How to Get Permanent Marker off Leather

When the little ones get hold of a permanent marking pen, they can have a field day of creativity, and that can make major problems for you. If damage control involves cleaning up leather furniture, your job will be easier if the leather has a finished surface. In that case, you should be able to wipe off the ink with a weak solvent. Your chances of removing marker ink from unfinished leather or suede aren't very good.

...

Naked and Finished Leather

...

After tanning, the surface of leather is very porous, and any colorant applied at this stage sinks deeply into the leather. Leather manufacturers use aniline dyes to permanently color unfinished leather, and this type of dye won't wash out. Marker ink suffers the same fate as aniline dye, and to neutralize the discoloration it causes, you often have to re-dye the leather. Finished leather, on the other hand, has a pigmented topcoat, which provides a barrier that prevents marker ink from sinking into the pores. The good news is that most furniture leather is finished in this way.

Start With Soap and Water

...

Ink swipes are easier to remove than blots, and you may be able to do it with warm soapy water. Add a few drops of mild detergent, such as dish soap, to a quart of water and rub the spot with a non-abrasive cloth. An even better option is to rub the marks with a cleaner made especially for leather. If the swipes haven't penetrated the topcoat, they should come off. Any blots deep enough to spread out may lighten, but they probably won't come out unless you use a stronger solvent.

Solvents for Problem Staining

...

If you have to resort to a solvent, remember that it can affect the pigmentation on the leather, so test it first on an inconspicuous part of the furniture. Both alcohol and acetone can dissolve marker ink, and if you don't have either solvent in your cupboard, you can use a product that contains one. Both hair spray and sunscreen contain alcohol, and acetone is usually the main ingredient in nail polish remover. Spray the cleaner on the stain or apply it with a cotton swab, and let it sit for 10 or 15 seconds; then wipe with a clean cloth. Repeat as necessary.

Re-Dyeing and Conditioning

...

If the stain won't come out, your only option is to re-dye the leather, but if the leather is finished with a pigmented topcoat, the procedure can be complicated. It's usually best to get professional help. If you are able to remove the stain, remember to condition the leather after treating it to prevent the leather from drying out and cracking. Rub a generous amount of conditioner into the leather while it's still wet. To prevent spotting, it's best to condition the whole leather surface, not just the part that was stained.