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Guide: How to Remove Ink from Leather

Ink stain on leather couch

I think we’re all familiar with the dread of finding an ink stain on a leather sofa. Or a pair of leather pants. I remember seeing a pen ink on my leather purse once. Not a good memory. However, since then, I have learned that there are multiple methods of removing stains from leather. Some require household items like hairspray or soap & water. Others will get you online for a quick order.

Before we get started, don’t panic. Things may not be as terrible as they seem now. Getting an ink stain from leather is not a complicated process, and the chances of success are pretty high. So, keep reading until you find the best solution to fit your case.

What to consider before you get started

Before you start putting all kinds of solutions on your leather, you must consider a few things. Is the ink stain fresh? Is the leather finished or unfinished? Is there a spot on your leather item that can take a spot test? I will clarify all of this below.

Fresh vs. old ink stains

Before scrubbing the leather, check if the ink stain is fresh or not. If it’s new, you need to remove any excess. Otherwise, you risk smudging it all over the surrounding area. The best take is to take a highly absorbent tissue and simply dab the stain until nothing else sticks to the tissue. Again, don’t wipe. Simply dab the stain. Only then you’re ready for the next step.

Finished vs. unfinished leather

The difference between finished and unfinished leather is that finished leather already has a protective coat. You know it all too well. It has a smooth surface. Unfinished leather, such as suede, is also called naked leather. It’s more challenging to clean because it absorbs whatever causes the stain. I always recommend that stains on unfinished leather be cleaned by a professional.

To make the difference between the two types of leather, you can simply touch it or do a spot test. We’ll get to the second method next, but if you feel it and it’s soft, it’s unfinished leather. If it’s smooth, it already has a finish.

Do a spot test

A spot test is essential no matter how you decide to remove the stain from the leather. Not all leather is created equal. Instead of an ink stain, you may end up with a prominent discoloration spot. That’s not better, is it? That’s why you need to put the leather to the test first.

To do a spot test, you have to find an area of your leather item that’s not always visible. It must be out of sight. Pick a method of removing the stain, and then try it out on that little spot. Suppose nothing happens, and the leather maintains its color properties. In that case, you can go ahead and remove the stain using the chosen method. However, if the leather changes color, you need to stop and find another way. 

Now that we got this out of our way, let’s see how you can remove ink from leather items.

6 Ways to Remove Ink from Leather

Use a Commercial Leather Cleaner to Remove Ink from Leather

This should be your first choice if you’re not in a hurry. Homemade solutions work well, but you may make things worse. It all depends on the manufacturer and the leather they use. Commercial leather cleaners are specifically designed to remove stains from leather, making them the safest choice.

[Insert Amazon product here] is safe for all types of leather. It works like a magic eraser. As long as you follow the instructions, you should be able to remove ink stains from your leather couch, pants, and purses. It takes out even the most stubborn stains.

Eliminate Ink Stains on Leather Using Nail Polish Remover

When a commercial leather cleaner is unavailable, you can move on to items you have around the house. Nail polish remover is a product present in almost every home. If not, you can get it from every shop. However, the nail polish remover you intend to use must be acetone-free.

Acetone is a harsh chemical and can damage anything. Leather makes no exception. If you use acetone, the leather can become brittle and eventually crack. While the ink stain will be gone, the leather will sustain damage. You won’t see it right away, but it’ll be there.

To remove ink from leather with nail polish remover, apply a small amount on a cotton ball, and then gently dab the stained area. The stain will soon lift. Once that’s done, dry the area with a damp cloth.

Get Ink Out of Leather with Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is one of the most common household items. It’s in every medicine cabinet. While it will remove that ink stain from your leather couch, it also has the potential to damage the leather. You should do a spot test first.

To remove an ink stain from a leather item, don’t pour the alcohol directly on the spot. Apply some on a cotton pad or ball, and gently dab the ink stain until it lifts. Once that happens, it’s important to dry the area you cleaned. I recommend using a hairdryer. Set it on high and dry the spot thoroughly. 

After using rubbing alcohol on leather, I advise you to treat the affected area with a [leather conditioner]. 

Use Hairspray to Remove Ink Stains from Leather

Hairspray is not something you’d think removes ink stains from leather, but you’d be amazed. It’s a common household item, and it contains isopropyl alcohol. That’s the same ingredient as in rubbing alcohol. 

If you have both hairspray and rubbing alcohol in the house, you should choose to remove the ink stain using the latter. Hairsprays don’t have a lot of alcohol in them these days, so they are less efficient than alcohol. They can still do the job. It’s just that rubbing alcohol works better and faster.

To remove the ink stain from a leather item with hairspray, you must spray the affected area. Make sure to place the spray nozzle as close to the stain as possible. You should avoid spraying the surrounding (unaffected) area. Let it sit for a few minutes and rinse the area with cold water. You should take a paper towel or a microfiber cloth and remove any excess to finish.

Clean Ink off Leather with Soap and Water

The least invasive solution to remove an ink stain from a leather item is soap and water. I recommend you get some saddle soap because it has a second purpose – it conditions the leather. It can prevent future damage.

You need a damp cloth, not soaking wet. Rub the cloth on your soap, and then gently rub the stain. Don’t go into scrubbing mode because it won’t do you any good. Be patient because it can take a few minutes, but the spot will clear eventually. After you’re finished, take a dry cloth, and blot the area until it’s dry

Try a Dry Cleaner

If you’re nervous about trying to remove the ink from your leather item, you can always let a professional do it. Try a dry cleaner. You can also use professional services if the stain is stubborn and won’t come off with any of the above solutions. 

I also recommend you go to a dry cleaner if the ink stain is on naked leather. This type of leather is extremely difficult to clean. If you try to do it yourself, you may create more damage than it already is.


Ink stains on leather are difficult to remove sometimes. Still, one of the solutions above should do the trick. As long as you follow the simple steps I mentioned at the beginning of this article, you can remove an ink stain from leather items. You can use commercial leather cleaners, nail polish removers, rubbing alcohol, hairspray, and soapy water.

Ink Stain Removal from Leather FAQ

1. Can you remove ink from the leather?

You can remove ink from leather using one of the methods I described in this article. If you are not confident you can do it, you should refer to a dry cleaner.

2. What removes ink from leather items?

Several solutions remove ink from leather items. You can use rubbing alcohol or hairspray. Commercial leather cleaners are the best option, but you can also use nail polish remover. Simple soap and water can be very efficient too.

3. How to get rid of ink from a leather jacket?

You should get your leather jacket to a dry cleaner. If you don’t have this option, you can try a commercial leather cleaner, rubbing alcohol, or hairspray. Nail polish removers work as well. So does soapy water.

Last Updated on March 9, 2023

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