How to Get Nail Polish Out of Just About Everything

These expert cleaning tips will save you from a permanent nail polish stain wherever you may spill.

close up of the brush of a nail polish with poured nail polish and glass flaskEmanuele Ravecca/Shutterstock

Those little bottles of nail lacquer have a way of making the biggest messes. The combination of pigments, hardeners, and solvents is a formula for a long-lasting stain. But a nail polish mishap doesn’t have to be a catastrophe. “The first thing to do is to remove as much of the excess as possible,” says John Mahdessian, president of Madame Paulette, a professional cleaning and restoration service in New York City. “Absorb as much as you can with a cotton swab,” he suggests. Working with a small tool will keep you from spreading the polish and making the stain larger. Here is more expert advice on how to get nail polish out of just about everything from clothing to countertops.

How to get nail polish out of clothing

“The worst thing you can do is put water on a nail polish stain,” says Johnny Xirouchakis, general manager of Madame Paulette. “Most polishes are oil based and water will spread the stain.” To determine what to use, read the garment label. If the fabric is made from acetate, triacetate, or modacrylic, do not try to treat the stain with nail polish remover, as this will damage it, Xirouchakis explains. He advises taking those items to a professional cleaner because they have access to cleaning solvents that won’t harm those fabrics. And if it’s dry clean only, the safest bet is to take it to a professional cleaner. For other fabrics like cotton or denim, the best way to get nail polish out of clothing is to carefully blot the spot with acetone or nail-polish remover. Always spot test an area with nail polish remover first to see how it reacts. Tap the stain up and down—rubbing will only spread the stain outward and deeper into the fabric fibers. Then rinse the spot with a dishwashing soap like Dawn or Ajax, Xirouchakis says, to help remove the oil and acetone residue. Try these tips for removing other frustrating clothing stains.

How to get nail polish out of leather and suede

Removing stains from animal skins can be challenging because the cleaning solvents will often remove the dyes as well, Mahdessian says. “Acetone or lighter fluid may help break down nail polish but it may also damage leather and suede,” he warns. So before attempting to get nail polish out of leather or suede, do a spot test on an area that’s not visible. If you see any of the dye lifting, don’t attempt to treat the stain on your own, he advises.

How to get nail polish out of wood furniture and flooring

According to The Maids, do not use nail polish remover on wood furniture or floors or you run the risk of removing the finish. To get nail polish off wood, dampen felt or a soft cloth with rubbing or denatured alcohol and rub the stain in the direction of the grain (always test an inconspicuous area first because solvents might damage the finish) in small motions, being careful not to spread the stain. If any stain remains, you may be able it out with 0000-grade steel wool, rubbing lightly in the direction of the grain.

How to get nail polish out of laminate floor

According to the San Francisco Gate Home Guide, the finish of laminate floors typically shouldn’t be ruined by nail polish. Try a removing it with rubbing alcohol or mineral spirits (always test an inconspicuous area first) and avoid acetone because it may damage the polyurethane finish.

Nail art and manicure concept with metallic red lacquer or nail polish artfully spilled beneath three open bottles. Isolated on a black background, top view with copy spaceCasther/Shutterstock

How to get nail polish out of vinyl floor

Bob Vila writes that you should use a nail polish remover that contains acetone and gently buff the area with a soft, nylon-bristle brush to remove nail polish from vinyl flooring.

How to get nail polish out of tile surfaces

If it’s a large spill, covering the area with white sugar or salt can soak up the excess before it seeps into the tile. Once it dries, sweep it away. Hunker.com suggests using a small amount of acetone and a lint-free cloth to gently rub the polish in a small circular motion until it disappears. Make sure to rinse the area with water after you use acetone because the solvent can damage tile over time. For another way to get nail polish out of tile surfaces, create a paste with laundry detergent and water and scrub the areas and cover the area with a damp rag. Allow it to sit for up to two days before rinsing the paste with water.

How to get nail polish out of grout

Since grout is porous, it will absorb more of the polish so you’ll have to scrub more aggressively to remove stains. Hunker.com suggests using a denture cleaner and an old toothbrush to bleach nail polish stains out of grout lines. You can also try using a scrub brush and powder cleanser to work on the surface stains. Try these professional cleaning hacks to make the rest of your chores easier.

How to get nail polish out of carpet

If it’s a small spill, the best bet might be to dry the polish with a hairdryer and snip the area with scissors, suggests Mahdessian of Madame Paulette. For larger spills, dab at the spill blot with a dishwashing soap solution and try a commercial carpet stain remover, but you may require a professional cleaner depending on your carpet’s material content to get nail polish out. These tips will help with other stubborn carpet stains.

How to get nail polish out of painted walls

Cleaning Expert Jolie Kerr writes in Jezebel.com that spraying the area with WD-40 and wiping it with a clean rag works wonders on many stubborn stains like nail polish. She also suggests wiping the area with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. When using either method, it’s always advisable to spot test to see if the finish will be damaged.

How to get nail polish out of quartz countertops

These durable surfaces are engineered to weather stains, but a nail polish spill needs to be handled with care. Bob Vila writes that it’s best to use a plastic putty knife to scrape off dried polish then use a glass or surface cleaner and a nonabrasive sponge (one designed to clean nonstick pans) to gently wipe away the stain. Avoid using nail polish remover because it’s a chemical solvent that could discolor the surface.

How to get nail polish out of marble surfaces

This natural stone is porous, so the polish may penetrate the surface and cause discoloration after you’ve removed the surface spill. The San Francisco Gate Home Guide suggests dabbing the stain with a rag soaked in acetone until no more polish comes up on the cloth. Then take a clean rag soaked with acetone and set it on top of the stain and let it sit there for about five minutes. Turn the rag over, moisten it with more acetone and wipe away as much of the stain as you can. Next, mix an ounce of hydrogen peroxide, a half cup of water and one teaspoon of mild detergent. Soak a rag in the solution and place it over the stain and cover it with another damp rag. Leave the rag in place until the stain has bleached out and rinse with water. For other spills around the house, try these 8 weird things that can work to remove stains.

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