How to Remove Pen Stain From Leather Bag Effectively? – Tips and Tricks

Ever had that sinking feeling when you discover a pen stain on your favorite leather bag?

I’ve been there too, and let me tell you, it’s a moment that calls for quick action and a bit of know-how.

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through easy, effective tricks to remove pen stains, all using stuff you probably already have in your cabinets.

How to Remove Pen Stain From Leather Bag Infographic

Before You Start Removing Pen Stain

  • Leather can vary in type and finish, from smooth and treated to suede or nubuck. Different types may react differently to cleaning solutions, so it’s essential to identify your leather type before proceeding
  • Equally important is identifying the ink type. Water-based inks, commonly used in ballpoint and fountain pens, are generally easier to remove.
  • On the other hand, permanent inks, found in gel pens and markers, pose a tougher challenge to clean from leather surfaces.
  • Always test any cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t cause harm.
  • Stains should be addressed promptly to prevent them from setting into the leather fibers, making them harder to remove later.

How to Remove Pen Stain From Leather Bag?

Here are all the methods you can try for removing pen stains from your leather bag:

Gather Your Materials

Before you start cleaning, make sure you have the necessary materials ready:

  • Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol)
  • Non-acetone nail polish remover
  • White vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Baking soda
  • Soft cloths or cotton balls/swabs
  • Leather conditioner

1. Prepare the Stain Area

Before applying any cleaning solution, blot the stain gently with a clean cloth or paper towel to absorb any excess ink. Avoid rubbing the stain, this can spread it further into the leather fibers.

Now that you’re prepared, let’s explore effective methods for removing pen stains from leather bags:

2. Soap and Water

This method involves using a mild soap diluted in warm water to blot and lift lighter pen stains from leather surfaces. It’s a safe initial approach that doesn’t require harsh chemicals.

3. Using Rubbing Alcohol

Dampen a cotton ball or clean cloth with rubbing alcohol and gently dab at the stain. Blot with a clean cloth and repeat until the stain fades. 

I once had a pen mishap on my favorite leather tote, and rubbing alcohol saved the day.

4. Lemon Juice and Cream of Tartar

A natural and gentle approach involves creating a paste using lemon juice and cream of tartar.

Apply this paste to the pen stain, let it sit for a few minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp cloth.

5. Commercial Leather Cleaner

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the cleaner. Apply to the stain, gently rub in a circular motion, and wipe off with a clean cloth.

6. Hairspray

Spray a small amount of hairspray onto a clean cloth and gently dab at the pen stain. The alcohol content in the hairspray can help lift the ink from the leather.

When a pen leaked into my bag at work, I borrowed hairspray from a colleague. A quick spritz on a cloth and gentle dabbing miraculously lifted the ink stain.

7. White Vinegar

White vinegar is known for its stain-fighting properties. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water, dab a cloth into the solution, and gently blot the pen stain.

Make sure to follow up with a damp cloth to remove any residue.

8. Cornstarch or Baking Soda

For fresh pen stains, sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda on the affected area to absorb the ink. Let it sit for a few hours or overnight before gently brushing it with a soft brush.

Fresh pen stains can be a nightmare, but this has been my go-to solution.

9. Using Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover

Apply nail polish remover to a soft cloth and gently dab at the stain. Blot with a clean cloth and repeat as needed.

Non-acetone removers are milder but still test on a hidden area first. Avoid saturating the leather and follow up with conditioner.

10. Conditioning the Leather

After removing the pen stain, it’s crucial to care for your leather bag to maintain its condition. Apply a leather conditioner to replenish moisture and restore flexibility.

11. Restoring the Finish

If the cleaning process has affected the bag’s finish, use a leather polish or cream to restore its shine and protect it from future stains.

Source: Md. Mridul Kabiraz YT Channel

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When removing pen stains from your leather bag, avoiding these common mistakes can save you from unnecessary damage and frustration.

Harsh chemicals can strip away the leather’s natural oils, leaving it dry, cracked, and looking worse for wear. Stick to gentler methods that will get the job done without causing damage.

Leather is delicate and can easily scratch. Aggressive scrubbing can spread the ink further and damage the leather.

Excessive moisture can weaken leather fibers and lead to permanent damage. I once used too much water while attempting to remove an ink stain, and it caused the leather to become stiff and lose its luster.

After removing the stain, it’s important to condition the leather. Skipping this step can leave the leather dry and prone to cracking.

Some ink stains require persistence. Don’t be discouraged if the stain doesn’t lift immediately. I once spent multiple sessions treating a stubborn ink mark on a leather wallet, and eventually, it faded away.

How to Prevent Paint Stains in the Future?

Preventing paint stains on your leather bag is all about being proactive and taking simple precautions.

Consider applying a leather protector or waterproofing spray to your bag. These products create a barrier that helps repel liquids, including paint.

Be mindful of where and how you use your leather bag. Avoid placing it directly on wet or painted surfaces.

Address spills and stains promptly. I once spilled paint on my leather backpack but managed to prevent a stain by promptly dabbing it with a cloth and using a mild soap and water solution.

Familiarize yourself with safe cleaning methods for leather. Knowing how to handle different stains can help you respond effectively without causing further damage.

Source: Thrift Nice YT Channel


Handling a pen stain on your leather bag can feel like a small crisis, but with the right tips and tricks, you can restore it to its new condition.

Whether you opt for gentle soap and water,  rubbing alcohol, or vinegar and olive oil, each method has magic for lifting stains.

Remember, the key is to act fast, test first, and treat your leather with love.

After successfully removing the stain, don’t forget to condition your leather to restore its natural oils and maintain its luster.

Resources Consulted

James Chiles

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