How To Remove Nail Polish From Clothes

Fingernail polish accidents happen far too often. They don’t have to make a permanent stain, though. If you’re quick to act it’s easy to remove the spilled nail varnish and save your clothing.

How To Remove Nail Polish From Clothes

  1. Check garment labels
  2. Gather cleaning solutions
  3. Use cleaning method based on label 

Step: 1 Check the Garment Label

Check the garment label to see what the fabric is made of. Natural fibers like cotton are usually simple to clean. Common synthetic fabrics such as polyester or nylon require a little more care, although the method is much the same.

Ingredients to watch out for: 

  • Acetate
  • Triacetate
  • Modacrylic

Any fabric made with acetate should be left alone. These items require specialist care and must be treated by a professional dry-cleaner

When acetone is applied to acetate the acetate dissolves. Your fabric will melt. Do not attempt to treat acetate fabrics yourself. 

What To Do With Dry Clean Only Fabrics

Take it to the professionals, especially if it’s a special garment you want to save.

If you want your dry-clean only labeled garment to be restored to pre-polish incident appearance, you really do need to get it to a good dry-cleaner. Take it to the dry-cleaner as soon as you can and point out the polish stain when you hand in your item. It might help if you can take in the polish bottle so the ingredients can be easily identified. 

If the polish is still wet when transporting take care to ensure the polish stain won’t touch other parts of the fabric. 

Step 2: Gather Nail Polish Cleaning Solutions

Several types of stain cleaning solutions will remove fingernail polish. Here are a few things you can try. You probably have most of these common items in your home.

Nail Polish Remover

As long as your clothing is machine washable and colorfast you can use acetone or an acetone-based nail polish remover. You’ll also need paper towels and a clean white cloth for color transfer.  

Rubbing Alcohol

This can be used for removing traces of nail polish once the majority of the stain has been removed.

Hydrogen Peroxide

For stain traces, and only on white, natural fiber garments.

Bug Spray

If you can’t get acetone or an acetone-based nail-polish, OFF! Bug spray with a soft toothbrush can do the job. 

Hair Spray

If the bug spray doesn’t quite catch all traces of the stain, use cheap hairspray to save your garment

Step 3: Nail Polish Cleaning Methods

Nail Polish Cleaning Methods

Using Acetone or Acetone based Nail Polish Remover

  1. Check your garment’s fabric label. If you can confirm that your garment is acetate free you are safe to continue. 
  2. If the polish is not dried, gently blot with a white paper towel to absorb bigger splotches. 
  3. Apply acetone or acetone-based nail polish remover to a microfiber cloth and do a colorfast check on a hidden seam or inside hem of the garment. If no color transfers and no fading occurs, you can continue. 
  4. Place several layers of white paper towel on your work surface to protect it. Acetone can damage some surfaces and fabrics.
  5. Apply acetone to your white microfiber cloth or a cotton ball and carefully press this to the stain with a gentle dabbing motion – never rub or wipe the stain as this will spread it.
  6. As the stain transfers onto the microfiber cloth, keep moving the cloth so you are applying a fresh, white piece of cloth with every dab. 
  7. Check the paper towels beneath. If they are marked with polish, put a fresh layer of paper towels down. 
  8. Repeat these steps until the stain has shifted.
  9. If any traces of polish still remain, you can use a cotton swab to dab some rubbing alcohol onto the polish. This should remove any remaining residue.
  10. If your garment is white and you’re still seeing traces of polish – this can happen with bright red nail polish with a deep pigment – you could try using just a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to bleach the fabric white again. This step is NOT suitable for colored garments.
  11. Once the stain is removed, launder your garment in the usual way to remove any residue of the removal products.. 

Cleaning method without Acetate

If you can’t find acetate or acetate-based nail polish remover, there is still hope.

  1. Spray some OFF! Bug Spray onto a cotton swab and do a colorfast test on a hidden seam or inside hem. If there is no color transfer from the garment you can continue.
  2. If the polish is not dry, use a paper towel to dab away excessive polish pools. 
  3. Lay fresh paper towels on your work surface, beneath your stained garment. 
  4. Spray the OFF! Bug Spray onto the stain (try to avoid getting any on the clean parts of the garment). Spray enough to soak the garment with the spray.
  5. When the stained area appears to be absorbing the bug spray, use a clean old toothbrush in circular motions to gently massage the stain. Again, take special care not to spread the stain.
  6. Rinse under warm water and repeat steps 3,4, 5 and 6 until the stain is gone.
  7. If traces still remain, saturate the area with alcohol-based hairspray (the cheaper it is, the better it seems to work for this purpose). 
  8. Leave it to set for a few minutes.
  9. Gently massage with a clean old toothbrush.
  10. Once all traces are removed, launder the clothing as usual. 

General Tips For Removing Nail Polish

Tips For Removing Nail Polish From Clothes

  •  The sooner you can treat your spilled nail polish, the easier it is to remove.
  • Using white paper towels and cloths will ensure no color from the paper or cloth is transferred to your garment. 
  • Take extra care not to spread the stain
  • Never use acetone on acetate fabrics. 
  • Delicate and Dry-Clean Only garments really do need to be seen by a professional. Remember to clearly point out the stain when handing your item over for treatment. 

If getting to a professional Dry-Cleaner really isn’t possible

We get it – sometimes it’s just not possible to get there. If you really must try to solve the problem yourself, you could try the non-acetate instructions above, or pick up some DIY dry-cleaning solvent. Take your time. Identify the garment’s fabric content. Do a spot check for colorfastness on a hidden seam or inside hem. If there is any change of color it is not possible to continue without damaging your garment. If there is no color change you can proceed with care, following the instructions for use on clothing. 

Alternately, find out if there is a laundry service in your area that picks up and delivers.