CAUTION: Undertake at your own risk! I would strongly suggest you TEST the color fastness of your suede on an unseen portion PRIOR to stain removal!!!
Removing ANY stain from suede can be tricky, especially if the suede is a lighter color. My particular pieces of suede were not dyed to have the suede a different color, it was natural colored. I have NOT tested this with a colored suede.
The suede I was working with came from a leather purse that I deconstructed to harvest the leather from to make another project. Being the inside of a purse, it had been stained a lot by someone who had clearly never known that pens have CAPS to keep them from writing or leaking inside of your purse! I got the purse from Goodwill for the express purpose of being able to deconstruct it and use it in a different project, so its appearance did not bother me, as I knew I would be cleaning it before I used it for something else.
Step 1: What You'll Need:
Isopropyl Alcohol (I used 91%)
Wisp Disposable Toothbrush
Clean work surface
Step 2: Soak Your Suede With Alcohol
Don't be afraid to use a LOT of alcohol! I poured it on to the worst areas, and then placed cotton rounds soaked in alcohol onto the worst areas and let it soak in for about 5 minutes before getting started scrubbing.
The areas with dark stains will start to "bleed." This is good, and why you want to leave the saturated cotton rounds on top of the worst areas, because you'll start to see that the ink is being absorbed up into the cotton. At the point that I would start to see the ink bleed under the cotton round, I would then take a DRY cotton round and press it firmly into the spot to soak up as much ink would come up before placing the saturated cotton back over the stain. If there is alot of ink on your saturated cotton, toss that one in the trash and saturate a new cotton round and put the clean one back over the stain. Repeat this process several times to get up some of the worst of the stains.
I also suggest putting clean paper towels under the piece you are working on, to soak up any spilled alcohol or absorb any ink that may come through to the back side. I did have some ink that went through the holes where the leather had previously been sewn together.
Step 3: Scrub!
While the alcohol is soaking into the worst areas, I used the wisp on the lighter areas. I had a small shotglass with alcohol in it to rinse the wisp, because you could see that the wisp would start to turn a bit purple as it was getting up the ink. Rinse and scrub each area until you can no longer see the stain.
If you have an area that has been deeply stained, you'll want to blot with a dry cotton round as well, to pull up ink. Continue the cycle of saturate, soak, blot, scrub, blot until your stain disappears.
For very old & large stains, you may not be able to remove all of the ink. It seemed that the ink from one leaky pen was particularly stubborn, and I was not able to remove the stain entirely from places where it was clear that the pen had "rested" and soaked in a great deal.
However, I was able to greatly diminish those stains to where they are not that noticeable. For me, this was good enough because this is ultimately going to be the inside of a bag again, and no one will be seeing it anyway. For that reason, I could have skipped this step entirely, but it looked gross to me, and was worth cleaning up.
Besides which, there was a ton of dirt that came up as well, as I cleaned the entire pieces with alcohol and cotton rounds. I feel much better not carrying someone else's old dirt around with me!
Step 4: Finish!
After I got off as much of the ink as possible, I used clean cotton rounds soaked in alcohol to clean the entire piece, wiping in one direction at a time. I was totally surprised to see how much icky dirt came off when I did this!
Now, let your suede dry completely. Alcohol evaporates pretty quickly, so it shouldn't take a ton of time for it to dry, but I let mine dry overnight.
After your suede is completely dry, use a suede eraser on any stubborn spots. If you're lucky, a bit more of any stubborn stain will come up a bit more. After rubbing with the eraser part, use the brush side to bring up the nap of the suede again.
The suede is a little bit stiffer than it was when I started, but the nap still came up nicely, and is still pretty soft. I suspect that time will help it to soften up a bit more, but it may never be quite as silky as it was before it got soaked with alcohol. For me, that trade off was totally worth it. Besides which, if you have a stain on a sofa cushion or something else, that piece may be ruined anyway, so if you can bring it back to life, even if it is a bit less silky, it's WAY better than having to toss it!
Step 5: Notes
I was obviously working on small pieces that were easy to keep on a small work area. If you are working with something like a sofa cushion, I would recommend that you remove the "innards" of the cushion, and then put A LOT of dry paper towels UNDER the spot to keep the ink from bleeding through to a different spot on the opposite side of the cushion.
My pieces did not bleed through because the "back" was leather. If you have a 100% suede piece, you'll need to keep something under it - paper towels or an old towel under your stain because the alcohol will cause the ink to bleed, and you could wind up with a stain on another part of your cushion making your job twice as hard!
It might actually be easier, since you can go after your stain from both sides, by moving your towel, and scrubbing both sides. But, soaking and blotting is what will remove most of the stain.