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How to Remove Ink From Leather

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Don’t let an ink stain mark your leather forever. 

Leather is no cheap material. So when you spill anything on it — it can be a real pain. Especially since too much water can damage it, removing stains on leather can be difficult.

When you spill ink on leather, your initial reaction might be to panic. But the quicker you deal with it, the more effective the stain removal process will be.

We’ll teach you how to remove ink from leather using a variety of methods and cleaning products. Now, the next time you notice an ink stain, you’ll know exactly what to do.

How to Remove Ink From Leather Using Alcohol

  1. Make sure to use isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.
  2. Test in an inconspicuous spot.
  3. Apply a little alcohol to a cotton ball.
  4. Gently dab the ink stain.
  5. Once the stain has lifted, quickly dry the affected area with a hairdryer.
  6. Use a leather conditioner afterwards, as the alcohol may dry out the leather.


Cleaning Naked vs Finished Leather

Leather is either naked or finished. Naked leather is more absorbent and therefore much more difficult to clean. We recommend contacting a professional cleaning company since certain cleaning products and water can cause damage.

Finished leather, on the other hand, is less absorbent and easier to clean at home.

How can you tell the difference? Put just one drop of water on the leather, preferably in an inconspicuous area. If the water absorbs into the material, it’s naked. If it beads up, the leather is finished, and therefore, you can carry on cleaning it at home.

Pro Tip

When you purchase the leather item, do this test right away to determine what type of leather it is. That means any time you notice a stain, you know which route to take when cleaning.

How to Remove Ink From Leather

We have a variety of great tips for removing ink from leather, so that your luxurious item can look as good as new.

Soap

The first thing you can try is soap. You can either use a soap-based cleaner like Ivory, or you can try saddle soap. Both are gentle and effective on leather. To use, follow these steps:

  1. Dampen a cloth and wring it out so it’s not sopping wet at all.
  2. Rub the damp cloth over your soap.
  3. Gently rub it over the ink stain.
  4. Repeat as necessary.
  5. Blot dry.

Because of the water in this method, this is best for finished leather. However, if the ink has been sitting for a while, soap will be ineffective.

Pro Tip

You can use saddle soap to maintain the appearance of leather. Use it frequently as a preventative treatment, rather than a reactive treatment. It will keep your leather in good condition.

Ink Stick

An ink stick is a good option for removing ink stains on leather. Just make sure the ink stick is designed for leather materials.

The Amodex Ink Stain Remover is an effective example. This product is loved by professional cleaners. You can check the manufacturer’s guidance to see if this works on naked leather, but it’s definitely safe for finished leather.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Test in an inconspicuous spot.
  2. Place a towel beneath the leather to avoid transfer.
  3. Shake the pen.
  4. Apply the pen to the affected area.
  5. Gently rub it in with your fingernail or a soft brush.
  6. Rinse afterwards. Remember that minimal water should be used.

Commercial Leather Cleaner

You could always try a commercial leather cleaner. These often clean and condition leather, leaving it better looking than before.

However, many don’t claim they specifically work on ink stains. So you’ll have to browse the web to find one that works for you. Keep in mind, though, that just because it doesn’t specify every stain it works on, doesn’t mean it won’t work on ink.

To use this kind of cleaner, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions as this will vary from product to product.

Where To Use

You can usually use commercial leather cleaners on all types of leathers and products. Think couches, jackets, shoes, purses, and more.

Alcohol

Alcohol, specifically isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, is a love-hate method for removing ink from leather. It may be effective, but it may also cause damage so always make sure to test in an inconspicuous spot. If you decide to use it, follow these steps:

  1. Apply a little bit of the alcohol to a cotton swab or cotton ball.
  2. Gently dab the ink stain. The cotton swab or ball will begin to absorb the ink.
  3. Once the stain has lifted, quickly dry the affected area. You can use a hairdryer to do this.
  4. Use a leather conditioner afterwards, as the alcohol may dry out the leather.

Hair Spray

Hair spray often contains alcohol which can work to eliminate the ink stain. You can follow the same method as above, but spray the hairspray onto a cotton swab or ball instead.

Make sure to follow up with a hairdryer and leather conditioner to maintain the appearance and beauty of your leather.

Did You Know

Hairspray is a good item to use on ink stains across many different fabrics. We use it a lot on our microfiber items. Just spray it, rub it in with a cloth, repeat as necessary and notice the ink fade away.

Magic Eraser

We think that everyone should have a couple of Magic Erasers on standby. You never know when it will come in handy! For tackling ink stains, follow these steps:

  1. Dampen the tip of a magic eraser. Make sure it’s not dripping wet.
  2. Gently rub it over the ink stain.
  3. Dry the area.
  4. Follow up with a leather conditioner.

Top Tip

Always test in an inconspicuous area. Be sure to check that the manufacturer of the magic eraser allows for use on leather.

Dry Cleaners

When in doubt, take the item to the dry cleaners. This is best for smaller items like jackets, bags and shoes. If you have an ink stain on a leather piece of furniture, you can call in a professional upholstery cleaner to deal with the job.

How to Prevent Ink Stains on Leather

Preventing stains is much easier than dealing with them. Once a stain has arrived, it’s not always possible to eliminate it. Here are our top methods for preventing ink stains on leather:

  • Use a leather protector: These products form a barrier that protects your leather item so that stains can’t penetrate. It makes cleaning easier so your leather items can last a lot longer.
  • Use a leather conditioner: Like leather protectors, these offer some protection against stains. They minimize cracking and peeling so the material is less penetrable.
  • Avoid using ink products near leather: This may sound obvious, but don’t use ink-based items while wearing leather or sitting on leather furniture. If you’re writing in a notebook or filling out a birthday card, don’t sit on the leather couch while you do it. Likewise, don’t keep pens in your leather jacket pocket.
  • Don’t let kids near the leather couch while they’re coloring or drawing: They’re bound to use the couch as a canvas for their art which might be a funny story a few years later, but at the time, it’s a cause for a panic moment.
  • Vacuum leather items regularly, especially furniture: This eliminates other types of dirt that can get crushed into your leather item worsening future stains.

Leather Lovers

If you’re a lover of leather, you’re not alone. No wonder ink stains drive you crazy! But thankfully, they can be dealt with, especially if the leather is finished rather than naked.

Make sure to test out a couple of our methods to remove the ink stain. The first thing you try may not always be the magic solution. Before you try anything, though, always make sure to test in an inconspicuous spot so you don’t cause further damage.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!