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. 

Here's our easy guide to removing ink stains from leather clothes, which will work on leather jackets, leather pants, and more.

Stain type Dye-based, oil-based, resin-based
Detergent type Gentle detergent
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


  • Rubbing alcohol
  • White cloth
  • Cotton swabs
  • Leather conditioner


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


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

How to Tackle Tough Ink Stains on Leather

If traces of the ink remain, you can attempt to wash a leather garment. Or, consider dyeing the leather a darker color.

  1. Handwash the Leather Garment

    Fill a large sink or plastic storage container with lukewarm water. Add a small amount of a gentle liquid detergent recommended for hand washing delicate items (like Woolite) and swish to disperse through the water.

  2. Treat the Stain and Let It Soak

    Dab a bit of the detergent directly on the ink stain. Let it work for about 10 minutes before washing the garment. Completely submerge the leather garment. Allow it to soak for ten minutes.

  3. Rinse Your Garment

    Lift the item out of the soapy solution and simply squeeze out the excess moisture. Fill the sink with clean water and rinse. You may need to change the water several times to remove all of the soap and soil.

  4. Let Air Dry

    Turn the garment right side out and hang it over a bathtub to air dry. Use a sturdy wooden or padded hanger to prevent wrinkles. Never hang in direct sunlight or near a heat source. It may take two to three days for the garment to dry completely.

  5. Condition the Leather

    When it is dry, condition the garment until it is once again soft and supple.

  6. Dye the Leather Darker

    If the ink doesn't come out after several attempts at cleaning or a trip to the dry cleaner, consider having a professional dye the leather a darker color to cover the stain and give the item new life. 

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.