How to Get Nail Polish Out of Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery - Public Goods

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How to Get Nail Polish Out of Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery

Knowing how to get nail polish out of clothes is a neat little life skill, as spills happen to the best of us.

knitted sweater with red nail polish on it, blue jeans, coffee mug

You know the scene: your little at-home spa moment for that DIY mani gets disrupted as you accidentally knock over the varnish bottle while the cap is off. In your efforts to act quickly and minimize the damage, you unwittingly stroke your shirt with the brush. Before you know it, you’ve got a nail polish stain on various surfaces and sheer panic takes over.

Stop it right there. Breathe. We got you.

Things to Look for Before Attacking Nail Polish Stains

 two rolls of tree free paper towels, white cotton towel, bottle of nail polish remover, q-tips, white cotton towel, bag of public goods laundry detergent pods, glass bowl
Shop: Tree Free Paper Towels ($6.25), Cotton Towel ($12.00), Laundry Detergent Pods ($6.95)

Before we dive in and learn how to remove nail polish from clothes and other types of fabrics, let’s get a lay of the land to understand exactly what you’ll be dealing with and why. That little bottle of liquid pigment can pack a big punch on porous surfaces.

Your course of action will depend on the type of material that’s affected by the nail polish. For instance, you might be required to relinquish your acetone and call upon a professional cleaner, depending on the fabric that is stained.

Let’s begin with some ground rules involving synthetics, as certain types can become damaged beyond repair if you take nail polish remover to them. Case in point: You cannot use acetone (the main active ingredient in nail polish remover) on acetate, triacetate, or modacrylic — typically used to mimic silk — to remove the stain because it will literally dissolve the fabric.

Similarly, delicate natural fabrics like silk and wool will require professional assistance because they’re too fine to withstand a drugstore-bought solution. A good rule of thumb to abide by is that if the label says “dry clean only,” keep to that instead of applying remover to the stain and making things worse. Always check the care label on your clothes before applying any polish remover.

How to Get Nail Polish Out of Clothes and Fabric

bag of public goods laundry detergent pods, bottle of nail polish remover, glass bowl

First things first, here’s what you’ll need:

two rolls of tree free paper towels, white cotton towel, scrubber sponges, q-tips
Shop: Scrubber Sponge ($3.00)

Bear in mind that the sooner you act after a nail polish spill, the better your chances. It’s easier to remove an enamel spill that hasn’t dried yet.

Here’s your step-by-step guide for how to get rid of nail polish stains from clothes, if your garment is machine washable:

  1. It’s easier to remove nail polish from clothes while the stain is still fresh. Again, check to make sure your clothes aren’t made from acetate or other synthetic fabrics. Start by carefully dabbing the excess product with a white paper towel (the white color will help you clearly determine how much excess of the stain is left as you blot it away). Do NOT rub the stain, as this will just embed it deeper into the fabric or spread it around, which is the opposite of what you want.
  2. Place a cloth under the affected area. Dip your paper towel or cotton swabs in your nail polish remover or another acetone-based product and start to very gently dab the stain. Work the remover from the outside toward the middle to keep it contained. The blotting motion is key to prevent the polish stain from spreading or setting in deeper.
  3. Use a clean area of your towel or cotton swab for every dab. This precaution will enable you to see when the nail polish stops transferring.
  4. Rinse in cold water.
  5. If you’re not able to get the stain out with the acetone nail polish remover, you can use a small amount of rubbing alcohol or a dry-cleaning solvent on the remainder of the polish. Work them the same way you did the acetone until the stain disappears.
  6. Machine wash with your usual laundry detergent to remove all traces of solution.

How to Get Nail Polish Out of Carpet and Upholstery

scrubber sponge, public goods dish soap, pantene pro-v hairspray, bamboo toothbrush, back of credit card, glass bowl
Shop: Dish Soap ($4.25), Bamboo Toothbrush ($4.00)

If you knocked over nail polish onto your rug, sofa or pillow, no need to panic. Removing nail polish from fabric that you can throw in the washing machine after treating it is an equally simple endeavor.

Below is the step-by-step process for how to get nail polish out of carpet and upholstery.

What You’ll Need:

  • A plastic object with edges, like a used credit card or disposable knife (to use as a scooper)
  • Acetone-based nail polish remover or a cleaning product like dish soap and/or hairspray
  • Cotton swabs and/or an eye-dropper
  • Clean white cloth or paper towel
  • Cold water and a sponge
  • An old toothbrush (if it’s a tough stain)

white cotton towel, public goods dish soap, bowl with soapy water and plastic spoon

The process will once again depend on the kind of material you’re treating. If your polish spill occurred on a vintage or silk item, call the professionals. If not, follow the steps below.

  1. If the scene involves a big glob of polish in your rug, use an object with an edge (like a used credit card) to gently move it up and out of the carpet fibers. This motion will prevent it from spreading further.
  2. For rugs or carpet stains, carefully apply a few drops of nail polish remover to the affected surface with either an eye dropper or a cotton swab. For upholstery, mix one tablespoon of liquid dish soap and two cups of cold water. Use a small area of a clean towel to administer the soap solution and blot the polish, and repeat until the stain is gone. Pro tip: It’s always safest to test your solution on a non-visible zone before committing to the stain. This will ensure that the fabric can withstand the solution and no discoloration occurs.
  3. Grab a washcloth or paper towel to blot the area immediately. Repeat until the stain is gone or the color stops transferring.
  4. Once the stain has been removed, sponge cold water onto the area and blot it to dry. Make sure it’s away from a direct heat source.
  5. If the stain persists, once it’s dry or blotted dry, wet the area with cold water again and generously mist it with hairspray, gently blot, and rinse with cold water.
  6. For rugs or carpet: once the area is dry, fluff the fibers with your hand or vacuum over it to lift them back up.

Nail Polish Stains Be Gone

Getting nail polish out of fabric might sound like an nearly impossible feat, but follow the guidelines above and your fibrous surfaces will be as good as new. Just remember to always make sure to check the type of fabric you’re contending with, because it will ultimately establish your course of action. You got this.

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