How to Remove Ink Stains from Leather Clothes

Leather clothes are stylish and durable, but they can be susceptible to ink stains. Ink stains on leather can be difficult to remove, but it is possible with the right techniques and products. This comprehensive guide will provide tips and step-by-step instructions for removing ink stains from all types of leather clothing and accessories.

What You’ll Need to Remove Ink Stains from Leather

Before attempting to remove ink stains from leather, you’ll want to gather the proper supplies. Having these products on hand will allow you to act quickly when an ink stain occurs to prevent it from setting permanently. Here is what you’ll need:

  • Hairspray or nail polish remover: The alcohol in hairspray or acetone in nail polish remover can help break down and lift ink stains.
  • Q-tips and cotton balls: Use these to gently apply stain removers and cleaning solutions.
  • Clean cloths or paper towels: Absorb excess moisture and blot the stain.
  • An old toothbrush: Help work cleaning solutions into the leather texture.
  • Dish soap and warm water: Mix into a gentle leather cleaning solution.
  • Leather cleaner or saddle soap: Specially formulated to clean leather.
  • Baking soda: Creates a gentle abrasive scrub to lift stains.
  • White vinegar: Helps remove stains and odors.
  • Glycerin:conditions and moisturizes leather after cleaning.
  • Leather protector or conditioner: Protects and seals leather after stain removal.

Removing Fresh Ink Stains from Leather

When ink is freshly spilled or stained onto leather, time is of the essence for removal. Follow these steps immediately for lifting fresh ink stains:

Step 1: Blot Excess Ink

  • Use a clean paper towel or lint-free cloth to gently blot and absorb any wet ink on the surface of the leather. Don’t rub or scrub as this can push the stain further into the leather.

Step 2: Apply Hairspray or Nail Polish Remover

  • Apply a small amount of hairspray or nail polish remover containing acetone to a cotton ball.
  • Gently dab and blot the stain, turning the cotton ball frequently to use clean sides.
  • The alcohol or acetone will help break down and dissolve fresh ink stains.

Step 3: Rinse With Cool Water

  • Once the stain is lightened, rinse the area with cool, clean water on a new cotton ball or cloth.
  • This will dilute and flush away any loosened ink pigment.

Step 4: Dry and Reapply

  • Pat dry with an absorbent cloth.
  • Reapply hairspray or nail polish remover if any residual staining remains.
  • Rinse and pat dry again.

Step 5: Use Dish Soap

  • For any shadow left, make a mild soap solution by mixing 2-3 drops dish soap with 2 cups cool water.
  • Apply to the stain with a clean cloth, blotting and turning frequently.
  • Rinse soap solution thoroughly and pat dry.

By using these quick steps immediately, you can often lift and remove fresh ink stains from leather completely before they have a chance to set in.

Removing Dried or Set-In Ink Stains from Leather

If ink has dried and set into leather for a longer period of time, such as overnight or a few days, removing it becomes more difficult. But don’t worry – set-in stains can still be lifted using a combination of ingredients and techniques. Here’s how:

Step 1: Loosen Stain with Alcohol

  • Apply hairspray, nail polish remover, or rubbing alcohol to the stained area.
  • Let it soak in for 2-3 minutes to break down hardened ink.

Step 2: Make Baking Soda Paste

  • Form a paste with 2 Tbsp baking soda and 1 Tbsp water. The baking soda acts as a gentle abrasive.
  • Use an old toothbrush to work the paste into the leather’s texture.
  • Let it sit for 5 minutes.

Step 3: Scrub with Vinegar

  • Make a cleaning solution of 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water.
  • Dip the toothbrush in the vinegar and continue scrubbing the stain.
  • Vinegar will help cut through set-in stains and odors.

Step 4: Rinse Clean

  • Wipe away all paste and solution residue with a clean, damp cloth.
  • Rinse the area well with cool, clean water.
  • Pat dry with an absorbent towel.

Step 5: Repeat Process

  • If the stain persists, repeat this process using hairspray, baking soda paste, and vinegar.
  • Multiply applications lift deep set-in stains.

With some elbow grease, this proven process can break down and lift even dried and stubborn ink stains from leather.

Removing Ink Stains from Leather Upholstery and Furniture

Ink stains on leather sofas, chairs, headboards, and other upholstered furniture can be even trickier to remove. Here are the best cleaning methods and products for removing ink from leather furniture:

Step 1: Vacuum and Blot Stain

  • First, vacuum up any dry ink residue left on the surface.
  • Gently blot wet stains with a paper towel to absorb excess.

Step 2: Use Leather Cleaner

  • Apply a small amount of mild leather cleaner or foam saddle soap to the stain using a soft cloth.
  • Massage it in to break up staining. Rinse and blot dry.

Step 3: Try Nail Polish Remover

  • Use acetone-based nail polish remover on a cotton ball for lifted inks.
  • Wipe in circular motions, then blot dry.

Step 4: Make A Mild Vinegar Solution

  • Mix 1 cup warm water with 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar and 2 drops dish soap.
  • Use a sponge to gently wipe this on and around the affected area.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

  • Rinse the cleaning solution away with clean water and pat dry.
  • Allow the leather to air dry fully before using.
  • Apply leather conditioner to restore softness.

Take care not to aggressively scrub furniture leather, as it can damage the protective finish. Gentle, circular blotting works best.

Removing Ink Stains from Leather Car Interiors

Spilled pens and markers can easily stain leather car seats and interiors. Eliminate these pesky ink stains from your vehicle using the following techniques:

Step 1: Scrape Off Fresh Ink

  • Use a dull knife or spoon to gently scrape off any wet ink residue.
  • This keeps it from smearing deeper into the leather grain.

Step 2: Apply Rubbing Alcohol

  • Saturate a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and blot the stain.
  • Allow 1-2 minutes of dwell time to dissolve ink particles.

Step 3: Use Bar Keepers Friend

  • Make a paste with Bar Keepers Friend cleanser and a few drops of water.
  • Gently rub paste into the stain with a soft cloth or toothbrush.

Step 4: Clean with Leather Cleaner

  • Wipe away paste with a damp cloth and apply a pH-balanced leather cleaner.
  • This lifts staining and conditions leather.

Step 5: Rinse and Dry

  • Wipe area clean using a new damp cloth and let air dry.
  • Follow up by applying a leather conditioner.

Repeat as needed for tough ink stains. Just take care not to oversaturate leather car seats.

Removing Ballpoint Pen, Permanent Marker, and Gel Pen Stains from Leather

Not all inks will respond to staining the same way. Here are some specialized tips for removing the three most common ink stains from leather items.

Ballpoint Pen Stains

  • Apply rubbing alcohol or hairspray immediately to dissolve staining.
  • Use a leather cleaner like saddle soap to lift any residue.
  • Soak a cotton swab in nail polish remover for precision cleaning.

Permanent Marker Stains

  • Use nail polish remover containing acetone, dabbing repeatedly with cotton balls.
  • Make a paste with baking soda and vinegar to gently scrub.
  • If needed, thin hairspray with a 1:1 mixture of water for extra stain fighting power.

Gel Pen Stains

  • Start by dabbing the stain with paper towels to absorb as much as possible.
  • Apply non-oily nail polish remover to a q-tip and gently wipe the stain in a circular motion.
  • Alternate with dabbing rubbing alcohol to fully lift staining.

Removing Ink Stains from Leather Jackets and Clothing

Leather jackets, skirts, pants, purses, and other clothing require a delicate touch when removing ink stains. Follow this careful process:

Step 1: Place Stain Down on Towel

  • Lay the stained leather item face down on an absorbent towel. Never apply cleaners directly.

Step 2: Use Q-Tip for Precision

  • Dip a Q-tip in nail polish remover and gently dab only on the stained area. Avoid oversaturating.

Step 3: Clean With Soapy Water

  • Mix a mild soap and water solution.
  • Use a clean toothbrush to lightly scrub and lift ink residues.

Step 4: Rinse Away Stain

  • Completely rinse the backside of the leather under cool running water.
  • Pat dry with a clean absorbent towel.

Step 5: Recondition the Leather

  • Once fully dry, apply a leather conditioner to restore softness.
  • Buff gently with a clean cloth until conditioned.

Avoid over-scrubbing, heat, or hairdryers during leather clothing stain removal. Air drying is best.

How to Prevent Ink Stains on Leather

They say that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Follow these simple tips to keep ink stains from impacting your leather in the first place:

  • Keep pens clipped in pockets rather than loosely carried.
  • Store leather items away from areas where ink is used.
  • Immediately wipe up spills of any type from leather to prevent staining.
  • Use a leather protector spray to create a repellent barrier against stains.
  • Spot clean leather on a weekly basis to remove dirt before it becomes embedded.
  • Fill in any scratches or cracks in leather with a colored wax filler stick to prevent stains from sinking in.
  • Avoid letting ink dry on leather goods by quickly blotting wet spills.

Can You Remove All Ink Stains from Leather?

While it’s possible to remove many ink stains from leather, full removal is not guaranteed. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Type of leather: Some leathers, like nubuck or suede, are more difficult to clean.
  • Type of ink: Permanent marker and ballpoint pen can be hard to fully eliminate.
  • Ink age: The longer a stain sits, the harder it is to lift. Fresh stains come out easier.
  • Scratches or cracks: Ink sinks into imperfections, making it harder to clean.
  • Color of leather: Stains show up more on light than dark leathers.
  • Leather finish: Coated or treated leathers resist stains better than unfinished.
  • Harsh scrubbing: Can damage leather and push stains in deeper.

While stubborn stains may leave a faint shadow, gentle cleaning methods can get leather looking much improved. With quick action, the right products, and care when cleaning, you stand the best chance of removing ink stains from leather.

Homemade Leather Cleaning Solution Recipes

In a pinch, you can mix up homemade leather cleaning solutions using ingredients from your pantry. Here are a few effective options:

Mild Dish Soap and Water: Mix a few drops of mild dish soap into 2 cups warm water. Dip a soft cloth in and gently blot stains.

Olive Oil and Vinegar: Combine 2 parts olive oil with 1 part white vinegar. Apply sparingly with a toothbrush to clean leather.

Baking Soda Scrub: Make a paste with 1 Tbsp baking soda and 1 Tbsp water. Gently rub onto stains with a soft brush.

Milk and Vinegar: Mix 2 parts milk with 1 part white vinegar. Wipe the solution onto stains with a soft cloth.

Always spot test homemade cleaners on an inconspicuous area first and check for colorfastness. While convenient for in-a-pinch cleaning, homemade solutions may not remove set-in stains as effectively as commercial leather products.

When to Call for Professional Leather Cleaning Services

In some cases, even DIY methods cannot fully remove ink from high-quality leather items. If you have tried the above steps without success, it may be time to turn to professional leather cleaning services.

Indicators that professional cleaning is needed include:

  • Stubborn stains that resist multiple treatments.
  • Damage like scuffs, rips, or mold that require repair.
  • Heavily soiled and dried-in stains affecting the entire surface.
  • Valuable designer leather goods needing specialized care.
  • Suede, nubuck, or other delicate leathers too risky for DIY.
  • Ink stains on furniture with intricate seams and stitching.

Seek reputable leather cleaning companies that use techniques like laser stain removal. Avoid methods that can strip leather’s protective oils. A professional cleaning will remove the toughest stains and restore the leather while protecting its quality and suppleness.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Ink Stains from Leather

Before you get started removing ink stains from your leather items, review these commonly asked questions and answers:

1. Does hairspray remove ink from leather?

Yes, hairspray often effectively removes ink stains from leather goods. The alcohol in the hairspray dissolves and lifts many fabric ink stains, including ballpoint pen. Simply apply to the stain with a cotton ball and blot until faded.

2. What household products remove ink from leather?

Common household products that can remove ink from leather include rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover with acetone, dish soap mixed with warm water, white vinegar, baking soda, and hairspray.

3. Can you use rubbing alcohol on leather?

Yes, rubbing alcohol is generally safe to use on finished leather goods in small amounts. Saturate a cotton ball and gently blot the stain. Avoid over-saturating leather with liquids which can strip oils and cause damage.

4. What removes permanent marker from leather?

To remove permanent marker from leather, alcohol-based products work best. Use hairspray, nail polish remover, or rubbing alcohol on cotton balls to continually blot the stain until it lifts. You can also try using baking soda and vinegar as an abrasive scrub.

5. How do you get pen marks off leather couches?

Use a small amount of pH-balanced leather cleaner or saddle soap on a soft cloth to gently blot pen marks on leather couches. Avoid aggressively scrubbing. A vinegar and water solution can also help cut through staining. Always spot test cleaners first.

6. Can you use acetone on leather?

You can use a small amount of acetone on most leathers. Nail polish remover containing acetone helps dissolve inks when gently dabbed on stains using a cotton swab or ball. Avoid liberally applying acetone, as it can dry out leather over time.


If ink slips out of a pen or marker and onto your leather purse, jacket, couch or car interior, don’t panic. While it may seem permanent, it is possible to remove ink stains from leather surfaces using the techniques outlined above.

Act quickly when stains occur to make removal easier. Always use gentle blotting and light scrubbing motions instead of aggressive rubbing when cleaning leather. Test stain removers first and take care not to oversaturate the leather.

With some patience, the right cleaning solutions, and care when handling leather goods, you can eliminate those unsightly ink stains. Just be cautious when cleaning very delicate or highly finished leathers, as DIY methods can cause damage. Call in the experts if stains persist after multiple attempts.