Leather is a supple material that often increases in both beauty and flexibility as it ages. Leather’s enduring quality and natural beauty make it an ideal material for crafting handbags and purses that can last for decades. One of the primary benefits of a good leather purse is its longevity. Its longevity, however, also gives it plenty of opportunities to pick up unsightly stains, including ink stains. Fortunately, there are several ways to remove stains from leather, though some are more corrosive than others.
Most purses are made of treated leather. Untreated or “naked” leather is much more porous than treated and may require professional cleaning.
Whether the stain on your purse was caused by an errant puddle of ink, a broken pen, or an overactive toddler, your best bet is to remove it as soon as possible. Fresh ink is much easier to remove from leather than ink that has had time to dry and set.
Always test your chosen method on a small, inconspicuous area of the purse before using it on a larger area. Although the methods listed here are usually safe and effective, they may harm some leather treatments and dyes.
1. Leather cleaner
By far, the best way to remove ink from your leather handbag is to use a cleaner specifically designed to be tough on stains and gentle on your purse. There are an incredible variety of products designed for this exact purpose. You can choose from pens, wipes, and liquids, all with their own special blend of cleaners and conditioners.
Leather cleaning products are typically highly effective at removing stains without damaging the leather and often include leather-healthy components like beeswax and olive oil. A good leather cleaner won’t just remove the ink, but it will also help condition the leather, keeping it strong and supple for years to come. Essential oils such as lavender, lemon, and tea tree oil are often added as well. Many of these essential oils pull double duty by both moisturizing your leather products and providing protection from viruses and bacteria.
2. Saddle Soap
Another product specifically designed to clean leather is saddle soap. People originally designed saddle soap to clean and protect saddles, but some varieties can work wonders on leather clothing and bags as well. Many saddle soaps are a combination of an emollient like lanolin, a mild soap, and a preservative like beeswax.
Some saddle soaps also include lye as an ingredient. While lye is usually safe for the tough vegetable-tanned leather of saddles, it may be too caustic for the softer leather that is typically used for handbags. If you are using saddle soap to remove a stain, be sure to check the ingredients first. Soap that contains lye or other caustic chemicals may damage your purse. If you choose to use a product with caustic ingredients, treat the purse with a leather conditioner afterward to prevent it from drying out or cracking.
3. Soap and water
A mild liquid soap may be enough to save your favorite handbag from an unattractive blotch of ink. Use a white towel to complete this process, as colored towels may cause dye to transfer from the fabric to the leather. Dampen the towel and apply the liquid soap to it, then gently blot the stain, taking care not to scrub the spot as that could spread the ink stain instead of cleaning it.
4. Rubbing alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is another alternative for removing ink stains from leather. Start by wetting a cotton ball or swab with isopropyl alcohol, then gently rub it in a circular motion. Resist the urge to scrub the stained spot as rubbing may damage the leather or cause the stain to spread. The ink stain should gradually fade as you continue to rub it gently with the soaked cotton ball.
Once the ink stain has faded, use a leather conditioner to ensure that the area doesn’t become dry and discolored.
The high amount of acetone in most hairsprays makes it a fairly effective option for removing ink stains. Spray the hairspray onto a cotton ball or swab and apply it the same way you would use rubbing alcohol to remove the stain, rubbing gently in a circular motion. Spraying hairspray directly onto the bag isn’t recommended, and leaving hairspray on the purse too long may eventually damage the leather.
Hairspray, like rubbing alcohol, can be very harsh on leather, so a good leather conditioner will help to mitigate the damage by rehydrating the leather.
6. Magic Eraser
Melamine foam sponges, sometimes marketed as magic erasers, have a higher density than other sponges. This, combined with the smaller pores, creates a mildly abrasive surface, which effectively sands off the stain. The open structure of the sponge then sucks in dirt and grime and traps it there.
While effective for surface stains, this method may not be as helpful for stains that penetrate deeply into the leather. The sandpaper-like quality of the melamine foam could also potentially damage dyed and colored leathers.
A final word
Although these methods are typically effective, they are not foolproof. There is no guarantee that they will work, especially for large or deeply set stains. If none of these methods eliminate or at least significantly minimize ink stains, you may need to contact a professional cleaner to fully remove the stain.
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