Is Leather Waterproof?

Leather is a premium quality material used in tons of products. Its natural qualities give it a long-lasting and durable reputation that other materials can’t beat when it comes to the fashion industry. Aside from its ability to withstand years of wear and tear, leather is stylish in any sense of the word, but is it waterproof?

There are several different uses for this material, and many people think that its high price tag also means it can repel the heaviest of rainstorms, but is it true?

Let’s take a closer look at leather, what people use it for, its properties, and if it truly is considered waterproof.

Common Uses of Leather

Leather is extremely versatile. It’s used in many products because of its durability and endless style. Below, you will see a variety of applications where people often use leather.


Where would fashion be without leather? Leather skirts, pants, jackets, overcoats, raincoats, and more all remain popular regardless of what’s trending.


Leather adds a stylish look to footwear and also increases its comfort and durability.


That new car smell has a lot to do with the leather interior. Many consumers love their leather recliners, chairs, and couches.


We turn to leather for several types of gloves, whether sturdy and durable work gloves, fashionable winter gloves, or comfortable driving gloves.


A lot of suitcases, backpacks, satchels, wallets, and purse designs use leather. And there’s a good reason. Consumers can’t get enough of it.

Technical Makeup of Leather

Leather is a natural material that holds warmth and offers breathability. Each hide has its individual and unique characteristics. The physical properties include high tensile strength and flexibility.

Here are properties that make leather a sought-after material.

High Tensile Strength

Tensile strength refers to the material’s transverse and longitudinal direction. There are other factors that determine tear strength. This includes finish, stiffness, age, and tanning. Leather is natural, so each skin, and even the same skin taken apart, will behave differently.


With leather, flexibility doesn’t refer to bending or flexing. It refers to a material’s ability to pass through flexing cycles without deterioration or damage. Flex-crack resistance is the capacity to withstand cycles without stress-induced surface cracks.

Resistance to Puncture

Puncture resistance is a leather’s innate ability to minimize a foreign object’s intrusion. This is a feature that protects from tearing, cuts, and abrasions.

Heat Insulation

High thermal insulation is when heat travels slowly through a material. Leather holds air, making it a poor heat conductor. The material holds water vapor, such as perspiration, and dissipates it.

Water Vapor

Material breathability is directly linked to water vapor permeability. That’s the capacity for water vapor absorption and passage. Leather fibers have the facility to hold large quantities of water vapor.

Thermostatic Function

Leather is resistant to fire and heat. It’s cool in warm months and manages warmth in the cooler and colder months.


Leather’s impressive moldability manages plastic and elastic properties in wear. It can be flexible or stiff. You can mold leather into one shape now and remold it into another as needed.

Resistant to Dry and Wet Abrasion

Regardless of the environment, leather holds up to abrasion. The feature puts leather at the top of the list for protecting human skin.

So, is Leather, in its Rawest Form, Waterproof?

No, none of the technical specs of the fabric makes leather waterproof. After all, leather is skin, and skin is not waterproof due to its porous nature.

However, one type of leather may have a greater water resistance than others. You can make most leather materials more resistant with treatment. Let’s take a look at different leathers.

Faux Leather

This isn’t real leather. Faux Leather is polyurethane, a form of plastic. Plastic isn’t porous like leather. That alone makes it pretty waterproof. Faux leather requires no treatment.

Synthetic Leather

There’s an appreciation for synthetic leather for its lightness and low cost. Like genuine leather, this material is porous, so liquids can damage it. To discourage this, you should regularly treat synthetic leather with conditioner or wax.

Full Grain Leather

Full-grain is the finest leather your money can buy. It has exceptional versatility and durability. Manufacturers turn to it for engineering top-of-the-line leather productions. Go for it and know you’ve invested in a top performer. But to improve its water resistance, treat full-grain with wax or a conditioner.

Top Grain Leather

Top grain leather is leather but not, despite its name, top-tier. That means you’ll spend less on any top grain leather product, and it won’t be the best of the material. Like full-grain, use a conditioner or wax for water resistance.

Genuine Leather

Take note; genuine leather doesn’t mean a product comes from high-quality leather. It just means the product is leather. This could be the lowest quality of leather. You’ll find genuine leather in a belt you buy at a mall or in lower-priced shoulder bags.

Often, genuine leather is a series of lower-tier leather layers. These layers are what’s left after the stripping of higher grade layers for pricier productions. A lot of genuine leather is merely bonded and painted layers of less-than-stellar quality hides.

What Properties Make Leather More Water-Resistant?

So, we know the answer to the question is leather waterproof. Though the material itself is not waterproof, some properties can enhance leather’s ability to be water-resistant. If you’re curious about the differences between those terms, read our full article on waterproof vs. water resistant.

Essential Oils

Leather consists of essential oils that contribute to its water-resistant properties. These oils eventually breakdown, so applying a waterproofing treatment is essential in safeguarding their properties.

Hydrophobic Process

Tanned hides and furs that a tanner creates for shoes or clothes often undergo a hydrophobic process during finishing. This process consists of tanners treating the leather with an aqueous liquor containing water repellents. These water repellents seep into the collagen fibers and become bound to the surface of them. This creates water resistance in the material and raises the product’s cost due to the raw materials that tanners use.

Making Leather More Water-Resistant

There is a range of treatments for giving the leather a greater level of water resistance. The most common method is to apply wax. The waxed layering allows moisture to slide off the material. This treatment is popular as its application is easy and works with all leather types.

Another method is conditioning. Conditioning has the capacity of restoring leather to a brand-new quality and also improves water-resistance. If done incorrectly, you could over-condition your leather, so it’s important to follow our tips on how to make leather more water-resistant.

For a more detailed step-by-step guide, head over to our full article on waterproofing leather.

The Last Drop

Your leather jacket, shoes, and other products can withstand the impact of water. But too much water can be harmful. If overexposed, leather will eventually dry, but it will not be the same. The leather becomes hard and stiff. You no longer have the supple textural feel you loved. If the material damage is significant, the leather may even rot.

While we won’t tell you how to budget, your best bet is to buy the best quality leather you can. And, from the start, be cautious about exposing it to water. Gene Kelly may have made it look good, but we wouldn’t dance in the rain in our leather shoes.

Want to learn more about the waterproof properties of other materials and fabrics? Check out our other research below.