Is Leather Waterproof? Water-resistance of Different Types of Leather

Is Leather Waterproof? Water-resistance of Different Types of Leather

We’ll cover all the essential information about the various types of leather in this article, along with how well each type repels liquids.

Leather is one of the most durable, adaptable, and long-lasting materials available, as any enthusiast will attest. One important question, however, arises when you’re about to leave the house in a brand-new pair of suede brogues: Is leather waterproof?

Water is not thoroughly dissolved into the leather itself. Yes, it has some water resistance, but too much water will cause the leather to become wet – due to the material’s permeable nature – and as the leather dries it can become stiff and hard, losing that wonderful supple texture.

Let’s investigate the effects of water on leather as well as the water resistance of various leather types.

Is Leather Waterproof?

Definitions of “waterproof” and “water-resistant” are necessary before determining whether the leather is waterproof. Despite having two very different meanings, these two terms are frequently used interchangeably.

Although the material may be partially able to withstand water infiltration, it won’t be completely shielded from water damage. For instance, it can withstand brief exposure to water, such as splashes or a rain shower, but not prolonged exposure.

On the other hand, a material is treated to make it waterproof if it can be submerged in water without any problems or damage. It’s crucial to keep in mind that the majority of waterproofing solutions are only effective temporarily.

Even though leather has a certain degree of built-in water resistance, it doesn’t mix well with water. This is acceptable if it gets wet in small amounts (like light rain), but natural animal leather is porous, so it will never be completely waterproof.

Is Leather Waterproof? Water-resistance of Different Types of Leather

Leather’s permeable qualities cause it to become wet if it is exposed to too much water. The water evaporating causes the fibers to become dried out. This explains why leather eventually turns stiff and hard from water stains.

If the water isn’t dried out quickly enough, leather can also be vulnerable to rot because the lack of natural lubricants causes the fibers to weaken and become more easily separated. Dry-rotted leather appears cracked and occasionally tears because of these weakened fibers.

Water-resistance of Different Types of Leather

The truth is that leather’s level of water resistance varies depending on the type of leather, despite the fact that we have only discussed it generally up to this point. The particular treatment the leather receives can also have an impact.

The degree of water resistance of some popular leather types is shown below.

Is Synthetic Leather Waterproof?

Due to its low cost and lightweight, synthetic leather is very popular. But compared to genuine leather, it is of lower quality. Given the porous nature of this kind of leather, it is susceptible to damage from liquids. It needs to be waxed or conditioned for greater water resistance.

Is Suede Waterproof?

As you are probably aware, suede is a soft variety of leather made from the base of the skin. The velvet-like texture we are all familiar with and love is created by rubbing the fabric to soften the fibers. But suede leather is not waterproof and is incredibly delicate.

To avoid cracking, discoloration, and water damage, suede leather goods must be continuously conditioned and protected. Suede cannot under any circumstances be treated with leather wax because doing so will damage this delicate leather. Use an oil- and water-resistant spray conditioner as an alternative.

Is Leather Waterproof? Water-resistance of Different Types of Leather

Is Nubuck Waterproof?

Full-grain leather that has been buffed to a feel similar to suede but is more resilient is known as nubuck leather. Walking in the rain or snow won’t result in permanent harm because it has some water resistance. Nubuck leather must be treated with a protectant spray, wax, or conditioner if a higher level of water protection is required.

Is Full-grain Leather Waterproof?

Due to the fact that Full and Top Grain leathers are made from the toughest parts of the hide, they are the strongest and best quality of this group. They are less waterproof than the above, but they are still water-resistant.

Full-Grain leather is the best leather available, whereas Top Grain isn’t really top-tier. It has exceptional durability, and a lovely patina, and is generally the kind of leather that is most desired for luxury leather goods. On Full and Top Grain leathers, wax and conditioner can be applied.

Consequences of Wet Leather

Wet leather has a number of undesirable side effects, including odor and rot in addition to changes to the texture and appearance.

We all know that leather changes from being supple and soft to being brittle and stiff (and incredibly heavy) when it becomes wet. Water seeps through the material and binds with the natural oil molecules in the leather, causing this process to happen. To maintain its conditioning and moisturizing qualities, leather needs oil, just like human skin does.

You are thus left with a dried-out product as a result of the water eventually evaporating and carrying these oil molecules along with it. Leather rot, also known as dry rotting, begins as a result of the leather’s cracking and brittleness.

Is Leather Waterproof? Water-resistance of Different Types of Leather

While spills might not cause your leather goods to dry out, they could still leave behind unsightly stains and watermarks. Salt may occasionally be used in the tanning process of leather; if the material becomes wet, the internal salt may rise to the surface and leave behind salt stains.

Leather goods may take on a stale odor if they are exposed to excessive moisture or humidity. Take a briefcase made of leather that has been vegetable-tanned and has a rich, earthy aroma.

If, for example, it isn’t dried completely after being exposed to the rain on the way home or is kept in a damp closet, mildew, and mold can quickly develop. It will develop a musty and offensive odor instead of its distinctive scent.

Make Leather More Water Resistant

A variety of treatments are available on the market to help make your leather more water-resistant. The use of wax, such as Nikwax or Dubbin, is the most common of these treatments. As can be seen from the technique below, waxing is a generally easy process for most types of leather.

Waxing Method

  1. In order for the wax to work properly, the leather must be completely clean and free of any foreign objects or dirt.
  2. When waxing leather, a small amount should be added to a cloth rather than being applied directly to the leather. If you find the wax to be too hard, you should warm it up beforehand using something like a hair dryer because it’s crucial that the wax is malleable.
  3. You should do this as often as necessary.
  4. For roughly 30 to 60 minutes, the wax should be left to dry naturally. Avoid the temptation to heat the leather to hasten this process because doing so could lead to the leather cracking and being ruined.
  5. Use a dry, clean cloth to buff off the wax once it has fully dried.
Is Leather Waterproof? Water-resistance of Different Types of Leather

In addition to waxing, conditioning your leather is equally important to maintain the suppleness of your leather. The time to condition leather is now if you notice that it is hardening or becoming cracked. Not only will it restore the feel of your leather to new, but it will also aid in maintaining the leather’s waterproofness.

Similar to waxing, conditioning is easy. However, you should avoid going overboard with the conditioning because leather shouldn’t be made overly supple, especially for items like boots or bags where support is required.

Conditioning Method

  1. In contrast to waxing, conditioning leather is best done while the leather is still damp. For this reason, as the water evaporates off the leather, which is porous by nature, more of the conditioning treatment will be absorbed.
  2. Apply a small amount of conditioner to a cloth or your fingertips, then rub it into the leather, taking care to get the conditioner into all the crevices and folds. Any surplus should be taken away.
  3. It is best to let the leather air dry naturally at room temperature. However, bear in mind that only some leathers will respond to this method of conditioning and waxing.

If you have suede, for example, applying wax to the surface will ruin the suede. You will require a specialized spray in these circumstances.

These work by forming an imperceptible, oil- and water-repellent layer that protects your leather by preventing water from ever actually touching it. This is crucial for suede because it is less water-repellent than other types of leather. The degree of waterproofness varies among all leather types.

Conclusion: is Leather Waterproof?

Leather cannot be completely waterproof due to its permeable nature, especially as it ages and is not treated. The lifespan of your leather can be extended and its level of waterproofness can be improved, though, if the leather is treated in a particular way.

Follow our easy steps to achieve waterproof protection, whether you’re trying to shield delicate suede or sturdy full-grain leather.


Can Leather Boots Be Worn in the Rain?

Leather boots can be worn in the rain, though it is not advised. You can pre-treat leather to make it more water resistant, or you may not care if rain smudges appear on it. In any case, wet leather boots should be allowed to completely dry with shoe trees to avoid structural damage. Never wear suede or nubuck in rainy or humid conditions.

Does Leather Absorb Water?

Yes, over time, all leather will absorb water. While vegetable-tanned leather will quickly absorb moisture, some leathers with a surface, like chrome or oil-tanned leather, will take much longer.

Can Water Seep through Leather?

A little water won’t hurt leather at all, and most leather products have a protective layer that gives you enough time to clean up water spills before leather soaks it up. Leather is typically only stiffened by spills and small amounts of water when they do damage.

Will Leather Get Ruined in the Rain?

Rain, or any type of water, can damage the suppleness of leather. Untreated leather will become brittle and crack over time. Mold and fungus can develop on (or inside) your bag as a result of any moisture or water. The leather will turn discolored from the mold, leaving stains and an unpleasant odor.

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