How to Remove Ink Stains from Leather Clothes

How to Remove Ink Stains From Leather

The Spruce / Hilary Allison

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 8 hrs, 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-$15

Ink stains can be tough on clothes of any fabric, but leather presents unique challenges as it can require more delicate care. Leather is porous, allowing stains to penetrate deep into the hide, and ink is made of dye and oil, making for particularly stubborn marks. Ballpoint pen ink, for example, is oil-based and doesn't dissolve in water, and the resin in permanent ink is especially sticky.

However, there are at-home methods you can take to minimize the effect of the stain using products you likely already have in your cupboard. For the best results, try to remove the ink while it is still wet. Fresh ink stains are easier to remove, but dried stains may require repeated treatments and a professional cleaner trip. 

Stain type Dye-based, oil-based, resin-based
Detergent type Heavy-duty
Water temperature Cool

Before You Begin

As with any stain, the sooner the fresh stain can be treated, the better the chances of success for removal. Do not rub immediately. That will only push the stain deeper into the material and make the stain harder to remove. Check the care label before beginning any stain removal treatment. Older or dried stains will be harder to remove, so know that you might need to repeat the cleaning process several times before the stain disappears.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Basin or bucket

Materials

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • White cloth
  • Cotton swabs
  • Oxygen-based bleach
  • Leather conditioner

Instructions

Two glass cups on marbled surface with cotton swabs, rubbing alcohol and oxygen-based bleach

The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  1. Test the Material

    Dampen a cotton swab or white cotton cloth with rubbing alcohol. Wipe the swab onto the fabric or leather in an inconspicuous area, such as in the interior seam or hem, to be sure the alcohol does not damage or discolor the material. Don’t use a colored cloth because it can transfer dye to the material.

    Rubbing alcohol on cotton swab testing leather clothing

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  2. Dab the Stain

    Re-wet the cotton swab or cloth with alcohol, then dab the stain, working from the outside inward to prevent the stain from spreading. Replace the swab or cloth as you see the ink being extracted to avoid re-staining the garment. Continue to blot gently until the ink is gone.

    Ink stain on leather dabbed with cotton swab containing rubbing alcohol

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  3. Air-Dry

    Treat the garment with a leather conditioner to help it remain supple and smooth once the stain is gone. Allow the garment to air-dry after or between treatments. If the stain persists and the garment can be submerged, try an oxygen bleach soak.

    Leather jacket hanging outside to air dry

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  4. Soak the Garment

    Mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach, like OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach, or Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach, with cool water. Completely submerge the garment and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. Follow the package directions for how much product to use per gallon of water.

    Leather clothing with ink stain soaked in plastic bin to wash

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  5. Launder

    Launder the garment as you usually would. If the stain remains, mix a fresh solution and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove the stain.

Tip

You should not use leather stain removal practices on suede. In this case, take the garment to a dry cleaner that specializes in suede.

When to Call a Professional

Many pieces of leather clothing are dry clean only. If your item is marked, visit your dry cleaner and point out the stain. Permanent ink often cannot be removed from leather without damaging the garment. If the care instructions don't specify cleaning instructions, use your judgment to decide whether to attempt at-home cleaning.

Additional Tips for Handling Ink Stains

Don't use a colored cloth when cleaning an ink stain because it may transfer dye to the leather. Feel free to repeat the stain removal process as often as you see fit. If the ink doesn't come out after several cleanings or a trip to the dry cleaner, consider dyeing the garment a darker color to cover the stain and give the garment new life.