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How To: Remove Ink from Leather

Has your leather couch, purse, or car seat been tarnished by an unsightly ink stain? Reverse the damage with one of these four easy DIY solutions.
How to Remove Ink from Leather

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Leather goods are investment pieces that require delicate care, which is why it’s frustrating when they get stained with pervasive, tough-to-treat ink splatters. Whether a pen burst in your handbag or a felt-tip marker leaked on your car seat, you need to act quickly when ink hits leather to prevent lasting discoloration. Fortunately, any of these four DIY methods for how to remove ink from leather use only household products you likely already have on hand, saving you a trip to the store.

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Before You Begin
We recommend using the following remedies only on finished leather, which has a protective coating that blocks the ink from being completely absorbed. Naked or unfinished leather, on the other hand, will deeply soak up the ink, necessitating professional help to eliminate stains. To determine whether your leather is finished or unfinished, drop a little water on an inconspicuous area. If the water rolls off, then your leather is finished; if the water is soaked up, your leather is unfinished.

Also note that several variables affect how leather will react to different cleaning agents, from the type of dye your leather is treated with to how regularly the leather has been conditioned with a protective substance. Before you start to remove ink from leather, it’s critical to test each cleaning method on an inconspicuous spot of the to make sure it will not cause lasting damage to your couch, handbag, car seat, wallet, or jacket.

How to Remove Ink from Leather

Remove Ink from Leather with… Liquid Soap
As a first step, try eliminating the ink from leather with a mild liquid soap. Apply a few drops of dish soap to a white rag (colored rags can transfer dye to the leather) and blot the ink stain with it. Never use harsh solvent-based cleaning products and avoid scrubbing the spot, which may spread the damage further.

Remove Ink from Leather with… Rubbing Alcohol
If blotting with a soapy rag proves ineffective, try using isopropyl alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol) instead. Dip a Q-tip or white cloth in the isopropyl alcohol and gently dab the stain, taking care not to spread the ink around. Isopropyl alcohol is a powerful cleaning agent, so keep a light hand. Follow up with a leather conditioner—which you can find at most big-box and home improvement stores or make yourself—to put some moisture back into the affected area.

Remove Ink from Leather with… Hairspray
This popular hair styling product can work wonders on ink stains. Apply a small amount of alcohol-based hairspray to a Q-tip or white rag, wait a few seconds, and carefully blot the stain away. Always test the hairspray on an unconscious part of leather before use; ingredients vary between brands, and some types may leave behind an unsightly stain. Follow this method with leather conditioner if you notice the leather surface looks dry or cracked.

Remove Ink from Leather with… Cuticle Remover
You can also remove ink stains from leather with paint-on cuticle remover, which is typically found in the beauty section of most drugstores. Choose a cuticle remover has a non-oil based formula, and apply a thick layer over the stain. Let it soak in for up to 24 hours before dabbing away with a white rag to reveal ink-free leather.

If you’ve banished all remnants of ink from leather and it still appears dingy, restore its luster with these tips for care and maintenance: