. And I figured it had not been washed in the last twenty years. So I looked up Wikihow and saw that most leather coats should be washable. There was no longer a label in the coat with washing instructions, so I thought: what harm could some water do?

So I filled the bathtub with lukewarm water and a tiny bit of hand wash detergent. I sloshed the coat with a firm hand through the water and hung it over a high chair to dry.

Now I wish I hadn’t. The coat is ruined.

It has tears in the leather everywhere. Inch wide tears at the armpit seams and at the hem. It seems to have swollen up, tore its smooth leather shell, and shrunk back. The sleeves are now to narrow for my eight year old son. The lining is visible at the edges, as if the edges have curled up.

If anyone knows if this coat can still be salvaged, I would like to hear of such magic.

For everyone else, learn from my mistakes and be careful with washing awesome leather coats from thrift stores. :frowning:

**How to Restore Leather Clothing That Has Water Damage **

But this deals with water stains, not tears.

Got a picture? It’s hard to imagine a leather coat tearing from being dipped in water. Or shrinking the sleeves to a size to fit an 8 yr old!

Leather coats traditionally withstand water since, well, yknow, weather usually involves at least some water. (Imagine if you’d been wearing this coat in the rain? )

Was it a leather coat or suede? I’m dead curious what this coat looks like! Please, please post some photos!

That page also has a link to another page that gives advice on fixing cracked leather. It sounds like quite a process but apparently it is possible. It might be something you’d let a professional do, however, rather than trying it at home.

It sounds like the leather hadn’t been conditioned in 20 years.

I wonder if it’s a bonded leather rather than full/top grain type. The bonded stuff won’t hold up to getting soaked all the way to the backing, and can be scratched/cracked irreparably.

It’s likely permanently ruined - if the leather wasn’t conditioned, there’s no oils in it to resist water penetration, and the water will drive out a lot of the chromium salts, so you’re left with major shrinkage as you saw. There’s no undoing that while it’s still in coat form, I’m afraid. You can possibly recover individual leather pieces.

I’m with Mr Dibble, sadly enough.

At the very least, it sounds like it wasn’t conditioned at all, perhaps ever. It is also possible it was bonded leather, although if it was as old as it seems, perhaps less likely?

If it makes you feel any better, even if you hadn’t washed it, the first time you wore it and sweated on it, or wore it in the rain, it likely would have had the same result (in a much less drastic fashion), unless you had taken it to a leather specialist and gotten some extensive (and expensive) TLC for it.

I’m so sorry. Old leather can be such a huge disappointment.

That Wikihow surprises me. I’ve never heard of soaking leather much less putting it in a washing machine. It’s not like I know much about cleaning leather, or expect Wikihow to be reliable, but it seems immediately suspect.

Noting the responses above, if it’s well treated leather then what would be the point of submerging it in water at all instead of the surface cleaning techniques?

Damn. Female Shaft. * sigh *

Don’t worry, sister. You still got it, no matter what’s on the outside.

I’m sorry to hear about the coat. On Star Trek: TNG, Captain Picard once remarked:

Perhaps you could simulate the experience of the coat by being angry about its demise for a very long time.

I had to soak out cat pee once…

Really other than something really nasty stinky, or something very pigment-heavy that you find *immediately * and can flush it out, I can’t think of a good reason to ever wash leather.

Full picture:

. The coat has shrunk a third, that is why the lining pops out.
Detail showing tears

. My hand is shown for size comparison.

Did you apply heat at all? Too much heat and moisture will cause leather to shrivel, otherwise, just getting it wet shouldn’t make it shrink.

Is it possible this is imitation leather?

Linkies no workies - you sure that website is working? Or is my firewall overreacting again?

Links work for me. I think you’re probably dealing with bonded leather here, which is why this didn’t work. I seriously doubt you’ll be able to fix this. Too bad, that collar was awesome.

Yes, it’s done. From the pix, I’d guess that the cracks were near-cracks at stress points when you bought the coat.

You did gain something from it. You can use the experience to your advantage. You didn’t say what you paid, but in the future you can shrug off some other mistake by saying, “Ah well, I’ve spent $XX on dumber shit than this,” and get on with your life.

Yes, I’m chalking up 60 usd for a lesson learned. I think I’ll give it back to goodwill and let them cut it up for pieces.

My Mom HAD that damn coat, in a blue.

Nothing to add, just brought back a nice memory. :slight_smile: