How to Get Nail Polish off Walls—Without Removing the Paint

Open nail polish bottle with red polish stains on wall

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 15 mins - 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Nail polish can be beautiful on fingertips and toes, but it doesn't belong on a painted wall. Whether the stain was caused by a splatter or a budding artist, it should be removed before you attempt to repaint the wall.

The techniques for removing the nail polish without removing the paint are a bit different depending on whether you catch the stain while the polish is wet or find it after it has dried. The key to success is to work slowly and do your best not to smear the polish and make the situation worse. With some basic household supplies, you should be able to remove the polish and still protect the painted finish.

Warning

While nail polish remover (acetone) works wonders on removing polish from fingers and most fabrics, it should NOT be used to remove nail polish from painted walls or other painted surfaces, as the acetone will also remove the paint.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Old, soft cloth
  • Small bowl or bucket
  • Sponge

Materials

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • Borax
  • Safety razor blade
  • Cotton swabs
  • Melamine sponge (Magic Eraser)
  • Clear nail polish

Instructions

Materials and tools to remove nail polish from walls

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Remove Wet Nail Polish From Painted Walls

  1. Wipe Away Wet Polish

    Use an old, soft cloth or a cotton swab to wipe away the wet polish. Work from the outside edges of the stain toward the center to prevent spreading the stain and making the problem worse.

    Wet nail polish removed wiped from wall with cotton swab

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    In a small bowl, combine one cup of water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid.

    Dishwashing liquid and water mixed in bowl for cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Sponge Away the Remaining Polish

    Dip a sponge in the soapy water and gently wipe the remaining polish off of the painted wall. If all of the polish won't come off the wall, use a damp melamine eraser (such as a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser) to gently remove any remaining color. Do not scrub, or you may remove the paint!

    Tip

    If you haven't cleaned the wall recently, you may see a distinct difference in the paint color. Wash the entire wall for the best results.

    Sponge wiping away remaining nail polish with cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Remove Dried Nail Polish From a Painted Wall

  1. Treat the Stain with Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol

    Pour a small amount of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol into a small bowl. Dip a cotton swab in the alcohol and dab at the edges of the nail polish stain. Use a fresh cotton swab as the color from the nail polish transfers from the wall to the swab.

    This will take lots of time and patience. Keep working from the edges to prevent spreading the stain until most of the stain is removed.

    Isopropyl alcohol on cotton swab wiping wall with nail polish

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Coat the Dried Nail Polish With Clear Nail Polish

    If the dried nail polish won't budge, try coating it with wet clear nail polish. Paint clear nail polish directly over the dried polish. Allow it to sit for one minute. Wipe away the loosened nail polish with an old cloth.

    Repaint with more wet nail polish and repeat the steps until most of the color is gone and you can move to the next step of washing the wall.

    Clear nail polish coating dried nail polish on wall

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Use a Safety Razor Blade

    If rubbing alcohol or clear nail polish does not cut through the dried nail polish, you can attempt to remove the stain with a safety razor blade. Gently slice away the layers of nail polish. Keep the blade flat against the wall surface and work very slowly.

    Warning

    When using a razor blade, the margin of error is strong. You can both remove the paint on the wall and cause permanent damage to the drywall.

    Safety razor blade slicing away layers of nail polish on wall

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  4. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    In a small bowl, mix one cup of warm water, a few drops of dishwashing liquid, and a teaspoon of powdered laundry borax. Stir well to dissolve the borax.

    Cleaning solution of dishwashing liquid, water and powdered laundry borax in bowl

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  5. Wash the Wall

    Use the soapy borax solution on a sponge to wipe down the wall and remove any remaining bits of color. Wring the sponge well to prevent over-wetting the wall and use a gentle touch.

    If there are any traces of the nail polish remaining, gently wipe the wall with a damp melamine (Magic Eraser) sponge.

    Soapy borax solution wiped down on wall with white sponge

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  6. Touch up the Wall Paint

    If after your best efforts a bit of color remains, the wall paint can usually be touched up without repainting the entire wall.

    Tip

    The same techniques for removing nail polish from painted walls can be used on painted wood surfaces like cabinet doors, woodwork, and bathroom shelves.

    Paint bucket with brush to touch up wall

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska