How to Get Nail Polish Out Of Clothes, Carpets and Fabrics

October 11, 2023
Alexis Gaskin
By: Alexis Gaskin | by L'Oréal
Two puddles of red and blue nail polish stains on a white surface

Doing your own nails can be a fun, cost-effective beauty ritual that allows you to try different nail polish colors without leaving the comfort of your home. However, there’s always some form of trial and error that may create a nail painting faux pas, like spilling an entire bottle of nail polish on your carpet, clothes or any surface other than your nails. Maybe your hand slips mid-manicure and you manage to get a streak of red nail polish on your living room couch — or worse, your favorite white T-shirt. If this happens to you, don’t panic. 

You don’t have to hide the stain or get rid of your favorite clothes — instead, you can get rid of the nail polish stain with a few beauty hacks. To find the best solutions we did the research and found a few easy (and surprising) tricks that will salvage your clothing and furniture. Below, learn how to get nail polish stains out of any surface without scrubbing or ruining your fabrics.

How to Get Nail Polish Out of Clothes, Carpets or Fabrics

When it comes to removing nail polish stains from cloth fabrics or surfaces like clothes, carpets or other upholstery, you’re going to need to try a few different methods. If you’re cleaning up a light polish color, you’ll have a better chance at removing the stain over a dark polish. Follow the below steps to fade stains and help remove nail polish spills from fabrics.  

Step 1: Do a Patch Test

To avoid causing more of a mess (or even more staining), patch-test a small area of your clothes before cleaning the entire spot. If you’re only dealing with a small drop of polish, then you can test the whole area. 

Step 2: Dab at Any Wet Stains

If the polish is fresh, dab at the spot to remove excess polish that may try to soak into your clothes. You’ll want to keep the area dry during this step, as water may cause the stain to spread.

Step 3: Go in With Water 

Before trying another technique (more on that below), use water and an oil-based soap or makeup remover to target the stain. You can use the La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+ Gentle Foaming Cleansing Oil to help lift the stain. This won’t completely remove the nail polish, but it will start to break up the pigment. 

La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+ Gentle Foaming Cleansing Oil

Step 4: Try an Unconventional Method

Water and soap will not completely remove a stain from fabric, so you’ll want to follow up with a stronger remover that will help lift the stain. You can use an acetone-free nail polish remover, like Ella+Mila Soy Polish Remover, to eat away at the polish without accidentally lightening your clothes like acetone will. 

Another option is to try using hairspray, like the Matrix Vavoom Extra Hold Freezing Spray, to break apart polish and gently peel the paint from the fabric’s fibers. This beauty hack only works on undisturbed nail polish stains. So if you go this route, you’ll want to skip steps two and three, allow the stain to dry completely and then spritz the hairspray before letting it dry again. Once it dries, you’ll be able to flake away the nail polish stain.

Matrix Vavoom Extra Hold Freezing Spray

How to Get Nail Polish Out of Wood or Tile Surfaces

Removing a nail polish spill on wood, tile or leather surfaces is a little easier than removing nail polish stains on fabric. It’s still difficult, but the smooth surface of tables, flooring and other types of furniture like this makes the removal process quicker. You’ll still want to move quickly to minimize damage to your furniture. Below, follow the five straightforward steps to make your surfaces look as good as new.    

Step 1: Do a Patch Test

Avoid accidentally staining your furniture further by doing a patch test on the area to determine the best removal method. It will guarantee a better stain removal without damaging your wood or tile.

Step 2: Clean Up Wet Polish Fast

If the stain is fresh and you just spilled your nail polish, move quickly to remove the stain before it sets in. Use a paper towel or microfiber cloth to quickly pick up the nail polish stain without smearing or wiping the polish around. This will create more of a mess in the long run. 

Step 3: Let It Dry

It may feel wrong, but if you’re dealing with a large polish spill, you should let the stain dry. Cleaning nail polish stains on a wood or tile surface is actually better with dry polish because it’s more likely to peel or flake away than thin, smeared stains.   

Step 4: Grab a Credit Card

You won’t need your credit card to buy anything, but you will need a thick plastic card of some sort to lift up the polish puddle. As nail polish stains dry, the lacquer hardens (usually in a drop format) which makes peeling easier. Use a plastic card over paper or metal to avoid scraping at your surface or breaking the card. Add a few drops of Essie Apricot Nail & Cuticle Oil to the dry stain to loosen the polish slightly. There may be a few air bubbles underneath the stain that the oil can seep into, which will allow the polish to lift slightly. Then, use the card to lightly scrape at the stain, chipping away at the color. 

Essie Apricot Nail & Cuticle Oil

Step 5: Use Rubbing Alcohol

If you get nail polish on a leather couch or even a leather jacket, you’ll want to be cautious of the materials you use to remove nail polish stains. The last thing you want is to bleach your leather surface with a strong nail polish remover or cleaning supplies. In this situation, immediately after your spill, use a towel saturated in rubbing alcohol and blot the wet stain. Once you’ve absorbed the excess nail polish, mix a two-to-one ratio of white vinegar and olive oil to help lift the color. Using that concoction and a toothbrush, start to scrub the leather until the remaining nail polish is gone. When you’re done, feel free to apply a leather conditioner to restore the material.

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

Read more

Back to top