How to remove ink from leather – and keep it at its best

Wondering how to remove ink from leather without causing damage? These are the best ways to revive it

How to remove ink from leather – tan leather couch in living room
(Image credit: Cuckooland)

Come across a stain and asking how to remove ink from leather and return an armchair or couch to its former blemish-free state?

Leather is a delicate material and it’s important to use gentle methods when cleaning so an ink stain can seem like a major issue when discovered on leather furnishings.

The good news is that whilst you can’t simply toss these items into the washing machine, there are easy ways for dealing with ink stains on leather. This guide will bring you all the details you need on cleaning a leather couch marked by ink leaving the material looking both fresh and clean.

How to remove ink from leather

Speed is of the essence when it comes to the question of how to remove ink from leather – just as it is when cleaning upholstery to remove coffee stains or remove red wine stains. ‘The longer stains have to set in, the harder they are to get out,’ advises Mihalis Dimopoulos, founder of New York based company Lazy Susans Cleaning Service.

For that reason it’s imperative that you blot as much of the ink away as possible with a clean, dry cloth. Once you have removed the excess ink, you can attempt one of the following methods of stain removal. If the stain is particularly large, consider doing a spot test first to see how the leather reacts.

How to remove ink from leather with soap and water

One of the easiest ways to get rid of ink marks from leather is soapy water,’ says Mihalis Dimopoulos.

‘Dampen a soft cloth with warm water and one to two drops of mild and clear liquid dish soap. Then use the cloth to gently rub off the stain from the outside in. Wipe the affected area gently to remove any soap residue.’

How to remove ink from leather with alcohol

Another of our favorite cleaning tips for removing ink from leather is alcohol. Mihalis advises, ‘Place the stain face down on top of some paper towels or dip a cloth or cotton bud or sponge in rubbing alcohol and dab first around the stain, then directly on it.

‘You should see the ink transfer to the paper towel underneath the stain,’ says Mihalis.

The less alcohol you use, the better as it dries out leather. If possible, once you have finished, apply a leather conditioner to retain moisture.

How to remove ink from leather with hairspray

Mihalis also recommends hairspray as an alternative. ‘Saturate the stained area with hairspray. Immediately wipe up and apply a small amount of moisturizing soap and water.’

Remember to be cautious when using hairspray and any other alcohol-based remedies. Only apply in small amounts – these types of solvents can attack fabric dyes and cause further damage.

How to remove ink from leather with white vinegar

You could alternatively opt to clean with vinegar and try using a white vinegar solution to remove ink from leather. Simply mix equal parts water and white vinegar. Then, using a clean cloth, gently blot the stain and wipe away.

Follow this up with a mixture of mild detergent and tepid water to remove any vinegar odor. Avoid using too much liquid, as this can leave water marks on the upholstery.

Should you call in a pro to remove ink from leather?

While you can remove ink from leather yourself, many furniture retailers urge you to use professional cleaning services, as their skilled methods will ensure the quality of the leather is preserved and avoid any further damage.

Jon Spurlock, VP of global creative design and development at furniture company, Christopher Guy, says, ‘We provide a very high end offering of leather products so we advise you to leave cleaning and care up to leather professionals, such as Guardsman.’

An upholstery cleaning service will use dedicated products and equipment to do on the spot stain removal and deep cleaning, helping to revive your leather and leave it looking as good as new.

Can I use wet wipes on leather?

Kate Way of leather repair and protection specialist Guardsman urges you to avoid any type of wet wipe, baby wipe or disposable towel to clean stains from leather.

‘It’s a common misconception that if a baby wipe is OK for a baby, then surely it must be OK for leather? In fact, it’s the opposite; they are often highly alkaline and coated in cleaning solutions to keep them moist and are designed to be used solely for skin. If used repeatedly it will reduce the longevity of leather causing it to peel and crack over time,’ she says.

How can I look after my leather furniture?

To look after leather furniture professional protection as soon as it is delivered is recommended. 

‘A simple application of our Leather Protector will immediately create a protective layer on the leather preventing damage and staining, as well as nourishing it to keep it soft and supple,’ says Kate Way from Guardsman.

It’s also important to refresh the protective layer of the leather every six months or after cleaning.

‘Guardsman’s Leather Protect and Preserve will repel everyday dirt and grime, but also helps to preserve and maintain the original color and finish of your leather items, helping to keep them looking like new,’ adds Kate.

If everyday life has left your seating looking a little tired, however, you can repair a leather couch and restore it to its best.

Stephanie Hendries
Contributing Editor

Steph Hendries is a freelance journalist who has contributed to many different interiors websites including Homes & Gardens, Ideal Home and Livingetc. She has also worked on a range of social content for property brands such as Zoopla and Boomin. Steph writes for Homes & Gardens Solved section, concentrating on DIY, how to, cleaning and organizing content.