How to remove pen stains from leather

how to remove pen stains from leather

You may have expensive leather couches and chances are accidents happen now and then, like getting pen stains on your precious seats. Worse yet, your young ones may decide to doodle or write a poem on your leather couch or car seats.

Luckily for you, leather seats are simple to clean. In this article, we will show you how to remove pen stains from leather fabric, making this common problem a thing of the past.

Household ingredients to use when removing pen stains from leather

If you are attempting to remove pen stains from classic finished leather, you can do it with these simple household ingredients:

  • Alcohol(Isopropyl)
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Cream of tartar
  • Moisturizing soap

Is your leather naked or finished?

The way you clean your leather varies slightly, depending on if it’s suede, vinyl or, just smooth leather. You will need first to determine whether the leather is naked or finished leather.

Naked leather is absorbent, so professional help is advisable. As for finished leather, you can use any of the remedies described. The best way to determine if the leather is finished or naked is to sprinkle a little water on the surface. If it beads up, it is finished leather.

Isopropyl Alcohol tackles pen stains

For stubborn pen stains, isopropyl alcohol should be your first pick. Also known as rubbing alcohol, with a 70% alcohol concentration, it is well known for its antiseptic and cleansing properties. It should, however, be used with caution as it is highly flammable.

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To use Isopropyl Alcohol to get rid of pen stains on your leather, you will require the following:

  • A bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol
  • A cotton swab or a clean piece of cotton cloth


  1. Perform a “spot test” on a relatively hidden part of the leather to find out the effects of the alcohol on that type of leather beforehand.
  2. This is done by applying a cotton swab dampened in alcohol over a hidden spot then allowing it to sit for 10 minutes to check on any side effects beforehand.
  3. If none, apply the cotton swab with alcohol on the pen-stains and rub gently. The pen stains should start to disappear.
  4. When it is clear, allow it to air out to dry.
  5. You can use a leather conditioner on the affected area in case it loses its shine.

Lemon juice and cream of tartar

Lemons have antibacterial and bleaching properties, making them good cleansing agents. Cream of tartar is a popular ingredient in many recipes. When put together, they form a formidable cleansing agent that can remove any stubborn set-in pen stains.

You will need the following:

  • Three lemons
  • 1/4 cup of cream of tartar
  • A microfiber cloth


  1. Squeeze the lemons or use some regular undiluted lemon juice from the supermarket. You will only need half a cup of lemon juice.
  2. Mix the lemon juice with cream of tartar to form an even paste.
  3. It is advisable to conduct a spot test like in the above method to test the effects of the paste beforehand.
  4. Once all is clear you can proceed by applying on the affected region using the microfiber cloth.
  5. Let it sit for a few hours to allow the paste to work on the pen stains
  6. Afterward, clear the area with a clean dampened cloth.
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Using distilled white vinegar and olive oil

A versatile liquid, distilled white vinegar does it all.  From cooking and cleaning, to medicinal values, distilled white vinegar has many uses. This is because it contains acetic acid, which is both antimicrobial and antioxidant.

Olive oil is loaded with antioxidants as well. Since white leather is sensitive to caustic ingredients, it is advisable to use this solution on it instead.

To use this approach, you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • A spray bottle (optional)
  • A microfiber cloth


  1. Mix the vinegar and olive oil in a container to make a solution.
  2. Conduct a spot test on a hidden part of the leather item you are treating.
  3. If it has no effect on the leather, proceed to clean the affected area.
  4. A good idea is to put the solution in a spray bottle. Spray on the affected region and allow the solution to act on the pen stains for five to ten minutes.
  5. Use the microfiber wipe the previously-stained area.
  6. Let it air dry.

Using moisturizing soap and water

Moisturizing soap is designed to penetrate the skin in order to leave it clean and supple. Luckily, it does the same for leather. If it is a fresh pen stain you might need a paper towel to soak up excess ink, otherwise you will need the following:

  • Moisturizing soap
  • A liter of water
  • A micro-cloth
  • Paper towels


  1. Dampen the microfiber cloth or paper towel with moisturizing soap.
  2. Apply on the pen stains evenly.
  3. Gently rub it until the pen marks disappear gradually.
  4. Wipe it clean and dry with the paper towels.
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Frequently asked questions

Can you use products that contain alcohol like hair spray or nail polish to clean stains on leather?

Yes and no. This is because as much as they contain alcohol there are other ingredients in the products, so you can’t tell how they are going to react to the leather. Before using these products, it is advisable to conduct a spot test first. Some hair sprays might dry out the leather to the point that it cracks.

Are spot checks necessary if you know the type of leather you’re cleaning?

Spot checks are mandatory when cleaning leather. Spot tests are not done to check if the remedies are cleaning the leather, but rather the effects they will have on the leather. This could include things like bleaching or damaging the leather. Therefore, it is advisable when using a new remedy on your precious outfit or furniture to conduct this test so as not to ruin it.

Can I use saddle soap on leather clothing?

Yes, saddle soap is made to clean leather and contains ingredients such as glycerin and lanolin, which help maintain the leather and improve its appearance.

Maintaining and treating your leather

Removing pen stains from leather, whether it’s your precious leather couch, clothing, bag or shoes is not an impossible task. All you need to have is a bit of patience and any of the inexpensive household ingredients. Invest in a good leather conditioner to maintain your leather clothing and furniture. Treating leather regularly helps make it last longer. It is advisable to apply a leather conditioner if you use any of the above remedies, as this will help restore the leather. If you are vulnerable to pen stains you can as well keep a commercial leather-cleaning product at hand.

how to remove pen stains from leather

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