A bottle of red nail polish spilled on a white surface, illustrating the challenge of removing nail polish stains from clothes.

Ever had that heart-stopping moment when nail polish spills on your favourite shirt? If you’re reading this article, you’re probably in this very situation right now and you need to know how to clean nail polish off your clothes now. I know, it’s a total nightmare. To make matters worse, nail polish stains are notoriously difficult to get out, but don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

The key is to act fast and use the right methods. This might just help you save your beloved clothes from a permanent mark. Let’s dive into some nail polish cleaning methods I’ve picked up over the years so you can breathe a little easier the next time disaster strikes.

In this article:

  • Understanding Nail Polish Stains
  • Immediate Steps to Take
  • Common Household Items and Home Remedies for Nail Polish Stain Removal
    • Acetone or Nail Polish Remover
    • Rubbing Alcohol or Hairspray
    • Hydrogen Peroxide or Baking Soda
    • White Vinegar and Dish Soap
  • Commercial Stain Removers
    • Preventing Future Stains
  • FAQs About Nail Polish Stain Removal
    • Can nail polish remover damage my clothes?
    • What if the stain doesn’t come out completely?
    • Are there any fabrics that are particularly difficult to clean?
  • Conclusion

Understanding Nail Polish Stains

Nail polish stains are particularly difficult to remove because of what nail polish is made of – pigments, resins, and solvents that bond tightly with fabric fibres. Think about it – the entire purpose of nail polish lies in its ability to stay on your nails for as long as possible until the next time you do your nails (or visit your salon).

And then there are different fabrics. Different fabrics react differently when they come into contact with nail polish. Cotton and polyester are generally pretty resilient but can soak up stains quickly. On the other hand, silk, wool, and other delicate fabrics need extra care since harsh treatments can damage them easily. So what you’re left with is a recipe for disaster.

Immediate Steps to Take

When you spill nail polish, don’t panic! Quick action can make all the difference. The first thing to do is to blot the stain with a clean cloth or paper towel—gently, of course. Rubbing will only spread the polish and push it deeper into the fabric, making things worse.

Next, use something dull like a butter knife or the edge of a credit card to gently scrape off any excess polish. Be careful not to damage the fabric. The process is pretty much the same as if you were cleaning makeup off your clothes.

Continue blotting with a clean section of the cloth or a new paper towel until you’ve lifted as much polish as possible. The goal here is to get rid of the excess before it sets. Obviously, you won’t be able to get all of it. Remain calm and keep reading.

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Common Household Items and Home Remedies for Nail Polish Stain Removal

Now that you’ve tackled the immediate mess, it’s time to bring out the big guns. Here are some common household items and home remedies that can help lift those stubborn stains:

Acetone or Nail Polish Remover

Acetone or nail polish remover is great for cotton, polyester, and denim. Here’s how to use them:

A person using a cotton pad to apply acetone or nail polish remover on their hand, with nail care tools in the background, illustrating how to use acetone for removing nail polish stains from clothes.
  • Place a clean white cloth under the stained area to catch any excess remover. Always test the remover on a hidden part of the fabric to ensure it doesn’t cause damage.
  • Soak a cotton ball or pad in acetone or nail polish remover and gently dab the stain. Be patient and avoid rubbing.
  • Blot with a clean cloth, switching to fresh areas of the cloth as needed, until the stain starts to lift.
  • Finally, rinse with cold water and wash the garment as usual.

Be careful when handling acetone and nail polish remover. You don’t want this stuff getting into your eyes. Carefully read the labels before use!

Rubbing Alcohol or Hairspray

Rubbing alcohol and hairspray work well on cotton and synthetic blends. That’s right – this is not a typo. It really does say “hair spray” for cleaning nail polish stains. Here’s how:

  • Place a clean cloth under the stain to avoid transferring it to other parts of the garment.
  • Spray hairspray or apply rubbing alcohol directly onto the stain and blot gently with a clean cloth, pressing and lifting the stain instead of rubbing it in.
  • Keep blotting until the stain fades, then rinse with cold water and launder the garment normally.
A row of hairspray bottles, including products by Redken, illustrating the use of rubbing alcohol or hairspray for removing nail polish stains from clothes.

Once again, be sure to test it out on a small, inconspicuous area first.

Hydrogen Peroxide or Baking Soda

Hydrogen peroxide or baking soda are ideal for light-coloured fabrics (since it can cause discolouration on dark fabrics). Here’s how to use them:

  • Apply hydrogen peroxide directly onto the stain and let it sit for a few minutes.
  • Blot with a clean cloth to lift the stain. You might need to repeat this a few times.
  • Alternatively, make a paste with baking soda and water, apply it to the stain, and gently scrub with a soft brush.
  • Rinse thoroughly with cold water and wash the garment as you normally would.

As always, test this on a small area to make sure you won’t ruin your garment, first.

White Vinegar and Dish Soap

A natural and safe option for most fabrics is a mixture of white vinegar and dish soap.

  • Mix equal parts white vinegar and dish soap, and apply the mixture to the stain using a clean cloth.
  • Gently blot the stain, working from the outside to prevent spreading.
  • Rinse with cold water and repeat if necessary. Wash the garment as usual.

Those are some pretty simple methods you can use with the stuff you have lying around at home. However, if these methods don’t help, do not despair. There are a few more techniques we have in our nail-polish-stained sleeves.

Commercial Stain Removers

If home remedies aren’t cutting it, it might be time to bring in some commercial heavy hitters. Commercial products can be very effective, though usually recommend starting with the other methods for one simple reason. Commercial products are usually made with strong chemicals.

Because of their chemical composition, make sure to read the labels carefully. Ensure the product is safe for your fabric type, and always test on a small, hidden area to check for any adverse reactions.

  • Apply the stain remover directly to the stain.
  • Let it sit for the recommended amount of time.
  • Blot with a clean cloth to lift the stain.
  • Finally, launder the garment according to its care instructions.

Commercial products are the final solution in my book but feel free to use them as your first line of defense if you so choose. Though I personally wouldn’t recommend it.

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A bottle of red nail polish spilled on a white surface, illustrating the challenge of removing nail polish stains from clothes.
How to Remove Nail Polish Stains From Clothes

Preventing Future Stains

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Atanas likes to say (though obviously, he didn’t come up with this saying). Here are some tips to keep your clothes nail polish-free.

  • Always apply nail polish over a hard surface, not on fabrics, and keep nail polish bottles tightly closed when not in use.
  • Wearing an old shirt or apron while doing your nails can protect your clothes, and laying down a towel or paper towels on your working surface is always a good idea.
  • For storage, keep nail polish in a cool, dry place, and make sure bottles are upright and securely closed to prevent leaks.

Following these simple steps will save you a ton of trouble in the future.

FAQs About Nail Polish Stain Removal

  1. Can nail polish remover damage my clothes?

    Yes, it can, especially if your clothes are made from acetate or triacetate. Always test on a small area first to be safe.

  2. What if the stain doesn’t come out completely?

    Don’t give up! Sometimes it takes a few tries. If it still won’t budge, it might be time to visit a professional cleaner.

  3. Are there any fabrics that are particularly difficult to clean?

    Silk and wool can be tricky and may need professional care. Always handle these with extra care.

Conclusion

Nail polish stains don’t have to be a permanent problem. Acting quickly and using the right methods can make all the difference. Remember to blot, not rub, and try the various home remedies or commercial products we’ve discussed. Good luck!

Author: Svetlana Georgieva (Clara)

Hi, I’m Svetlana Georgieva, but you can call me Clara. As the co-founder and heart behind Samyx Cleaning, I’m devoted to sharing the art of a clean space. Let’s journey into a cleaner, more joyful life together with tips from London's cleaning experts.

Samyx Cleaning - Co-Founder, Customer Service Manager, Author - Svetleto