Removing Ink Marks from Leather

1960's Rolls Royce Leather Seat

It happens to the best of us, and more often than you’d think. Pens and leather seats just don’t mesh, and removing the ink stain can be somewhat confusing if you don’t have the right leather care products handy. It can also give you a bit of a headache if you’re searching around the internet for the “proper” procedure. Hopefully the confusion ends today…

First, before getting into the “how to” section of this article, here are some things you should NEVER use to remove ink from leather seats (regardless of what you’ve heard): Hairspray, nail polish remover, baby wipes, milk, toothpaste, WD-40, or household cleaners. You’ll find a number of these items being recommended, however if used to remove ink you’ll find that most of these will end up making your job a lot harder. So what should you use? Lets take a look.

Ink is a lot different than removing dirt, scuffs, or “organic” messes from leather. Ink is also very tricky because if it’s left on the surface for a long time, it will actually be absorbed into the leather. When this happens, scrubbing is only going to hurt the soft leather finish. Anyway, because ink is not an organic mess, you’ll want to use a leather cleaner specifically formulated to tackle ink and other petroleum-based messes such as grease. Gently mist and scrub with a suede cloth – if additional power is needed, using a horsehair brush is the route to go. As you should know, after any cleaning… neutralize the surface and protect it with leather cream. You’ll thank me. Cleaners can dry out the leather and speed up the cracking and fading process – conditioning is the only way to turn back time!

As I said, ink does have a tendency to “stick” to leather. If this happens, your best bet is to contact a detail shop and see what kind of leather treatments they offer. There are ink removers out there that will get the job done, but as I said, scrubbing stubborn ink is only going to damage your seats more. And if you’re thinking about using a small amount of paint thinner, I would be EXTREMELY careful, as this could remove the pigment of your seats completely. Just remember, if it’s fresh you can handle it no problem. It’s when you let the pen stain sit on the leather that you start to have problems.

So my suggestion? Grab a leather care kit and keep it handy. Being proactive is easier and more effective than being reactive, especially when it comes to your leather.