Pen marks are not something you want to see on leather. But before reaching for the leather cleaner, it’s important to first identify what type of leather it is, otherwise you could end up making the damage worse.

 These are the different types of leather to consider when cleaning pen marks:

  • Pigmented leather - this is leather with a protective layer of paint on the surface. If you try to rub a drop of water it won’t penetrate into the leather surface. Pigmented leathers generally have a grained surface and satin finish.
  • Aniline leather – this is porous and smooth leather. A drop of water will sink into the surface and darken the area. 
  • Suede - is the reverse side of a smooth leather or both sides of spilt leather.
  • Nubuck – also known as split leather, is the sanded grain side of a smooth leather. It has a very soft velvety feel.
  • PU/ Bycast/Bicast leather – refers to split leather with a grained film of polyurethane on the surface. Usually shiny and plastic-like. If not sure, check with the manufacturer.

The following guidelines explain how to remove pen and biro marks from the different leather types

 Biro marks on leather

Pigmented leather 

Pen marks on pigmented leather upholstery are a common occurrence but, unfortunately, they are not always easy to remove. The more recent the pen mark, the easier it will be to clean off. If older than three days, it is rarely possible to just clean and remove the mark, so it will need to be re-coloured. Be careful not to use the wrong product as this will often increase the damage.

 Use the Ballpoint Pen & Biro Remover and test first on a hidden area and, if possible, create a mark. If the area is not visible you should be able to clean it without any risk. Depending on the type of pen, it might spill more or less ink. In order to avoid spreading the ink further, stick some masking tape on top of the mark and pull off several times to remove any excess ink. Once this is done, start using the Colourlock Ballpoint Pen Remover by pressing it until the tip is wet. Do small circular movements with the pen remover in a small area, applying a bit of pressure. The liquid will soften the area and help dissolve the ink. You should remove any excess ink with a clean cloth to avoid creating new stains. If necessary, clean the Colourlock pen remover tip if too dirty, again to avoid contaminating other areas. The tip has been designed to be removable and turned the other way around, so both sides can be used. Repeat the cleaning process as many times as required to completely remove the marks. It might be necessary to increase the pressure.      

In the case of older stains, it is very hard to get them removed without damaging the colour of the leather. They will need to be re-coloured. This is due to the fact that the ink has now penetrated too deep, so a light clean and re-colour won't stop the stains from resurfacing eventually. 

Aniline leather 

Because aniline leathers are as sensitive as they are porous, ballpoint pen and biro marks are best removed by a leather expert as there is a high risk of increasing the damage if not done properly. Usually, the Colourlock Ball Point Pen Remover would only cause further stains in this type of leather, and Colourlock Leather Fresh can only be used to re-colour one-tone leather. It is very unusual to be able to repair damages to aniline and we strongly advise you consult with a specialist before attempting to do the repairs at home. 

Suede or nubuck

Ballpoint pen and biro marks cannot usually be removed from suede or nubuck leathers due to their velvety surface. You should always seek the help of a professional, as the risk of increasing the damage is very high. Always test first on a hidden area and use masking tape to protect unaffected areas. You could also use a Colourlock Leather Sanding Pad, working from seam to seam with extreme care to avoid damaging the surface of the leather. Using the Colourlock Ball Point Pen Remover would likely cause further stains. Colour repair is not possible with this type of leather. 

PU or Bicast leather

PU leather or bicast leather is usually dark, so strokes from ballpoint pens and biros are not that visible. It is very easy to damage the foil surface on this type of leather when attempting to clean it. You should always test in a hidden area first without applying too much pressure. Colour repairs are only possible in the case of monochrome leather. 

Removing biro marks

Ink Stains on Leather

Other than ballpoint pens, stains could be caused by different types of pens or inks. It is important to distinguish the type of leather as ink penetrates different leathers in a different way.

Pigmented leather

The process is the same as described for ballpoint pen and biro strokes on pigmented leather. If the issue is just a stroke, the Colourlock Ballpoint Pen Remover will be the best tool to use, but if there are smeared lines or spots, you should use Colourlock GLD Solvent to dissolve the ink first, then re-colour with Colourlock Leather Fresh dye. We recommend protecting the area with Colourlock Leather Shield after re-colouring. 

Aniline leather

Aniline leather is very sensitive due to its open pores. You should seek the help of a professional before attempting to remove strokes and spots from this type of leather, as there is a high risk of damaging it further.

Suede or nubuck

Cleaning is not a good solution for these types of leathers, as the ink would have sunk into the fibres. The best option is to try and remove the ink marks using the Colourlock Leather Sanding Pad. If the marks are too deep, they cannot be removed. In which case we recommend you seek professional advice. 

PU or bicast Leather

The process is the same as described for pigmented leather. 


Ink stains on leather

To summarise, light ink stains from ballpoint pens or biro that are fresh (within three days aproximately) can be removed from pigmented leather with the Colourlock Ballpoint Pen Remover. If the stains are older or more spread than just a few strokes, you will need to use the Colourlock GLD Solvent (please follow the instructions for discolouration). If the colour has come off it might be necessary to also recolour using Colourlock Leather Fresh dye. If the ink stains have sunk deeper into the leather, only a professional can remove them from smooth leather. Ink marks on suede and nubuck leathers in most cases can't be removed even by a professional.