How to remove ink, biro & ball pen marks from leather & vinyl
Before starting to remove pen marks, it is first important to identify the type of leather. Incorrect cleaning methods or products can increase the damage. We distinguish between the following types of leather when cleaning such stains:
Pigmented leather: Pigmented smooth leather is leather with a protective layer of paint on the surface. They are not porous so a drop of water when rubbed on the surface does not sink into the leather but rolls off. Pigmented leathers generally have a satin finish and a grained surface.
Aniline leather is porous, smooth leather, and liquids penetrate and darken the area.
Suede is the backside of a smooth leather or both sides of spilt leather. They are extremely sensitive and porous.
Nubuck is the sanded grain side of a smooth leather to create a soft, velvety effect. Just as Suede, they are extremely sensitive and porous.
PU-Leather / Bycast leather / Bicast leather is a split leather (suede) with a grained film of polyurethane applied to the surface. Such leather is usually shiny and plastic-like.
Vinyl aka Faux leather/Artificial leather/Vegan leather: is a synthetic man made material that looks like pigmented leather but is not genuine leather. It is a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or a polyurethane surface that has a leather like appearance but is not genuine leather.
HOW TO REMOVE INK & BALL PEN MARKS FROM LEATHER & VINYL
INK STAINS ON PIGMENTED LEATHER
Pen and ink marks on furniture and car leather are common.They are especially common and quite visible on white leather whether that is on sneakers or a leather sofa. Standard cleaning products aren't the most efficient when it comes to removing these ink stains from leather.
Please note the following:
- The fresher a pen or ink mark is, the easier it is to remove. When the pen mark is older than three days, it is rarely possible to just clean and remove the mark. In most cases, this will have to be coloured.
- Bigger marks and scribbles on large areas are much harder to remove.
- Cleaning trials with incorrect products can often increase the damage.
- Always test first in a hidden area. Ideally, replicate the same problem by creating a similar mark in a hidden area and clean strongly to experience what could happen in the visible area. If it’s easy to clean, there is no big risk.
- Some pens lose a lot of ink. To avoid spreading the ink, glue a masking tape on the top and remove several times to drain any excess ink.
- Geist. Rapid Leather & Vinyl Cleaner is a plant and algae based cleaner that will help with removing fresh ink stains. You will have to test by spraying and leaving the product to work for a few hours.
- Another alternative and one we recommend - a very safe way to remove ink from leather is to use Geist. Ink & Dye Remover. Geist. Ink Remover for leather & vinyl is a plant and algae based product that removes ink stains from leather and vinyl without damaging the surface finish or the clear coat. Apply the product on the stained surface and leave to work. It is designed to lift the ink stain and after about 15-20 minutes you will notice the ink swims to the surface of the liquid. Wipe and repeat if required. Plant based products are just as effective as their soap based counterparts but they just need a little more time. Rather than scrub or rub hard allow the product to work for longer. You can even leave it overnight if necessary.
- Geist. Ink & Dye Remover comes with a light abrasive swab. After leaving for a while (atleast 30 mins), gently remove ink stains with the swab by rubbing in light circular motions and make sure you do not apply too much pressure. The liquid softens the area and dissolves the ink.
- Always remove dissolved ink with a cloth to avoid staining the remaining area and also to see the progress better. Also clean the tip of the swab if necessary.
- Repeat the process and slightly increase the pressure if necessary.
- Older stains can hardly be removed without damaging the colour layer on the leather. In such cases, the colour will also need to be touched up. Ink from pens is designed to be permanent. Stains that are not fresh have a tendency to penetrate back out even after the leather is recoloured. It is therefore essential to clean as thoroughly as possible prior to recolouring.
Fresh ballpoint pen marks are easier to remove.Plant based products work best when you allow the time for the product to work. Rubbing excessively does not help. Damaged areas will need to be recoloured. There is no product that can perform miracles. Each stain is different and every leather is different. The best way to clean ink stains is to react quickly and not let it sit.
HOW TO REMOVE INK MARKS ON ANILINE LEATHER
Aniline leathers are very sensitive, porous and absorbent. Pen marks usually cannot be removed without the help of an expert. The risk of increasing the damage is very high. Always test first in a hidden area and use masking tape to cover unaffected areas. Finely sand the stained area using Geist. Leather Sanding Pads. Rub gently and work with extreme care and precision. Using Geist. Ink & Dye Remover is not appropriate for this type of leather. As aniline leather is porous and absorbent it will stain the surface. Geist. Easy Colour Restorer dye can only help on one tone leather (single coloured without two tone effect). It is very rare to resolve this with aniline. If in doubt, consult a specialist.
HOW TO REMOVE INK MARKS ON SUEDE OR NUBUCK
Suede and Nubuck have a velvet surface. Always test first in a hidden area and use masking tape to cover unaffected areas. Sanding with Geist. Leather Sanding Pads would be the best way to remove ink stains on suede & nubuck, as the they are a sanded surface. Rub gently and work with extreme care and precision. Always work from seam to seam. Stop in time, even if small marks remain.Using Geist. Ink & Dye Remover is not appropriate for this type of leather. A colour repair is not possible and will rarely give the desired finish.
INK & PEN MARKS ON PU LEATHER
Most PU leather (bycast/bicast leather) are dark and strokes from ballpoint pens are not so visible. Cleaning the strokes takes the risk of damaging the foil on the suede. Always test in a hidden area first and don’t press or rub too hard. Stop in time, even if the mark is visible. A good colour repair is only possible if the leather is monochrome.
HOW TO REMOVE STAINS CAUSED BY PERMANENT MARKER PENS ON LEATHER
STAINS ON PIGMENTED LEATHER
The procedure is the same as the one with ink & biro marks on pigmented leather. Follow the relevant recommendation provided above. In the case of small single pen marks or larger smudged ink stains, Geist. Ink & Dye Remover is the correct product to use. If this does not give the desired result, then switch to a stronger solvent based product like Geist. Dissolve. In some cases, the area will need to be touched up with Geist. Easy Colour Restorer dye for leather & vinyl. Protect the cleaned area with Geist. Dye & Friction Blocker when finished.
BIGGER MARKS & STAINS ON ANILINE LEATHER
Aniline leather is very sensitive due to the open pores. Strokes and spots usually cannot be removed without the help of an expert. The risk of increasing the damage is very high. Please email photos so we can assist further.
BIGGER MARKS & STAINS ON SUEDE OR NUBUCK
Cleaning does not provide the desired result as the ink of the pens sinks into the fibres. Removal of the discolouration can be carefully tried with the Geist. Leather Sanding Pads. Intensive colourations can’t be removed. Ask an expert for advice.
BIGGER MARKS & STAINS ON PU LEATHER
The procedure is the same as removing stains from pigmented leather. Work carefully and test in a hidden area first!
When ink stains sink into the leather, it will need to be treated professionally. Please contact us so we can refer you to someone in your area.
Large ink stains on suede and nubuck can't be saved even by experts. Please email us photos so we can assist you.