It is incredibly easy when working or just doing some admin on the sofa to drop your pen and have it roll underneath the cushions, or worse, to have it split and drop ink everywhere.
Biro stains look awful, and if they go unnoticed, they can become tricky to clean too. Fortunately, if you know what to do, you can get rid of the stain easily to restore the leather to its best.
Commercial Leather Cleaners
A commercial leather cleaner is one of the easiest (and probably one of the safest) ways to remove biro from leather.
These chemicals, such as leather cleaner and conditioners, are designed to both clean and hydrate the leather. Commercially available cleaners come in a range of types, so it is important to make sure that the one you are buying is suitable for your specific leather.
If you have it laying around, saddle soap can be worth trying when it comes to removing stains from leather. Saddle soap is designed to clean and protect leather saddles and is made from a combination of gentle soaps and emollients. These emollients, (often glycerine or lanolin) will add moisture back into the leather after you finish cleaning it, helping to protect it from cracking.
Saddle soap can also be used (in small quantities) on a regular basis. Using saddle soap regularly can help to increase the leather’s lifespan and keep it looking healthy.
You can get saddle soap and similar leather cleaners/conditioners on Amazon – check this one out from Carr & Day & Martin.
You might be surprised to see it on this list – but hairspray can help to get ink stains out of leather. In fact, you will find that some people even swear by this method. Often, the cheaper the hairspray the better, due to higher alcohol content. Inexpensive perfumes may also work in a similar way.
Coat a cotton bud thoroughly in hairspray, and scrub at the mark quickly before the hairspray dries. You might need to repeat this process a couple of times for particularly problematic stains.
Hairspray is not the gentlest cleaning method, so if you do use this, use a leather conditioner after. Hairspray can cause some leathers to dry out, which in the long term, can cause cracking. A leather conditioner can help combat this.
Rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl) can work effectively when it comes to getting biro off leather, however, it is not always recommended. As with hairspray, rubbing alcohol can dry out the leather, so it should be used in conjunction with a leather conditioner.
If you do want to give this a go, always do a patch test first somewhere out of sight. Simply dip a cotton bud or swab in the rubbing alcohol and rub it into the biro mark. Depending on how stubborn the stain is, you may need to repeat the process before treating the area with a rehydrating conditioner.
We have all seen the adverts for magic erasers where they claim to be able to clean even the trickiest of stains with just a touch of water. When it comes to cleaning ink off leather, magic erasers are a popular choice!
These cleaning masterpieces contain melamine foam; the special material that gives these erasers their magical cleaning ability. Simply dampen the tip of the eraser using clean water and rub the stain.
This video on YouTube demonstrates how well a magic eraser can clean leather upholstery, so you may find yourself washing the whole sofa if the magic eraser reveals how grubby it was before you had to clean off the biro!
Nail Varnish Remover
Nail varnish remover is another common household item that can be used to remove biro staining. Nail varnish remover can be quite harsh, so try to use a brand that is non-acetone.
Dab a handy cotton bud into the nail varnish remover and rub it against the stain. You should not need much nail varnish remover for this method, so I would always recommend using a cotton bud to apply the chemical.
As with many things in life, preventing the problem before it can occur is the best way to go. Making sure that your leather is well cared for will keep it looking its best for longer and can make it easier to clean if something does get dropped and leave a mark. Use leather wipes to clean dirty areas regularly and use leather conditioners to keep the leather supple too.
1. Speed is Key
When it comes to a biro (or any other ink stain for that matter) on leather, speed is crucial. Biro marks are much easier to clean if they are caught fresh. The longer biro is left, the harder it is to clean. You might find that if the biro mark is older than three days, it is near enough impossible to clean and the area might have to be recoloured instead.
2. Type of Leather
Some types of leather are best left to professionals to clean. If your leather is a “naked” type, such as suede, we would recommend getting a professional to clean the material. Finished leathers, such as the common “shiny” ones, are much easier to clean yourself.
If you are not sure whether your leather has been treated, put a drop of water or two on the surface. If the water soaks in, the leather has not been treated. If it beads up or runs off, it has been finished.
3. Test the Method
Before going ahead and cleaning a large area of the leather, regardless of your chosen method, always test your cleaning method out on a small, hidden area first. If the biro mark is on a sofa, the underside of a cushion could be an ideal place to conduct your spot test.
This will give you the chance to determine how easy it is to clean and to make sure the chemicals used will not damage the surface.
Regardless of your chosen cleaning method, we would always recommend that you use a leather conditioner afterwards. Many cleaning methods can dry the leather out, and if this takes hold, the leather can crack.
Using a leather conditioner can combat this effect and keep your leather looking brand new for longer.