How To Remove Biro From Leather

  • Learn how to remove biro from leather without damaging the material.
  • Products and solutions that work without needing to raid your kitchen for strange ingredients.

Whether it’s on your jacket or your living room’s sofa, biro can seem like a stain that’s hard to remove from leather.

Identify your leather

This is a crucial part of the cleaning process because it will effect how you clean the leather that you have.

Some products can cause more damage to certain types of leather than others, and faux leather is plastic-based and won’t react well to a lot of the products you can use on normal leather.

Faux leather

As we just mentioned, faux leather is plastic-based. Regular leather cleaning products won’t do much to faux leather, but you should be fine using soap and water without damaging the fabric. Faux leather is shiny, feels and looks smooth, and rips easily.

Thankfully, faux leather is pretty cheap to buy and is usually quite dark anyway. Maybe your biro stain won’t be noticed!

Bicast leather

A type of leather which is a mix of plastic and split leather. Depending on which side the stain is on, you can treat it like faux leather (the smooth side, which is polyurethane) or suede (the side that feels soft and textured).

Like faux leather, bicast leather comes in a lot of dark colours and won’t easily show biro pen stains. However, if you do decide to try and clean the stain, just be extremely careful. Bicast leather is easy to damage if treated harshly.


Speaking of suede, this type of leather is very porous. Liquid can seep into the fabric and make it very hard to clean. Nubuck and Aniline leather are similar. It’s unlikely that you will be able to remove stains on these fabrics without the help of a professional.

Pigmented leather

This is non-porous leather that has a layer of paint on its surface. You might be able to clean it but doing so could damage the protective layer of paint. The newer a stain like a biro mark is, the easier it will be to remove the stain without damaging the leather.

If the stain is more than a couple days old, it’s probably going to be easier and cheaper to just cover the mark or have it coloured over. It’s better to do that than to increase the chances of damaging the leather by trying to clean it.

Cleaning a lightly-coloured leather sofa.

What to do before applying products

Before you start testing out various products in an attempt to remove a stain from leather, you should use kitchen towel (paper towel, not a cotton towel) to dab any extra ink that hasn’t yet seeped into the leather fabric.

Following this, you can start using the product that you want to try. We would advise doing a test patch with the product in a place that won’t be noticed. This could be the back of a sofa cushion or on the very edge of any other leather item.

This test patch will check whether or not the product you’re about to use will cause its own damage to the leather that needs to be cleaned.

Leather care products and stains

Where possible, using leather care products on real leather is always going to be more effective than other products or home remedies. These care products are manufactured to help leather have a longer life and keep it clean.

These commercial leather cleaning products will include instructions for you to follow, rather than trying out a bunch of other possible stain-removing solutions. There are even some leather care products that are specifically for stains and the removal of them.

A stylish living room with a well-loved leather sofa resting against the wall.

Products that can remove biro stains

Rubbing Alcohol

This is a much harsher solution than other stain removers because it’s basically pure alcohol. You won’t find this easily in the UK, either, so you might be better off choosing a different stain remover for your biro stain problem.

Though, if you do manage to come across some rubbing alcohol, it can be effective.

Just dip a cotton bud into the solution and dab at the stain. You should start at the outside of the stain and work your way inwards. This will stop the stain from spreading out from its existing place if the product isn’t suitable for the leather you have.

A reminder: Make sure you patch test any product before using it to remove a stain.

Rubbing alcohol can also be found under “Isopropyl” alcohol, so you could try searching for that instead.

See Also

Washing up liquid

A very common stain removing solution, any old washing up liquid should do the job here. Grab a clean cloth that you’ve made damp with warm water and add a couple of drops of a mild washing up liquid.

Rub the stain with the cloth as gently as you can, once again starting from the outside and moving inwards.

Occasionally rinse the cloth in a bowl of warm water, wring the cloth out, and continue to treat the stained area.

When the stain is gone, rinse out the cloth one more time and wipe off any of the soap or suds that are still on the leather surface.

White vinegar and water

With a solution that is one-part water to one-part white vinegar and a clean cloth, you can make your own stain remover at home.

For this technique, keep the water and white vinegar solution in a bowl that you can dip your cloth back into when needed.

Rub the cloth across the stain in a circular motion, remaining as gentle as possible. The solution should be able to lift the stain without any issues.

COLOURLOCK Ballpoint Pen Remover

A handy little eraser pen for pen marks. This pen stain remover works on pigmented leather with recent biro pen stains and should also work on bicast leather.

There are other COLOURLOCK products that work, as well. You may need to try several to get the results you want.

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