Fingernail polish is designed to be a hard, durable color finish, so it's no surprise that it is one of the more difficult stains to remove. Still, with the right solution, you can get it out of clothing, linens, couch cushions, and carpeting from home.
Never try to get nail polish out of acetate or triacetate. No home cleaning method for polish removal is safe for these fabrics, potentially dissolving the material. Take it instead to a professional dry cleaner.
For many other fabrics, you'll likely need to use nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol and a microfiber cloth to blot the nail polish up; then rinse it away with tepid water and dish soap. Here's exactly how to get rid of nail polish stains on fabric surfaces in your home.
Before You Begin
Before you do anything about that nail polish stain, find and read the fabric content label of your garment or accessory. Steer clear of cleaning acetate, triacetate, modacrylic, wool, silk, or natural fibers that are not colorfast. Instead take them to the dry cleaner for professional help. It might also be a good idea to take dry-clean only clothes to the dry cleaner instead of trying to fix it from home.
You can use these cleaning techniques on most upholstery, but if the material is silk or vintage fabric, use a professional cleaner to fix the stain.
Acetone is toxic; work with good ventilation and avoid skin contact. Acetone can also ruin some furniture and plastic finishes, so protect your furniture while working on the stain.
|Water temperature||Depends on the fabric type|
|Cycle type||Varies depending on the fabric type|
Equipment / Tools
- Old credit card or dull knife
- Eyedropper (optional)
- Acetone or acetone-based fingernail polish remover
- Absorbent white cloths or paper towels
- Cotton swabs
- Rubbing alcohol
How to Remove Nail Polish From Washable Clothes
Test the Fabric
Find a hidden seam on the item's fabric, then apply a dab of acetone-based fingernail polish remover to ensure it does not change the material's color.
Remove the Excess Fingernail Polish
Do not rub or attempt to wipe up the stain because that can push the polish deeper into the fabric or spread it even larger. If cleaning a big glob, use the edge of an old credit card or dull knife to lift it as quickly as possible.
Dab Stain With Acetone
Place some white paper towels under the stain to absorb the acetone. Dip a white cloth or cotton swab in the acetone. Working from the outside of the polish stain toward the inside to keep it from spreading, continue to dab at the stain as it transfers from your garment to the white cleaning cloth or swab. Keep moving to a clean towel area or change to a new swab as the stain is absorbed. Keep working until all traces of the polish are gone.
Remove Traces With Rubbing Alcohol or Dry-Cleaning Solvent
If any color remains, try using rubbing alcohol after you rinse the garment clean of acetone. Dab the alcohol on the remains of the stain with a cotton swab and blot away the color.
Launder the Garment
After removing the stain, launder the fabric as usual to remove the cleaning solution.
How to Remove Nail Polish From "Dry-Clean-Only" Clothes
If the garment or fabric is labeled as "dry clean only," the safest bet is to get it to a professional cleaner and point out and identify the stain as soon as possible. If you wish to try it at home, you will need rubbing alcohol.
Test the Fabric
Find a hidden seam on the garment, and dab dry-cleaning solvent or rubbing alcohol on it to ensure it doesn't change the fabric's color.
Remove Excess Nail Polish
Use an old credit card or dull knife to carefully remove as much of the excess nail polish as possible.
Dab Stain With Rubbing Alcohol
Dab the stain with rubbing alcohol applied to a cotton swab or a clean white paper towel. Use a fresh swab and additional product as the color transfers to the swab. When finished, allow the alcohol to evaporate fully.
How to Remove Nail Polish From Carpet and Upholstery
Test the Fabric
On a hidden area, apply a dab of acetone to ensure the solvent will not change the material's color.
Remove Excess Nail Polish
Use a dull plastic edge to lift away as much nail polish as possible. If the stain is still damp, you may be able to remove a surprising amount of the nail polish. Be as careful as possible to prevent spreading the stain even larger.
Use an eyedropper or cotton swab to apply a few drops of acetone to a small area of the stain. Take extra care not to saturate the fabric. Immediately blot the area with a clean white cloth or paper towel, but be careful not to spread the stain. Clean cotton swabs may work better if the stain is in a delicate area. Continue applying acetone and dabbing until you've removed as much of the stain as possible.
Sponge the area with clean water when the stain is gone and blot dry. Allow air to dry away from direct heat and vacuum to lift the carpet or upholstery fibers.
Additional Tips for Handing Nail Polish Stains
Acetone and alcohol will dissolve fingernail polish, and careful work can remove most, if not all, traces of stains from clothes, upholstery, and carpet. It may take repeated treatments to remove all traces of the stain.
- If you don't have nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol on hand, use rubbing alcohol-containing products, such as hand sanitizer, hairspray, perfume, or spray deodorant.
- Once the stain is visibly gone, add white vinegar to the washing cycle with the laundry detergent to remove any stain residue.
- Wash your clothes immediately after staining them to ensure the stain doesn't set.
- If you have a deep nail polish stain, take your clothing item to a dry cleaner, Dry cleaning solvent is another powerful tool for removing nail polish stains.
Paepe, K De, et al. Repair of Acetone- and Sodium Lauryl Sulphate-Damaged Human Skin Barrier Function Using Topically Applied Emulsions Containing Barrier Lipids. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, vol. 16, no. 6, 2002, pp. 587–594., doi:10.1046/j.1468-3083.2002.00527.x