How To Remove Ink Stains From Leather Car Seats

Leather car seats are a luxurious way to enjoying driving but they need careful and delicate care. It’s terrifying when they get stained with tough-to-treat ink!

Today we’ll talk about leather, ink, and how to deal with ink stains. Read on to find out what you can do about this stressful problem.

Types of leathertypes of leather

Cleaning techniques that we look at should only be used on finished leather. If your leather is unfinished, you want to call in a professional because trying anything yourself could result in more damage. With finished leather, it will have a protective layer that prevents the ink from being fully absorbed.

Naked/ unfinished leathers will soak up that ink, this requires professional help to get rid of stains. If you are unsure if the leather is finished or unfinished, simply add some water to a concealed area. If the water rolls off then it is finished, if it is absorbed into the material then it is unfinished.

More leather basics

Leather that is found on seats, be it a car seat, a couch, a love seat, a chair, or whatever else, will be created differently. A majority of seat leather will either be aniline-dyed leather, or pigmented leather. The difference is important, just as important as to whether or not a leather seat is finished or unfinished.

Aniline-dyed leather is known as being unfinished. This looks more natural in appearance, so if you do not want to do the water test, you should be able to tell the difference simply by the way it looks, especially if you are a leather enthusiast. This material will also be softer, and richer in color.

Pigmented leather is dyed with aniline, however, they are pigmented. They tend not to be as soft as aniline-dyed options, however, they are more durable, and they are also less likely to fade over time. A majority of car seats should be pigmented leather, however, this is not true for all.

What about unfinished Aniline dyed leather?

what about unfinished aniline dyed leather

If your leather is aniline dyed then it is unfinished, which means that you need to call in a professional, such as a furniture medic, or take it to your local dealership who should be able to call someone in to tackle the issue. This is applicable for any stains be they ink, water, grease, and so on. Aniline dyed leather will likely absorb the liquid and the stain will set in easier.

Seeking out a professional is the only real way to prevent irreparable damage to your leather seats, so if your leather is this type of leather, get it to a professional as soon as possible!

Consider the type of ink used

consider the type of ink used

There are many types of ink that will stain surfaces. Powdered ink, paste ink, aqueous, and liquid. Modern day inks are divided into two categories though, writing and printing. Either of these can cause damage to your car seats, a pen can cause damage if the ink from the pen gets onto the surface, either by an accidental spill, or if you have a kid who wants to draw on everything.

Printing ink can also be a problem, if you have bought some ink cartridges and are transporting them home to your printer, if one leaks, you have a problem.

Black ink is made with carbon black, whereas colored ink is made from soybean oil. Linseed oil, and is combined with organic pigments that often stain.

When thinking about how ink stains, we have to look at other stains too. Residue from food, juice, and grass are considered organic and these are easier to get rid of. Inks, paints, and dyes are inorganic stains and are much harder to get rid of. It is not impossible, just harder.

Ink stains on fabrics, upholstery, carpets, leather and so on, need to be tackled fast as wet ink stains are easier to remove than dried ink stains. You will want to tackle this before the ink dries if at all possible.

Ink vs leather

ink vs leather

Not all inks and not all leathers are the same. We have spoken about the different types of leather and why some leathers may be more of a problem to remove ink from than others. However, ink is also difficult depending on the type.

The ink from a ballpoint pen, if your kid decides your car seats are great canvas, it is thick and oily. These stains are a combination of dyes and grease. These will be hard to remove, but not as hard as permanent inks.

Water based inks are the easiest to remove, these are inks from fountain and gel pens. The ink here is thin and isn’t greasy. Permanent ink marks are the hardest, these require a special, permanent ink remover to tackle. Combined with the type of leather that the ink is spilled on, the stain can be hard, or near impossible, to remove.

So, how do you combat this?

Tackling the stain

tackling the stain

The best way to tackle an ink stain on your leather car seat is with an ink-removal stick that is made for leather. These can be rather inexpensive and can be found at office supply stores, hardware stores, and online too.

Simply apply the stick according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and once you have finished the treatment, give your leather some TLC with a conditioner that is recommended.

While there are other ways that you can remove ink stains, this is probably the easiest and most widely advised tactic.

Techniques to remove ink stains from leather seats

techniques to remove ink stains from leather seats

If you want to try some home remedies, you can. There are four main options for you that may be able to remove the ink from your leather car seats.

The first option is liquid soap. Simply add a few drops of dish soap to a white rag and blot the ink stain. Try to avoid any strong solvent-based agents, and do not spread the ink by scrubbing, just gently blot it, and you should see improvement. Obviously, this works best if the stain is still wet.

You could also use rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. Using a white cloth, or a Q-tip, dip this into the alcohol agent, and carefully dab on the stain, remember, dab carefully, you do not want to unintentionally spread the stain further.

This is a very potent cleaning agent, so be sure to maintain a light touch while you do this. You should also follow this with an application of a leather conditioner to restore moisture to where the stain was. Leather needs moisture and you want to restore this.

Hairspray is another good shout. Hairspray weirdly works as a very useful cleaning agent. Simply spray a small amount of hairspray, with alcohol content, onto a hidden area of the leather to test. Some brands will have ingredients that can leave behind stains, so check this first.

Then follow up with an application of leather conditioner once you have used the spray (if it is suitable) to ensure that the leather will not appear dry or cracked.

Finally, try out a cuticle remover. Ink stains on leather car seats can be remedied with a cuticle remover that you can easily seek out in the beauty section of most drug stores.

You want to pick one that has no oil in its formula, so be sure to check this when you are looking in the store. Oil and leather do not mix well, and adding oil to the stain will just make things worse, thus be sure to check beforehand.

Once you have found your cuticle remover, dab on a dense coating over the stain and leave it to sit for a full day (24 hours) then once the waiting time is up, dab it away with a white rag.

Pen vs car leather

pen vs leather

If you are tackling a pen ink stain, you can tackle this simply.

Just apply a clean cloth gently to the site to soak up any excess ink and prevent it from staining. Ensure that you are careful as leather surfaces are soft. You can also use vinegar, nail polish remover, baking soda, and rubbing alcohol to assist you.

Once the stain is removed, be sure to check for lingering traces, and repeat the cleaning process if need be. Always remember to apply a leather conditioner to the leather car seat and the previously affiliated area after you are done.

James Marshall

About the author

James is a business management professional and consultant with a former background in maintenance, repair, and hands-on projects. He enjoys DIY tasks and maintenance around the home as well as part-time writing. Read more »