How to Remove Ink Stains From Leather

How to Remove Ink Stains From Leather
(puha dorin/Shutterstock)

A new leather sofa or leather handbag—so beautiful. Or perhaps it’s the car you’ve had for a long time, the one with leather upholstery that still looks fantastic because you’ve babied and protected it against spills and stains. And then somehow, that beautiful leather gets hit with an ink stain. It shouldn’t happen, but life being what it is, stuff does happen.

You’re not alone; it happens to all of us.

Here’s what happened to Dana, who wrote recently: “While working, I placed an ink pen in the back pocket of my jeans. Later, I realized the pen was not there, only to locate it in the seat of my car. Apparently it had slipped out of my pocket and wrote on the leather seats—blue ink on tan leather—before I realized it had gotten out. Not a pretty sight, especially considering I have no kids to blame it on!”

Leather can be tricky because there are so many variables. Is the leather finished or unfinished? Is the ink stain fresh, or has it been there for a long time? What kind of ink is it—ballpoint, Sharpie, gel?

Step 1: Test the Leather

You need to determine whether it is naked or finished. Suede, for example, is naked—unfinished. Finished leather will have a smooth or pebbled finish. To discover what type you are dealing with, put a drop of water on the leather. If it beads up, that leather has been finished, so you can begin cleaning. If it soaks in immediately, it is unfinished. Do not attempt to treat naked leather yourself. Call a professional.

Step 2: Test the Remedy

Find an inconspicuous place where you can test each treatment before taking it to the stain itself, like under a seat cushion, in a seam, on the bottom of the purse, or inside a pocket. You want to see how the product interacts with the leather.

Step 3: Soap

Try wiping the stain gently with a soap-based cleaner like Ivory soap or Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap. No success? Go for the Blue Dawn! If the stain is fresh and hasn’t soaked in, soap or Blue Dawn may be the easiest and least harsh remedy.

Step 4: Amodex

If you can possibly get your hands on a bottle of nontoxic Amodex Stain Remover, it may be the miracle you’re looking for. It’s really that amazing. It removes all kinds of stains including ink from all kinds of surfaces. I keep a small bottle in my handbag and another in my laundry room.

Step 5: Hair Spray

If soap has failed and you have no Amodex handy, it’s time to move on to home remedies, all of which have worked for me when dealing with ink stains. Believe it or not, really cheap hairspray (because it has a very high concentration of either acetone or isopropyl alcohol) often makes ink disappear. It’s like magic! Hairspray would be my first home remedy against that ink stain (on leather, fabric, tile, and walls). Saturate a cotton swab with hairspray, and then work on the stain with it, rather than spraying the area. You may need to follow with an old soft toothbrush.

Step 6: Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing Alcohol)

Rubbing alcohol is different from acetone, so if the hairspray didn’t take care of the problem, perhaps rubbing alcohol will. Use the cotton swab application here, too.

Step 7: Magic Eraser

Magic Erasers have been known to erase ink stains from leather! They contain a material called melamine foam, which helps remove tricky stains. To use, follow the label instructions.

Step 8: Protection

Once you have removed the ink stain, allow the area to dry fully, and then treat the leather with a good leather conditioner to rehydrate and protect it against future stains. I’m a big fan of KevianClean Leather Cleaner and Conditioner. I find that it builds a protective coating that keeps the leather from cracking but also creates a barrier against future stains. I love the stuff!

If you would like specific resources for the products mentioned above, go to See you there!

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