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How to Remove Ink Stains from Leather

Leather and the Ink Spot

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How to Remove Ink Stains from Leather

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Remove Ink Stains from Leather

“Leather and the Ink Spot” sounds like a rock group, but if the duo is ink on your new leather vest, you won’t be happy until they part ways. Before you try to break them up, first determine what kind of leather and what kind of ink you must separate.

Types of Leather

  • Suede: stop reading and take your garment to a professional dry cleaner that specializes in cleaning suede.
  • Smooth leather: test cleaning methods in an inconspicuous place and proceed with care. If your garment or accessory is very expensive and you will be devastated if you ruin it, take it to a professional cleaner.
  • Vinyl or pleather: begin cleaning.

Types of Ink

  • Ballpoint pen: proceed with cleaning method.
  • Felt tip marker: proceed with cleaning method.
  • Permanent ink or marker: consider having your garment dyed to match the stain or a darker shade. Permanent ink cannot be removed from leather without causing a great deal of damage to the garment. Professional dry cleaners or shoe repair shops can dye leather.

Cleaning Method

Isopropyl alcohol, plain old rubbing alcohol, works best for home removal of ink stains from leather. Fresh ink stains are easier to remove and usually come out easily, while older stains may require repeat treatments. Leather is porous and the stain can penetrate deep into the hide.

Begin by dampening a white cotton cloth or cotton swab with the alcohol. Don’t use a colored cloth because it can transfer dye to light colored leather. Work from the outside of the stain toward the middle by dabbing with the cloth. Keep the work area small – do not spread the ink into a bigger area!

You should be able to see the ink transfer to the cloth. Dampen a clean area of the cloth or get a new swab as you see ink coming off to prevent re-staining the garment. Gently, keep blotting away until the ink is gone. Do not scrub harshly as that can remove color and a layer of the leather.

Allow the garment to air dry after or between treatments. Once the ink is removed, treat garment with leather conditioner to help it remain supple and smooth.

You can also use commercial ink removers like:

Old Wives’ Tales

I know you’ve heard about using hairspray, dish detergent, laundry soap, mayonnaise and abrasive erasers to remove ink from leather. Yes, someone from somewhere has had success using these methods, but they can’t be recommended. Perhaps the best of the bunch is hairspray, which contains high alcohol content, but the other ingredients in the spray can cause staining and other problems. Only use it in an emergency on a fresh ink stain.

The abrasive erasers will probably remove the ink but they’ll also remove a layer of the leather. So, you’ll need to decide if you want a stain or a hole.

Specific questions? Just ask here.

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