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Can You Wear Leather in the Rain – The Finish Matters

You’ve got just the right outfit picked out for a big trip — casual clothing, leather jacket, comfortable shoes — and now it’s raining. Do you ditch the leather jacket, or is it safe to wear? I did some research and will discuss why you can wear leather in the rain and how the finish matters.

Leather can be worn in the rain with most protected, patent, treated, synthetic, or chrome-tanned leathers. After the rain, leather should be air dried with little heat to prevent damaging the material. Leather sprays, conditioners, and waxes can be applied for leather water resistance.

Are you unsure if that leather jacket or shoes in your closet can withstand a day in the rain? Let’s explore which types of leather are safe in the rain.

Can You Wear Leather in the Rain?

The short answer is yes — one can wear leather in the rain. Leather treated with sprays, waxes, or oil, is chrome-tanned, or has been tanned in both chrome and vegetable tanning should fare just fine in the rain. Unfinished or vegetable tanned leather does not repel water like the other types and can be stained and ruined by rain.

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • What Happens to Leather in the Rain?
  • The Best Leather to Wear in the Rain
  • Does Rain Ruin Leather?
  • The Best Leather For a Rainy Day
  • How to Dry Leather After Wearing in the Rain
  • How To Protect Leather From the Rain
  • My Personal Research Into Wearing Leather in the Rain
  • Helpful Insights About Wearing Leather in the Rain
  • Key Takeaways
A Woman Wearing a Black Leather Jacket in the Rain - Can You Wear Leather in the Rain - Liberty Leather Goods
A Woman Wearing a Black Leather Jacket in the Rain

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

One myth about rain and leather is that rain ruins all of it. This is untrue because some forms of leather are protected through processing, tanning, or finishing, and methods are available to add water protection to leather.

Another myth is that all leather is impervious to moisture. This is also untrue because there’s always the potential for water damage, even with the most protected leathers. 

What Happens to Leather in the Rain?

When water comes in contact with unfinished or vegetable-tanned leather, it attracts oils and pulls them out of the fibers. Loss of natural leather oils contributes to the drying and aging of the leather, which can lead to cracking. The water is absorbed into the leather, moving the color pigments around and leaving water stains.

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Retained water in leather can lead to mold growth, which changes the leather’s color and doesn’t smell too good. Finished leathers, including chrome-tanned, patent, and synthetic, have more resistance to rain and moisture and don’t have the same problems. They may not be completely immune, but they are better protected.

Leather spray, conditioner, and wax can be applied to leather to make it more water-resistant.

The Best Leather to Wear in the Rain

Leather TypeDetails
Chrome tannedChromium salts remove water molecules from collagen, reduce pores, and create water resistance and durability.
PatentPolymer coating leaves a shiny, glossy feel like plastic that is water resistant and durable.
SyntheticMade from polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic that is water-resistant and durable
ProtectedLeather treated with a water-resistant spray, conditioner, or wax is more resistant to water.
The Best Leather for Rain

Does Rain Ruin Leather?

Leather with the right finish can withstand many things, including rain. What damages leather more often is treating it after it gets rained on. Too high heat, like a hair dryer on anything higher than low heat and a clothes dryer, will dry out natural oils in the leather, leading to cracking and shrinking.

Unfinished or vegetable tanned leather can be ruined by rain. The rain will draw out the natural oils as it evaporates, which dries out the leather and can lead to cracking. The color will also be affected by movement due to the excess moisture, leaving streaks and spots. Moisture that stays too long in leather can also cause water stains and mold if not dried properly.

The Best Leather For a Rainy Day

The best leather for a rainy day is one that is protected chemically or physically. This includes chrome-tanned leather, patent leather, and synthetic leather. If the leather is shiny, has a plastic feel on the outside, or makes water beads when water is dropped on it, a finish is in place, protecting the leather from moisture.

Future finishes include a plasma polymerization process with hexamethyldisiloxane (HMDSO) that researchers Silvestre et al. are studying for leather footwear. It has improved leather’s water resistance without affecting pigmentation, which is promising for footwear and rainy days.

How to Dry Leather After Wearing in the Rain

Air drying is the best method for drying leather after wearing it in the rain.

  1. Start by wiping off any excess water with a towel. 
  2. Place or hang the leather item in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. 
  3. Use a hair dryer on low heat at least 6 inches away from the leather to dry faster and avoid damage. 
  4. Once the leather is completely dry, apply some leather conditioner to moisturize and protect.

Watch this helpful video demonstrating how to care for wet leather.

How To Protect Leather From the Rain 

Not all leather is created the same, but all leather could use a little extra protection from the rain. Different products are available for protecting leather from water.

Leather Spray

One way of adding waterproofing to any leather jacket or accessory is with leather spray. This works by filling in the pores of the leather fabric, causing the water to form droplets that roll off rather than soak into the leather. Use leather spray monthly for average usage, and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Leather waterproofing spray can be used on various leather items, including:

  1. Shoes
  2. Boots
  3. Purses
  4. Jackets

Leather Conditioner

Leather conditioner can also waterproof leather items. The leather conditioner creates a barrier that protects the leather against water while simultaneously hydrating it and keeping it looking great. Applying the leather conditioner every few months will keep the leather in excellent condition with better water resistance.

Leather Wax

Leather wax for waterproofing includes beeswax and carnauba. It creates a barrier that protects leather from water and gives it a sheen, almost like patent leather. This keeps leather looking great and prevents water damage.

My Personal Research on Wearing Leather in the Rain

Which waterproofing materials are best, and what do they cost? I scoured the internet for leather waterproofing strategies based on unit price and have listed them here from most to least effective. Here is a table representing the pros and cons of the various leather waterproofing methods and the cost of each.

MethodCost per UnitProsCons
Leather spray$2–$13Easy to apply, most effectiveMust reapply monthly, may gum up zippers and buttons if not covered
Leather Wax$3–$27Easy to apply, creates a patent leather feel, reapplication not usually necessaryHarder to clean and condition leather once applied
Vaseline (not recommended)$1–$6Conditions, repels moisture, easy to applyMay leave a greasy feel, must reapply with every use, can damage leather
Leather conditioner$5–$12Conditions, preserves color, repels moisture, easy to applyMust reapply every few months
Waterproofing Leather Characteristics

Helpful Insights About Wearing Leather in the Rain

Does leather get ruined in the rain?

Some types of leather, like unfinished and vegetable-tanned leather, can be ruined in the rain. Due to their processing and protective finishes, chrome-tanned, patent, and faux leather are less likely to be ruined by rain. Leather can be protected from the rain with water-resistant spray, conditioner, or wax.

Can you wear leather when it’s raining?

Yes, leather can be worn when it’s raining. Water-resistant leather spray, conditioner, or wax can be applied to unfinished or vegetable-tanned leather to prevent water damage. With water-resistant products, chrome-tanned, patent, and faux leather can be further protected from moisture.

Can you wear a leather jacket in the rain?

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Yes, leather jackets can be worn in the rain, but vegetable-tanned or unfinished leather must be protected with water-resistant products to be worn in the rain. Leather spray, conditioner, or wax can be applied to any leather to protect it from moisture and damage.

How do you protect leather from rain?

Leather can be protected from rain by using water-resistant products. Applying leather spray, conditioner, or wax can provide a moisture barrier, prevent water damage, and protect leather when worn in the rain.

Key Takeaways

  1. Not all leathers and leather finishes are water resistant.
  2. Finished leathers, including chrome-tanned, patent, and synthetic leather, are safe to wear in the rain.
  3. Leather spray, conditioner, and wax can be applied to leather to make it more water-resistant.

In Closing

Leather items are an investment regardless of the product, and it’s always a good idea to know what type of finish they have to protect from rain. So yes, many leather items can be worn in the rain, and thankfully there are several methods for waterproofing leather for those rainy days. Leather never goes out of style, so it pays to protect them from moisture in the long run!

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