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How To Remove Ink From Leather – Great Results Step by Step

I like to have a pen on my workbench to make some markings or draft patterns. Sometimes, the caps are left off the pens and end up marking my leather with ink. For those times, it’s helpful to know how to remove ink from leather, so it isn’t ruined.

To remove ink from leather, apply soapy water and rub it off with a cloth. Another method you can try is to apply some spray-on sunscreen, let it soak for around 10 minutes, and then wipe the ink off with a cloth. 

It can be a headache if you’ve ever gotten ink on your leather. However, the leather isn’t completely ruined. I’ve gathered some information that will help you out in a pinch. Let’s take a look at some ways to remove ink from leather.

What is Removing Ink from Leather 

Removing ink from leather is a skill you hope you don’t need but comes in handy if you do. Usually, when ink gets on leather, it remains on the surface for some time — this is when it is easiest to remove. Using a cleaning agent, ink can be removed from the surface of the leather to minimize (or completely get rid of) any unwanted blemishes on your valuable leather goods. 

Rolling Leather - How To Remove Ink From Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Rolling Leather

Uses for Removing Ink from Leather

Removing ink from leather is done to eliminate an obvious blemish from its surface. of a leather. Sometimes, ink may rub off onto leather from its surroundings and quickly become an eyesore. Other uses for removing ink from leather include removing ink used to mark cutting lines.

When crafting, some prefer to mark where they should cut with ink to have a clear guide to cut out a pattern. However, leaving behind this ink may be undesirable for those looking to have a clean, finished product. Therefore, removing ink from leather allows leathercrafters to mark up their leather and still achieve a clean result. 

Various Ways to Remove Ink from Leather

There are many ways to remove ink from leather, but most follow a basic formula: cleaning agent + cloth + elbow grease. Mercedes López wrote an article in 2003 about removing ink from leather by cleaning its surface. Some cleaning agents can be rather unorthodox. 

One method is to briefly apply spray-on sunscreen. However, do be advised that leaving sunscreen on for too long may be okay for chromexcel leather but less so for veg tan leather. If the ink marks aren’t coming off, try a rinse-and-repeat approach rather than leaving the sunscreen to soak, as this may affect the color of the leather over time.

Another method that doesn’t involve applying a cleaning agent is the abrasive method of removing ink from leather. Though sanding the marked surface of leather would remove the stain, it is not ideal if you still want to retain the original character of the leather. However, using a rubber eraser to erase the ink mark can be effective without ruining the surface of the leather.

As a word of caution, it would be wise to spot-test the eraser on an inconspicuous area before trying it on the ink. Some leather may be too brittle on the surface to endure the friction of rubbing with an eraser, so you may end up sanding the leather anyways. 

Tools Needed to Remove Ink from Leather

The tools needed to remove ink from leather are commonly found in any household. At a fundamental level, warm water, soap, and cloth can remove ink stains. Failing that, rubbing alcohol may be another option (though you will want to have some leather conditioner on hand to rehydrate the leather after the alcohol has removed its oils).

The tools needed to remove ink from leather are pretty commonly found in any household. At a very basic level, warm water, soap, and a cloth can be used to try and remove ink stains.

A soft bristle toothbrush may be handy to help the cleaning agents penetrate the surface of the leather; if the ink was left on the leather for a while, there’s a good chance that it may be more than just surface level. Lastly, leather conditioners may be wise because some cleaning agents may have a drying effect on the leather; the conditioner replenishes the leather with natural oils.

Skill Level to Remove Ink from Leather

If you’ve gotten ink on your leather, the good thing is that it doesn’t take much technique to get it out. Anyone, even non-leathercrafters, can get ink out of leather with persistence and the right tools. (Even better, the right tools are probably really close by!) 

Blue Microfiber Cloth - How To Remove Ink From Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Blue Microfiber Cloth

How to Remove Ink from Leather 

So, how exactly is ink removed from leather? Here are some steps to removing ink from your leather goods:

  1. Apply the cleaning agent. If you’re using sunscreen (which is surprisingly popular), you’ll want to make sure that you let the leather soak for five to ten minutes before trying to rub it off. Otherwise, it’s fine to directly apply the soap and the water or the rubbing alcohol to the inked surface.
  2. After applying the cleaning agent of your choice, rub it off with a cotton or microfiber cloth. 
  3. If the ink remains, repeat steps 1 and 2; you should gradually see improvements in how clean the leather’s surface gets.
  4. After all the cleaning, make sure to apply some leather conditioner. Abrading the surface using cleaning agents can cause the leather to dry out. A leather conditioner replenishes the oils to keep the leather healthy and durable.

After all the cleaning, make sure to apply some leather conditioner. Abrading the surface by cleaning it coupled with the cleaning agents used can cause the leather to dry out, and leather conditioner replenishes the oils in the leather to keep it healthy and durable

Tips for Removing Ink from Leather 

  1. If using a rubber eraser to remove the ink, test a discreet part of the leather to make sure that it can handle the friction from the eraser. 
  2. Make sure to have some leather conditioner handy for the post-cleanup. Removing ink from leather is often hard on the health of the leather, but rehydrating it with oils from the leather conditioner will help maintain it.
  3. With respect to the sunscreen method, leaving it on longer to soak can improve how effective the sunscreen will remove the ink.
  4. Try to remove the ink as soon as you can — letting ink sit in the leather can be harmful.  

How to Get Better at Removing Ink from Leather 

While no one should hope to get better at removing ink from leather (since this suggests a high frequency of inky accidents), a way to get better at removing ink from leather would be to try out all the different methods. Once you’ve tried out soap and water, try seeing what difference using a rubber eraser might make. After you’ve gained familiarity with all the different methods, you’ll likely become an expert at removing ink from leather.

Examples of Removing Ink from Leather 

For demonstrations on how to use rubbing alcohol, hair spray, or vinegar, the following video demonstrates the results that you can achieve with those cleaning agents: 

The Methods and Agents That Real People Use to Remove Ink From Leather

This chart represents the various methods and agents that may help you decide which technique to use to remove ink from leather. 

Soap and warm waterApply soap and warm water to ink stain, then rub off with a cloth. 
VinegarApply vinegar to a cloth, then dab and rub at the ink stain until it comes off. Repeat as necessary. Apply leather conditioner afterward.
SunscreenSoak the ink stain with spray-on sunscreen for at least ten minutes, then rub it off with a cloth.
Rubbing alcoholApply the rubbing alcohol to the cloth, then rub onto the ink stain. Once the stain is removed, apply a leather conditioner to prevent the leather from drying out.
The Methods and Agents for Removing Ink From Leather

Related insights

How do you remove ink from leather without damaging leather?

If you don’t want to damage leather, there are at least two ways to remove the ink. The first way involves using some soap and water and a cloth and rubbing the leather. Alternatively, spray-on sunscreen can achieve a similar effect as long as it is left to soak into the leather for a bit. Should you choose to use rubbing alcohol, the leather will dry out, so it is advisable to apply some leather conditioner after cleaning with rubbing alcohol to avoid damaging the leather.

Does vinegar remove ink from leather?

Yes, vinegar can remove ink from leather. By applying some vinegar to a cotton ball or a cloth and rubbing it on the ink, you should be able to see results within a few minutes of application. 

Does WD 40 remove ink from leather?

It is not likely that WD-40 can remove ink from leather. Some have attempted to use WD-40 to remove ink, and they achieved poor results with it. However, there are some other solvents/cleaning agents that may be worth a try.

Final Thoughts

You don’t need to be an expert to remove the occasional ink-cident from leather. I hope the different methods listed here will be helpful to you (if you ever need to use them). Getting ink on your leather products isn’t desirable, but it also doesn’t completely ruin the leather, so rest assured — it’s not the end of the world. 

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