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How To Get Pen Out of Leather Safely and Quickly

How to get pen out of leather

Years ago, while I was working on a writing assignment on my mother’s leather ottoman, my pen slipped, leaving an ink stain. Unless she reads this article, my mom never knew the ink stains were even there. Let me show you the method I used and exactly how to get pen out of leather. A leather surface can easily be damaged so please read my guide in its entirety.

Before You Begin: Important Tips 

Let’s face it: leather is not cheap to replace; it’s also a little temperamental. Here are some of the important things to keep in mind before you jump right into this cleaning process. 

  • Act quickly to when removing ink stains from leather; once the ink is exposed to sunlight, it bonds with the leather material and becomes difficult to remove 
  • Don’t use a water-based cleaner on unfinished leather, as it could spread the ink and cause water spots 
  • Always test a stain removal method first in an inconspicuous area before you use it to remove ink stains
  • Identify the type of leather you are dealing with using the water droplet test

Identify the Type of Leather You Are Dealing With

Before you start working on your ink stain, take a second to ensure you know what type of leather you are dealing with. Here are the types of leather and the best ways to identify which one you have. Do the water droplet test in an inconspicuous area so you aren’t left with watermarks.

  • Aniline (unfinished leather): natural, soft, and less shiny finish; if you put a drop of water on aniline leather, it will sink in and absorb, often leaving a mark
  • Pigmented (finished leather): pigmented leather has a glossy and smooth finish; if you drop a little water, it will bead up instantly
  • Nubuck and suede: nubuck and suede are similar, with nubuck being just a bit finer than suede when it comes to the finish; both are highly sensitive to water, and water should be avoided at all times when working to remove ink from leather in this scenario

Finally, pay close attention to the color of the leather you are working with. Certain stain removers are better suited for darker or lighter colors.

How To Get Ballpoint Pen Out of Leather? (Best Method for Finished Leather)

To get pen out of finished leather, you need a clean cloth, rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol), and a Leather Honey Leather Conditioner. Rubbing alcohol is a solvent that dissolves ink by getting into the pores of the leather. 

Start by testing this solution in an inconspicuous area of the couch. Then, put some rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab or clean cloth and blot the ink stain. Do not rub, scrub, or apply too much pressure; simply blot the stain. Repeat this until the stain is removed, and then treat the area with a leather conditioner like Leather Honey Leather Conditioner to moisturize and protect against future stains.

Alternative Ink Stain Removal Methods for Finished Leather

If the rubbing alcohol doesn’t seem like a good fit for you or you don’t want to use it on your leather, there are other options that you can try. You need to be very selective in the options you attempt to use on your leather, or you could end up with permanent damage.

Leather Honey Leather Cleaner 

The Leather Honey Leather Cleaner is not specifically designed for removing ink stains from leather. However, it does a very good job of cleaning leather without damaging it, and it has worked for me with mild ink stains right after they happen.

  1. Place a small amount of the Leather Honey Leather Cleaner on a clean cloth
  2. Blot the ink stain with a damp cloth 
  3. Continue to blot for several minutes and rub gently if needed 
  4. If the ink stain does not release, you may need to switch to rubbing alcohol and then condition the area when finished 
  5. Wipe any excess cleaner off the stained area before finishing 

White Vinegar 

The acidity in vinegar has been known to dissolve ink. Vinegar can be a little harsh, so you do need to dilute your vinegar and mix equal parts vinegar and water when using this method. 

  1. Create a solution of equal parts vinegar and water 
  2. Dip a cloth into the vinegar and water solution and start to blot the stain 
  3. You can rub the vinegar water solution in but do not scrub 
  4. Blot several more times before rinsing with a clean cloth
  5. Make sure the area is completely dry using a paper towel to soak up any excess water on your finished leather 

Mild Soap and Water

Soap works to help emulsify and then lift the ink out of the sofa. When I use soap on my leather sofa, I prefer to use a specific soap, the Otter Wax Saddle Soap. Knowing that this soap is mild and designed for leather gives me peace of mind. 

  1. Take a damp cloth and dip it into the Otter Wax Saddle Soap to create a bit of a lather on the rag
  2. Use this soapy rag to gently rub the area where there is an ink stain 
  3. Give the solution a few minutes to work
  4. Wipe the area completely and allow it to dry 
  5. Repeat the process if necessary 
  6. Consider using a leather conditioner after the fact 

Baking Soda and Water 

Baking soda is only slightly abrasive, and when dealing with leather, slightly abrasive is about as abrasive as you can go! If you use something too abrasive on leather, you will remove any protective coating and do some long-term damage to your furniture, shoes, clothing, etc. 

  1. Create a paste using two parts baking soda to one part water 
  2. Place the paste directly on the ink stain and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes 
  3. Gently rub the stain with your fingers to let the baking soda do its job 
  4. Wipe clean with a damp cloth 
  5. Dry the area and repeat if necessary 
  6. Do not scrub hard with baking soda, as it could leave scratches on your leather 


One of the go-to methods for removing ink stains from leather is to use milk. For the milk method, you need a cloth and milk. Milk is a little acidic but also can act as a solvent, a great combination when trying to dissolve ink. 

  1. Dip the corner of a clean cloth into whole cow milk 
  2. Blot the ink stains; you can also use a cotton ball
  3. Use a dry paper towel to soak up any excess milk
  4. Continue the process for about 5-10 minutes
  5. Wipe with a clean, damp rag to remove any excess milk
  6. Dry the area completely

Methods Not To Use 

I won’t get into the specifics of these methods. I’ll just say that while these methods are often recommended, you should be aware that they have the potential to cause damage. 

  • Hair spray: although hair spray has some great properties for removing ink stains, you don’t know the exact chemical makeup of your hair spray, and it could leave residue on leather products 
  • Nail polish remover: even acetone free nail polish removers can take the finish right off your leather items 
  • Perfume: perfumes often contain alcohol but not the fast-drying isopropyl alcohol; many perfumes are oily, and even a dry cloth can’t keep them from staining your leather 
  • Magic Eraser: as great as Mr. Clean Magic Eraser can be for cleaning bathrooms and kitchens, it works like a sandpaper, and that is too abrasive for your leather item 
  • Toothpaste: two reasons to stay away from toothpaste when removing ink stains include the abrasiveness of the toothpaste and any whitening additives that could take color from your leather 

How Do You Remove Ballpoint Pen From Leather?

When removing ballpoint pen from leather, you can use the same process as any ink stain on leather. 

To remove the ballpoint pen from leather, use a clean cloth or cotton ball and rubbing alcohol. Gently blot the stain and then treat the leather product with a conditioner to ensure the stained area is protected from future stains. 

Tips for Removing Ink Stains From Unfinished Leather

All of the information I’ve given you so far has been on how to remove ink stains from finished leather. Unfinished leather is another story. This is where you really have to look out for liquids, as they can do some real damage to the leather. 

Your best method here is to use natural oils and waxes like mink oil, neatsfoot oil, linseed oil, and even beeswax. Olive oil is not recommended as it is a bit heavy and has been known to set the stain in some situations. 

Tips for Removing Ink Stains From Nubuck and Suede

Like unfinished leather, you must be very careful when using water to remove stains from Nubuck and Suede. It can be tempting to grab a wet rag and start scrubbing, but you may leave yourself with permanent damage due to the delicate material. 

Cleaning ink stains from nubuck and suede requires a brush or an eraser specifically made to work on leather furniture, a leather bag, or other leather accessories.

  • Nubuck Brush: the Angelus Nubuck Brush can be used as a first step to get the ink pen out of the Nubuck. Brush the area while dry and then follow up with the eraser if necessary
  • Nubuck Eraser for deep cleaning: the Pedag Nubuck Eraser works well for a leather stain remover without having to incorporate water; simply rub the leather with the eraser and then brush it back in place
  • Suede Brush: the Angelus Suede Brush will not change the color or texture of your suede. Brush the material and then move to the eraser if the brush does not remove the stains  
  • Suede Eraser for deep cleaning: the Pedag Suede Eraser is capable of removing stains, marks, and even shiny spots from your suede. Use this in combination with the brush to get the material looking brand new  

How To Prevent Ink Stains on Leather

Can pen ink be removed from leather? Yes. Pen ink can be removed from finished leather using a mild soap, leather cleaner like Leather Honey Leather Cleaner, or rubbing alcohol. Still, your best option is just to prevent the stain altogether.

To prevent ink stains on leather, here are a few steps you can take: 

  • Use a conditioner like Leather Honey Leather Conditioner to moisturize the material and protect against future stains. Condition your leather every 3-6 months or more frequently if it looks dry or brittle
  • Use a stain repellent like Bickmore Water and Stain Repellent to create a barrier that will hopefully keep ink stains away
  • Keep your leather items away from heat and direct sunlight, as they can become dried out and brittle
  • Always put a cap on a pen when you are going to be around leather goods. It will save you the stress from having to deal with the stain later!

How Do You Get Ballpoint Ink Out of a Leather Couch?

To get ballpoint ink out of a leather couch, first, make sure you are dealing with finished leather. 

Dip a cotton swab or soft cloth into rubbing alcohol and repeatedly dab the stain on the leather couch. You must repeat this process several times to allow the rubbing alcohol to work as a solvent and dilute the stain.

When finished with your stain removal, use leather conditioners to get the couch looking new again. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How To Remove Ink From Faux Leather?

To remove ink from faux leather, first gently dab with a cotton swab to remove any excess ink. Then, put a little rubbing alcohol on a clean, soft cloth and test the faux leather in an inconspicuous area. Once you are sure this cleaning solution does no damage, use it to blot and remove the ink. 

Can I Use Baby Wipes To Clean Leather?

Baby wipes should not be used to clean leather. Baby wipes contain chemicals that will leave stains and break down protective coatings on the leather. Use rubbing alcohol or a leather conditioner instead. 

When Should I Use a Professional Cleaning Service?

If you have attempted several leather cleaners and store-bought ink removers and have had no luck, it is time to call a professional cleaner to look at your ink stain. Professional cleaning services will have additional commercial-grade stain removers that can repair and restore your leather.


Britt Olizarowicz