How to Remove Permanent Marker from Leather Surfaces

A permanent marker is a must-have item for many art and craft lovers. It’s easy to use, and the ink dries permanently. That’s why it’s perfect for drawing on t-shirts, wood, plastic, and so many other surfaces.

However, it’s not always easy to get them off the surfaces they don’t belong on.

So, what if your child gets their hands on it and draws something on your favorite leather shoes? Well, I know how frustrating it can be. They may not know how damaging it can be when they draw with these markers on leather surfaces like shoes, car seats, sofa, purses, etc.

However, if you do not deal quickly enough after being spilled, Sharpie markers can ruin leather surfaces.

That’s why if you want the best ways to get permanent marker off leather, this post will help you do just that! So, go through this article and thank me later!

Remove Permanent Marker from Leather


The most important thing you should know while removing markers is that you’ll find different types of leather surfaces out there. And it’s well-known that any one method will not work for each of them.

So, you must know the types of leather surfaces you are dealing with and the best cleaning process to use on them.

To make the task easier, I’ll walk you through some of the common types of leather surfaces first and then discuss the best options to use on them. So, let’s dive in!

Common Types of Leather Surfaces

You’ll mostly encounter some of the common types of leather surfaces that I’ve mentioned below in our day-to-day life. And people mostly do accidents on these surfaces with permanent markers.

Since we all know that things made with pure leather are pretty expensive, nobody will want to ruin them due to permanent stains. That’s why it’s better to know the types and work accordingly.

Shoes – Most of the renowned brand’s shoes and soles are made with pure leather. So, if you got Sharpie ink on them, removing it can be difficult. Again you don’t want to ruin that just because of a marker stain. So yes, I’m here for you, and I’ll share the best tips to get rid of that stains in just seconds.

Purse – Many people have expensive purses, handbags, and suitcases made of pure leather cover, specially designed to carry clothes and valuables. 

But remember not to use any sharpie pens directly on this type of material as they can damage both your clothes and suitcase after some time when left unattended. So better keep those markers away from these elegant surfaces at all costs, even if it means losing them forever!

Furniture – It’s no wonder that most of us have at least one piece of furniture in our house-made with pure leather, whether it can be a chair, couch, or sofa. And can you imagine how destructive it can be if your child marks on those surfaces even without your knowledge?

But I have a solution for every single problem! However, it’s always advisable to keep the markers out of the reach of children.

Car Seats – Most of the good-looking cars out there have leather seats on them. So, think for a second about what will happen if you accidentally got Sharpie marks on those beautiful and luxury leather car seats?

It will not only snatch away the beauty but also can damage the area over time. But no worries, I can make every impossible mission possible!

Faux Leather – It’s actually another lavish name of artificial leather. The things I’ve mentioned above can be made with faux leather. But if you get permanent ink on synthetic leather, the ink removing method won’t be the same as pure leather. So, follow the next steps to know about the procedures in detail.

Remove Marker Out of Leather (Using Household Items)

You may think that, keeping the alcohol aside, why am I giving a household technique? Well, you may have vodka or whisky on your house, but as you know, you can’t use them!

The main reason for this is that not all people have isopropyl or rubbing alcohol in their house.

However, baking soda is famous as one of the strongest household cleaning products when you use it with lemon juice. Due to the acidic nature of lemon juice, it works as an abrasive agent on tough stains.

It’s also true for toothpaste. Even only toothpaste is enough to remove marker from skin.

So, think for a second about what will happen when you mix all of these items together?

Yes, it’ll work like magic on ink stains. And of course, it’ll work on almost all types of marker stains on most types of leather surfaces! Since these items are readily available in most of our houses, I’m starting with them.

First, have a look at the things you’ll need for this method –

  • Baking Soda
  • Toothpaste
  • Lemon Juice
  • Small Bowl
  • Mixing Spoon
  • Kitchen Knife
  • Brush
  • Water
  • Clean Cloth

Step 1: Getting Ready

Keeping all the things ready and near hands is the first step for you. So, bring out some baking soda from kitchen, a lemon from fridge, and creamy white toothpaste from your washroom. It’ll help you get the work done quickly rather than looking for each item whenever needed.

So, first, get the things ready and then start working with them.

Step 2: Mixing Up

In this step, take a small bowl and mixing spoon on hand. First, pour a generous amount of baking soda and toothpaste on it. The proportion of these two ingredients should be 1:1. Now mix them properly using the spoon.

Well, now it’s time to mix the lemon juice into it. So, take the lemon and cut it in half using the kitchen knife. Then squeeze an adequate amount of juice into the bowl and make a thin paste.

Be careful that the paste doesn’t get too runny. It should be like a pancake batter.

Step 3: Brushing Up

Now you have to apply the baking soda paste to the stained area. If it’s on your purse or money wallet, take that in one hand and grab a soft-bristled toothbrush on the other hand. Then take out the paste using the toothbrush and apply it over the stain.

You have to rub the area with the brush in circular movements. Use as much paste as needed and continue the process. Since it’s a homemade remedy, you have to keep patience.

While rubbing the area, you’ll get to see that the ink stain is fading away. So, you have to continue until all the stains go out.

Step 4: Clean the Surface

When you see that all the stains have vanished, it’s time to clean the area. So, take a clean cloth or paper towel and clean the area properly. Well, using water in this step is optional.

You can use water if the material is made with pure leather. Still, it’s not recommended to use water on artificial leather items.

In that case, you can use a leather cleaners or conditioners to get back the shine. So, the process is really very easy and works for almost all leather surfaces.

Take Advantage of Rubbing Alcohol: Best for Car Seat

In terms of removing permanent marker spot, rubbing alcohol has become a household name. Think of a surface from which you cannot remove permanent ink using this solvent. Even isopropyl alcohol also works in the same way. But the composition of chemicals is slightly different among them.

Rubbing alcohol is powerful as it has 87.5-91% of absolute ethyl alcohol, and the rest is water and denaturants. It also contains sucrose octa-acetate and denatonium benzoate that makes it more robust.  [Source]

People use this alcohol as a solvent for permanent marker stains on leather surfaces because it evaporates quickly. Also, you don’t need to rub hard while using the rubbing alcohol as it’s an effective cleaning agent even in its diluted form.

  • Take a soft cloth and pour few drops of rubbing alcohol on it.
  • When the cloth is completely soaked with this cleaning solution, rub it evenly throughout the stained area.
  • You can also directly apply a small quantity of liquid to the affected areas and gently rub, taking help from cotton swabs or cotton balls.
  • Rub until all stains disappear and then wipe off with dry pieces of fabric till no ink remains behind.

Try Using Some Hair Spray: Best for Leather Furniture

Hair spray can be another good friend fighting against permanent ink. But it would help if you use an oil-free aerosol-based hair spray for this purpose. Since aerosol contains alcohol, it’ll loosen up the ink just like the rubbing alcohol.

So, you may think that if both of the alcohol works similarly, why use hair spray? Well, there are some delicate leather materials used in furniture and may have different colors in them.

Since hair spray is less abrasive than rubbing alcohol, removing permanent markers from the leather couch, sofa, and chair is highly recommended.

Unlike other aerosol sprays, oil-free hairspray can remove permanent stains from leather surfaces without damaging them. This type of spray doesn’t have the intense smell associated with typical hairspray. So, your furniture won’t get smelly after removing marker ink. It also helps to get rid of ink stains from carpets.

  • Grab a bottle of aerosol hairspray and give it a little shake.
  • Directly spray an ideal amount of it on the ink stain.
  • Let it rest for a few seconds and rub the area with a cotton ball till no ink remains back.
  • Now wipe off the area with a clean towel, and you’ll be surprised as using this method makes everything look brand new!
  • Repeat the process if necessary but overusing the spray may cause damage to the furniture.

Give Sunscreen a Try to Remove Marker from Shoes

You’ll find sunscreens inside every girl’s purse, especially in the summertime. So, the use of it doesn’t remain for your beauty purpose only. It can bring back the beauty of your leather shoes too!

Most of the renowned brand’s sunscreen contains titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone.

Due to these chemicals, you’ll see that when you apply sunscreens on the skin, the area becomes oily type. And that’s why it can remove permanent markers from leather shoes. [source]

Using sunscreen for permanent ink stain is a unique method, and it can replace any alcohol method. You can also use it for delicate leather items.

  • Please take a good brand sunscreen bottle and carefully remove its cap.
  • Now, pour a handsome amount of it onto your fingers or cotton balls.
  • Rub the greasy solution on all the affected areas using circular motion till no ink remains back.
  • Reapply the sunscreen on the spot if any ink is left, and again rub the area thoroughly.
  • Lastly, wipe off the sunscreen residue with a paper towel and get your shoes as new as before.

Resort to Nail Polish Remover: Good for Leather Purse

Most of the women have a bottle of finger nail polish remover in their vanity. It’s an effective way to remove permanent markers from leather purses as well as shoes too!

If you don’t want to go for other methods, then why not try this one? Nail polish remover contains acetone with solvent properties. That’s why it helps you get rid of even tough stains, including permanent ink on leading surfaces like leather bags, wallets, purses, suitcases, etc. You can surely rely on this stain remover whenever needed.

  • Take a cotton swab or ball and pour a few drops of clear nail polish remover over them.
  • Now rub these soaked pieces in a circular motion throughout the stained area thoroughly till no stain stays behind.
  • If you see that ink has stopped coming out, then use more acetone and continue rubbing.
  • Once all the ink goes away, clean the area with a clean cloth, and your purse is ready to use again.

Give an Astonishing Finish with Leather Conditioner

Whatever method you use from above, your leather surface may look dull and gloomy after cleaning stains. The reason is, you may need to use some chemicals or rub abrasive items that can end up losing the leather beauty. 

So, to get back its shine and remove any brush marks, you can use some good quality leather conditioner for best results. This method is also effective on vinyl surfaces like car seats or furniture items made of plastic but looks similar to genuine leather.

  • After cleaning the area properly, make sure that it is dried up.
  • Apply a generous amount of conditioner on a clean cloth or paper towel. 
  • Spread it evenly all around the surface in a circular motion so that every part gets covered entirely. Overusing conditioners can make the fiber mushy.
  • Please leave it in a cool and dry place until the stickiness goes out.
  • Use your fingers to check the coating has dried up completely or not. If yes, then you are ready to use it.

How to Remove Permanent Marker From Faux Leather

If you have any synthetic leather item in the house, then a permanent marker can damage it too. Faux leather is very much similar to real leather. If your kid has drawn on a faux-leather surface with Sharpies, you are suggested to follow the steps below for magic results. It’s not only efficient but also a cost-effective solution compared to other methods that cost more money and time.

So, the name of that cleaning agent is WD-40. It’s basically a powerful industrial cleaning agent that helps lose the ink grip when applying it to the stain. And it works really great on permanent ink stains.

However, it doesn’t mean that the method is only applicable for faux leather. You can also try it on real leather items.

  • Grab the WD-40 bottle and directly spray over the stain marks.
  • Let it sit for a while to react with the ink and get time to break down the bond.
  • Use a paper towel or clean cloth to rub over the stain and remove the permanent ink stain. Repeat the process if necessary.
  • Complete this method in a well-ventilated area as the spray is a strong chemical.


Acetone-based nail polish remover is not recommended for black or brown colored leather items. There may remain a chance of discoloration or damage to the surface.

Again we always recommend using acetone or rubbing alcohol in a well-ventilated area. You should also wear gloves while working with them for the safety of your skin. And whatever method you use, don’t forget to use it on an inconspicuous spot first.

Final Words

So, this article is an ultimate solution to remove permanent marker stains from leather. You can also apply some leather conditioner afterward to bring back the shine and make your leather item look new again!

Whether dealing with faux or real ones, these methods work on both types of surfaces without causing any harm. 

Hopefully, from now on, you won’t face a single problem removing permanent markers from leathers!

Loard Eva

Hi there! I’m Eva, artist, designer, photographer and mom of three little gentlemen altogether. When I’m not playing with my kids, you’ll find me researching and writing for ChooseMarker.

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