How to Get Pen Marks Out of Leather

how to get pen marks out of leather

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Leather makes for beautiful furniture, clothing, and accessories, but even the best-kept leather can still end up with a stain or two. One of the most common leather stains is pen marks, thanks to the leaky nature of some pens and their proximity to leather bags and furniture. But with the help of a few common cleaning supplies, pen marks on leather can be treated and removed. Keep reading to find out how.

How Often Should You Remove Pen Marks on Leather?

Pen marks on leather should be treated and cleaned as soon as they occur, or as soon as you notice them. Ink stains that have had the chance to dry and soak into the leather will be much harder to remove than fresh ink stains that are still wet. Regular cleaning and conditioning of your leather will ensure you notice all types of stains, including ink stains, in a timely manner.

What You'll Need

To remove pens marks from leather, you'll first need to gather your cleaning supplies. Here's what you'll need:

  • Water
  • Clean, white washcloths (colored washcloths can transfer their dye onto the leather)
  • Dish soap
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hair dryer
  • Leather conditioner
  • Commercial leather cleaner (optional)
A leather chair in a modern living space

Design by Emily Henderson; Design and Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Step 1: Determine Your Leather Type

Before you attempt to remove your ink stain, you'll need to figure out whether you have finished or unfinished leather. To do this, place a drop of water in a hidden spot on the leather item. If it's immediately absorbed, you have unfinished leather. If the water sits on top and rolls off, you have finished leather. Ink stains on unfinished leather must be dealt with by a professional, as the ink is much more embedded within the leather. Ink stains on finished leather, however, can often be removed with a few common household supplies.

If you are treating finished leather, make sure to test out the cleaning agent in an inconspicuous spot before treating the stain to ensure it doesn't adversely affect the leather.

Step 2: Use Soap

The first cleaning agent you can use to remove ink from leather is one of the most versatile—dish soap. Place a few drops of dish soap on a damp white washcloth and gently blot the ink stain with it. Don't rub the stain, as this can further embed it.

If the stain has been removed, gently dry the treated area with a hair dryer on the low setting.

Step 3: Use Rubbing Alcohol

If dish soap didn't do much for your ink stain, try another handy household helper—rubbing alcohol. Dip a cotton ball or Q-tip in rubbing alcohol and gently blot the stain with it. Don't press down too hard, as rubbing alcohol is a strong cleaning agent and can remove the leather's colorant or finish if used incorrectly.

If the ink has been removed, dry the treated area with a hair dryer on the low setting. Leaving the rubbing alcohol to air-dry can remove much more than just the ink.

Step 4: Use Leather Cleaner or Get Help

If your pen mark still hasn't been removed from your leather, you're left with two options. First, you can try out a commercial ink remover for leather according to the manufacturer's instructions. Second, you can bring your leather to a cleaning professional to get it treated and fixed. (Though this option is the priciest, it's also the most effective.)

Step 5: Condition

Whether you removed your ink stain with soap, rubbing alcohol, or a commercial cleaner, you're not quite finished with the ink removal process. The last step is conditioning your leather to protect it and prolong its life, especially after using harsh cleaning agents on it. Follow the manufacturer's instructions of your favorite leather conditioner to put the finishing touch on your newly stain-free leather.

A living area with wood beams and leather sofa

Katie Le Clerq

How to Keep Leather Pen-Mark-Free Longer

To keep your leather free of pen marks (and free of stains in general), clean and condition your leather regularly. Make sure all pens stored in leather bags are securely capped, and keep leaky pens out of clothing pockets! Finally, treat ink stains as soon as they occur, as they're much easier to remove when they are brand new versus when they've had the chance to dry.