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How to Remove Paint From Leather

How to Remove Paint From Leather

Posted by Daniel Sutton on May 30th 2014

Whoever called seven year-old Tommy the world’s next Picasso had no idea the catastrophe they were unleashing when they bought him that big paint bucket and sent him off to perform his art on “whatever.” Now we aren't saying it isn't cute, but that yellowish giraffe or jellyfish thing Tommy illustrated on your leather briefcase just isn't going to attract the right kind of attention at the office. So take a picture to appease the wife, and salvage it back to your ER for a little emergency leather care. You've got a patient.

Also, hurry up with the picture taking. Paint can actually damage your leather if it starts to set in. The sooner you get started, the better. Don’t worry – you’re going to have that briefcase looking shiny and smooth as if hurricane Tommy had never encountered it to begin with.

Now for the remove paint from leather part.

Rubbing Is Bad

First, let’s get this out there – do not rub the paint into the leather. Although it can be very tempting to start rubbing and scrubbing like you would on a pan with burnt egg all over it, do not do it. Leather requires extra special TLC (tender loving care, people), which means that you should blot, not rub. So take your anger out somewhere else before attempting to clean your couch, because this baby’s going to need that gentle touch you love boasting about. Grab a soft, clean rag or paper towel and blot the paint off as best you can without rubbing. Again, this is best done right away, before the paint dries. To remove paint from leather, haste and restraint are two sides of the same coin. Control your nerves like Obi-Wan taught you, and work gently. If you find yourself starting to rub or panic, just think about how much paint can smear, like when Tommy was dipping his hand in that bucket and smothering goopy, yellow paint all over your hundred million dollar – not helping? Just remember that rubbing will only give you more work to do in the long run, and could seriously damage your leather.

The Biggest Mistake

Okay, great, that’s really just great. You didn’t act fast enough and now the paint has gone and dried. Go ahead, scream, kick and rant and then go ahead and get your olive oil out of your pantry because it’s going be your only saving grace in this new mess that the universe has wrought upon you. To remove paint from leather in this crazy new world, take a few dabs of the olive oil on a clean, soft cloth and dab it onto the dried paint. After letting it sit for a few minutes, try to gently scrape the paint away. If it will not scrape with just your fingertips, go ahead and use a (clean) soft bristled toothbrush to get rid of it. And remember, this is your leather, a living, sensitive, possibly sentient being. Brush respectfully and gently, and keep in mind, rough strokes leave scars – both kinds.

Chim Chim Cher-ee!

Now it is time to clean your leather. This needs to be done with a gentle cleaner that is meant for your type of leather, such as Chamberlain's Straight Cleaner No. 2. Take note, this is best used on finished leather, which, if you are scratching your head right now, you can read all about in our blog “Leather Care for Finished and Unfinished Leather Furniture.” When in doubt, it’s always best to test your leather cleaner first in a discreet, less visible area. Wipe a small amount in with a clean, white cloth, let it dry, and check the results. If there’s no discoloration on your leather, minimal color rub off on the cloth, or any other negative side effects, you’re good. Now wipe that lovely stuff in using circular motions and in even, thin layers across the surface of your leather. Once you have cleaned it, wipe any excess fluid off with a soft, dry cloth, and let it dry in a cool, indoors place away from sunlight and direct heat.

You’ll want to condition it too, to restore those vital lubricants your leather lost while you were cleaning. Chamberlain's Leather Care Liniment No. 1 is great for this task, or if you are conditioning furniture, try Chamberlain’s Furniture Treatment No. 5 for extra shiny results. Chamberlain's Auto Refreshener No. 4 is also ideal for those of you out there that drive cars. Whichever leather conditioner you decide is best for you, remember to test first before using it on the entire item. After testing, proceed to wipe it in using circular motions like before, in thin, even layers across the surface with a soft cloth or applicator pad. Let the leather dry for a bit, and buff it off again for the final step of your remove paint from leather magic spell. Presto chango! Paint be gone!

It’s Alive!

That about wraps up that. Great job, Doctor You! Another case for the books! Remember, Tommy’s paint maladies may seem pretty terrible now, but wait another decade or so, and this will be the kind of memory you wish you had more of. So grab a paintbrush of your own, and teach Tommy how the artists did it in your day, preferably not on expensive leather paraphernalia. You’re going to be a hit.

Stephanie Clarke
Daniel Sutton
Chris Repp (

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