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Remove Nail Polish From Anything with These Easy Tricks

Red nail polish spilled on a taupe carpet.
Maria Dryfhout/Shutterstock.com

Doing your nails at home can save you lots of cash, but one unfortunate side effect is spilling Electric Blue all over your clothing, floors, or furniture. The next time this happens, though, don’t panic—these tips and products will help you remove nail polish from any surface.

It’s true that removing a nail polish stain takes a bit more than soap and water, but it’s no cause for alarm. Regardless of what it’s spilled on, the first thing to do is gently soak up and wipe away any polish that hasn’t yet soaked in.

Try not to rub it, however, as that’ll just make the stain worse. Instead, use a dry paper towel or piece of paper to sort of “scoop up” any polish that’s puddled on the surface. Then, try one of these techniques to remove the remaining nail polish stain from any surface or material.

Removing Nail Polish From Clothing

The most common nail polish spill is also one of the most frustrating: getting it on your clothes. If this happens, you have a few options to take care of it.

Once you’ve blotted away the “puddle,” apply a stain-remover. On many fabrics, you can just use nail polish remover or something like Amodex Ink & Stain Remover. This non-toxic, eco-friendly formula is specifically designed for removing tough stains, like ink, from fabrics and other porous materials. Luckily, it works on nail polish stains, as well.

Warning: Never use acetone nail polish remover on vintage clothing. Many retro fabrics contain acetate, which will literally dissolve if treated with acetone.

Amodex Ink & Stain Remover

Removes tough stains, without leaving any toxic residue.

The trick is to work the remover in from the outside of the stain toward the center. Also, keep switching out the cotton ball, paper towel, or cloth for a clean one as you work on the stain. This will prevent the polish from reabsorbing into the fabric you’re trying to remove it from.

Once the stain has been removed, immediately rinse the spot gently with room-temperature water. Do not wash in hot water or throw the item in the dryer as this could cause the stain to set in permanently.

Removing Nail Polish From Upholstery

A bottle of Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Remover sitting on a picnic table.
Mineral Fusion

Upholstered furniture can be tricky to remove any stains from, but especially nail polish. However, there are several different approaches you can try. First, try gently blotting the stain with non-acetone nail polish remover on a cloth or swab.

An affordable, natural formula, like Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Remover, is a much safer choice than a traditional remover with acetone.

Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Remover

This non-acetone nail polish remover that's safe for use on cloth and fabric.

You can also make a solution of 1/2 a tablespoon of dish detergent and one cup of cool water. Gently apply it to the stain and blot with a clean cloth.

Removing Nail Polish From Carpet

Red and green nail polish spilled on a carpet.

Most of us have spilled a bit of polish on the carpet before. The next time it happens to you, though, you probably have the remedy in your bathroom: hairspray and rubbing alcohol. Again, gently remove any “puddled” polish that hasn’t yet soaked into the carpet fibers. Be careful not to rub the polish in further as you blot away the excess.

Next, dampen the area with cold water, spritz it with a good amount of hairspray (at least several sprays), and then add a couple of tiny splashes of rubbing alcohol. With a small cleaning brush or toothbrush, start working on the stain, adding additional spritzes of cold water as you go.

Blot and gently wipe with a clean cloth, rotating to fresh sections of the cloth as the stain comes up.

You might also need a cotton swab soaked in nail polish remover to get up some of the most stubborn remnants of the stain. If so, proceed with caution and use a non-acetone polish remover, if possible. Acetone can damage or stain carpet, so it’s a good idea to test it on an inconspicuous area first.

Removing Nail Polish From Tile or Wood

Spilled red nail polish on a wooden desk.
Photo Studio One/Shutterstock.com

As tile is typically hard and nonporous, it’s one of the easiest surfaces to get nail polish out of. Simply apply some nail polish remover to a cotton ball, swab, or cloth, and then gently wipe at the spilled area. It should come off relatively easily.

Tip: Once the stain is gone, wipe down the tile with clear water a few times to remove any chemical residue.

Nail polish remover and wood, however, aren’t a good combination. The chemicals in the remover can actually damage wooden floors and furniture. Instead, dab at the stain with a clean cloth and some rubbing alcohol. Switch to a clean area of the cloth after each dab and be sure to wipe in the same direction as the wood grain.

If the rubbing alcohol doesn’t work, try using mineral spirits (it’s what artists use to clean their paintbrushes). Apply a small amount of the solvent to the area, and then dab away the stain with a soft cloth.

Gamblin Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits

This solution for cleaning paintbrushes works on nail polish, too.

If you often give yourself a mani or pedi at home, you’ve probably spilled nail polish somewhere you don’t want it. Now, though, you’re armed with all the tips and tricks you need to get polish out of pretty much anything. So, grab that bottle of Purple Passion and get to painting.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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