How to Remove Pen Marks From Leather Bags

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One pen plus one leather bag equals a recipe for ink marks somewhere on said bag. Though durable, the leather used on handbags or messenger bags shouldn't be cleaned with harsh chemicals or abrasives if you want to keep the leather looking its best. Instead, try a leather cleaner, isopropyl alcohol, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. A melamine foam sponge, or Magic Eraser, also does a nice job when it comes to removing all sorts of marks from leather bags.

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Blot Those Fresh Spots

Ink is easiest to remove from leather when the stain is fresh, so the sooner you treat the spots, the better. If a pen leaked all over the inside of a bag, for instance, you may be able to remove much of the ink simply by blotting it. Fold a paper towel several times; then blot the ink spots, pushing down on them to help the paper absorb the ink. Continue doing so with fresh paper towels until you've removed as much ink as you can from the leather.

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Apply a small amount of dish soap to a damp cloth or sponge using a minimal amount of water. Work the soap into the ink, rubbing from the edges of the ink toward the middle of the affected area to help keep the ink from spreading. Follow up with a fresh damp cloth; then allow the leather to dry. This method also works on some older ink stains.

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Use a Leather Cleaner

Cleaning products made specifically for leather help remove ink and other marks from bags without harming the leather as harsh cleaners might. Check the care information from the bag manufacturer as many leather-goods providers recommend specific cleaning products and methods based on the leather used on their bags.

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Apply the leather cleaner either to a lint-free, dye-free cloth or directly to the ink stain as directed on the cleaning-product label. Rub the ink spot and check the cloth frequently, switching to a fresh part of the cloth as the cloth becomes covered in ink. If the bag manufacturer or the leather-cleaner label recommends it, follow up with a leather conditioner. The need for a conditioner varies depending on the type of leather on the bag and the ingredients in the leather cleaner.

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Try Rubbing Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol, more commonly known as rubbing alcohol, lifts ink from many surfaces including leather. For ink scribbles, dip a cotton swab tip in rubbing alcohol and then rub it directly over the ink. Follow up immediately with a dry, lint-free, dye-free cloth as this helps prevent the leather from absorbing the alcohol. In a pinch and for minor marks, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer also removes ink. Rub it over the ink stains with your finger; then immediately wipe the sanitizer up with a lint-free, dye-free cloth.

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For larger areas, apply the alcohol directly to a dye-free cloth. Then wipe the ink stain from its outside edges and toward its center to avoid spreading it. Follow up immediately with a fresh dye-free cloth. If your bag is made of delicate leather, dilute the alcohol with an equal amount of warm water. Avoid saturating the bag as the goal is to use just enough alcohol solution to transfer the ink from the bag onto the cloth.

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Grab a Magic Eraser

A Magic Eraser also removes ink from leather bags, though it's best to try on an inconspicuous area first. Wet the sponge as directed on the package, squeeze out excess moisture and then rub the sponge over the ink. Pat the bag dry afterward.

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The Magic Eraser is ideal for small jots left behind by a pen carried in a leather bag. For larger ink spills, the ink may have saturated through the leather, so erasing the ink from its surface won't work. Magic Erasers abrade or rub the ink off surfaces, while rubbing alcohol actually lifts the ink out of the material. Even alcohol may not remove every drop of ink on a stain that goes all the way through a bag, although it will remove a good deal of it.

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