Whether it’s a permanent marker stain on your leather couch or dark spots from broken ink pens on your favourite leather handbag, ink on leather can be a bit tricky to clean up.
Leather is a supple and delicate material, and some types can be more porous than others.
Stubborn stains on leather items can penetrate deeper and become permanent if not treated quickly. And using the wrong cleaning methods can also spread the stain or damage the leather.
In this guide, we’ll discuss how to remove ink from leather using highly effective stain-removal methods. Every leather product is different, so consider the qualities of your item first or consult a leather professional to ensure that you find the best results for your ink mark.
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Things to Consider Before Removing Ink From Your Leather
Fresh ink stains that haven’t penetrated the surface of your item are much easier to remove than older stains soaked deeply into the leather. There are different types of leather, and some leather types, including unfinished leather, will immediately absorb liquid substances, so the sooner you act on the stain, the better.
Before you begin cleaning, check the manufacturer’s care instructions to understand the kind of leather you’re dealing with, how to treat it, and which damaging chemicals to avoid.
Once you’ve chosen a stain removal method, spot-test the substance on a discrete area first and watch out for signs of discoloration before you proceed. It’s also advisable to extract as much ink as possible using an absorbent paper towel before working on the affected area.
8 Easy and Effective Ways to Remove Ink From Leather
Here are some proven and tested methods to remove unsightly ink from leather items:
Method 1: Using Commercial Leather Care Products
Using a leather cleaner that’s specifically formulated to remove stains is the safest and most effective way of cleaning your item. In addition to thoroughly cleansing off dirt, debris, and markings, these products hydrate the leather to prevent cracking.
Leather cleaners can come in pens, wipes, and liquids with varying leather-healthy ingredients like olive oil, beeswax, lavender, and tea tree oil. These ingredients restore your leather, prevent mould and mildew, and increase strength and flexibility.
Using a clean and light-coloured cloth, apply a thin layer of the leather cleaner onto the affected area and gently rub it with circular motions. Most leather cleaners don’t need to be rinsed, so just leave your leather in a cool area to dry.
Follow up with a good leather conditioner for extra protection.
Method 2: Using Mild Soap and Water
Surprisingly, a bit of mild soap and some warm water can work wonders in tackling ink stains. This simple, but effective, combination is also great for a quick leather clean-up. Try this cleaning method if you don’t have any leather care products to hand.
You can use mild dish soap, unscented hand soap, facial soap, and even baby soap for this technique. Use a damp cloth to soak up the soapy water and gently blot the ink-stained area to prevent it from spreading. Rinse the area with clean water and mop the residue using a paper towel.
Method 3: Using Rubbing Alcohol
Another common way of removing ink from leather is to apply isopropyl alcohol on the affected area. Note that this method works best on leather furniture, including sofas, chairs, and car seats. It may be too abrasive on sensitive types of leather, such as suede and nubuck.
Dip a cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol, and test it on a hidden part of your item first to check that it doesn’t discolour the leather. If it doesn’t, then do the same with another cotton swab and gently rub the ink spot until it fades. Avoid scrubbing too hard, as this can create a crack or cause your leather to lose colour.
Work from the edges of the stain going inwards to prevent it from spreading further. You can replace the swab with a clean one several times as you extract more ink. Once the stain is gone, treat the area with leather cleaner and conditioner and allow it to air-dry.
Method 4: Using Saddle Soap
As the name implies, saddle soap is primarily used to clean horse saddles, which are made of thick, waxy, and well-oiled leather pieces. The powerful astringent properties of saddle soap make it ideal for cleaning other leather products, such as furniture, bags, shoes, and clothing.
The ingredients in saddle soap include essential oils, preservatives such as beeswax, softening ingredients like lanolin, and mild soap that breaks down stains on leather. Saddle soap with lye can be especially harsh on leather, so you’ll want to use it sparingly.
This method involves taking a damp cloth and rubbing the surface of your saddle soap to create a lather. Then, gently dab the cloth onto the affected area to remove the ink stain. Wipe off the excess using another clean cloth and condition the leather to ensure it stays moisturised.
Method 5: Using Baking Soda
Common household supplies like baking soda can also be effective at removing stains and build-up of dirt and grease on leather. Baking soda is abrasive enough to eliminate tough stains, yet gentle enough to get the job done without damaging the leather’s structure.
Another benefit of using baking soda is it absorbs foul odours from leather. It’s an inexpensive alternative to commercial cleaners that can be just as effective when used properly. However, it can have a drying effect on leather or wear down its protective coating, so use it in moderation.
Start by combining one part baking soda and three parts water to form a thick paste. Using a small brush, apply the paste on the affected area and gently scrub until the stained spot is gone. Scrub off the paste and rinse the area with water. Then, use a clean towel to remove any residue.
Method 6: Using White Vinegar
As with the above method, there are other easily accessible ingredients from your kitchen you can use to remove ink from leather as well. White vinegar is a classic cleaning solution that’s capable of eliminating tricky stains on items made of thick and rugged leather.
Mix equal cups of vinegar and cold water in a small bowl to create your stain remover. Moisten a light-coloured cloth with this mixture and carefully blot the affected area. You’ll notice the stain getting lifted from the surface, and your leather will gradually return to its original condition.
Rinse off the mixture and get rid of the vinegar odour using water and mild soap. After rinsing, dab the area with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. To clean white leather items, you can use a solution of ½ cup olive oil and ¼ cup vinegar instead.
Method 7: Using Hairspray
If you don’t have access to any leather care products and your stain is relatively small, hairspray can be a low-cost alternative. Don’t forget to test the hair spray on a hidden or inconspicuous part of your item to ensure the solution doesn’t discolour or damage the leather.
Instead of spraying directly onto the surface, douse a cotton ball or swab or the edge of a dry clean cloth and apply the hairspray on the affected areas. Dab the ink stain using a gentle circular motion for a few seconds, then carefully wipe away the hairspray with an absorbent paper towel.
Rinse off the residue with mild dish soap and warm water. Avoid leaving the hairspray on your item for too long, as it can damage and dry out the leather. You can also apply a leather cleaner and use a good leather conditioner on the spot afterward to prevent the leather from cracking or drying out.
Method 8: Using Nail Polish Remover
Similar to using hairspray, using nail polish remover is only advisable if you’re dealing with a minor ink stain and don’t have access to leather care products. You can only use non-acetone nail polish removers for this method, as acetone is abrasive and can damage your leather item.
Dip a clean cotton pad or the corner of a dry cloth in the solution, then lightly dab the area until the stain disappears. Avoid using a coloured cloth to remove the stain, as it can transfer dye to light-coloured leather. Don’t use too much polish remover; a small amount is enough.
Exercise caution when dabbing the area to prevent the ink from spreading onto unaffected areas. Finish the job by rinsing with warm water and gentle soap, and then apply some leather conditioner to bring back lost moisture.
When Do You Need Professional Leather Cleaning Services?
You may want to seek professional cleaning services from specialised leather cleaning shops in the following situations:
- The stain is too large, stubborn, or complex for at-home removal methods
- You don’t want to risk discolouring a particularly expensive or delicate leather item
- The above-mentioned methods were unsuccessful in removing the stain
- You’re dealing with a stain on white or light shades of leather
- The stained item is made out of thin or unfinished leather
Reputable cleaners and restorers have the know-how and expertise to successfully remove ink stains without compromising the leather’s condition. They know which methods are safe and effective for your specific leather type, saving you time, money, and guesswork in the process.
If the ink stain doesn’t come off after multiple attempts, professional leather cleaners may offer to dye your leather a darker shade to cover up the stain and give your item a new look.
Though this option may seem more expensive than DIY methods, such shops can guarantee that your item receives proper care.
In our opinion, these services are worth investing in since stained or damaged leather products are often expensive to replace. In addition to enhancing the appearance of your leather, they can also extend its lifespan.
How to Remove Ink from Leather: The Wrap Up
Ink stains can be difficult to remove on any material, but leather products are particularly challenging due to their porous and delicate nature. When left unattended, ink stains can cause damage over time. They penetrate deeply into the leather, resulting in permanent discoloration.
Thankfully, there are a number of at-home stain removal methods that effectively eliminate ink stains from leather car seats, jackets, handbags, and more.
Restoring your precious leather items doesn’t have to be a complicated process, as you can see from the above guide!