Nail polish stains on your favorite shirt or pair of jeans can be annoying and frustrating to deal with. But don’t worry – with the right techniques and products, you can often remove fresh and dried nail polish from fabric quite easily.
In this complete guide, we’ll walk you through the best methods for getting nail polish out of clothes, step-by-step. We’ll also provide tips on how to avoid staining your clothes with polish in the first place.
What You’ll Need
Before you start trying to remove nail polish stains, gather the following supplies:
- Nail polish remover – Acetone-based remover works best. You can also use non-acetone if you’re concerned about damaging fabrics.
- An old toothbrush or small brush – This helps scrub out stubborn nail polish.
- Paper towels or clean rags
- Dawn dish soap – Helps break up polish.
- Baking soda – Acts as a stain remover and odor absorber.
- White vinegar – Helps dissolve nail polish.
- Hydrogen peroxide – Can lighten and lift stains.
- Laundry detergent or stain remover spray
- Bucket for diluting remover, vinegar, etc.
- Washing machine (for washing clothes after stain removal)
Having these supplies ready will make nail polish stain removal much easier!
How To Remove Fresh/Wet Nail Polish Stains
If you’ve just spilled or dripped nail polish on your clothing, follow these steps to remove it quickly:
Step 1: Blot the Stain
- Use a paper towel or clean rag to gently blot at the wet nail polish stain. Don’t rub it in! Blotting will soak up excess polish before it sets into the fabric.
Step 2: Flush With Cold Water
- Rinse the back of the stained fabric under cold running water. This helps push the polish through to the other side so it doesn’t spread deeper into the weave.
Step 3: Apply Nail Polish Remover
- Put a small amount of acetone-based nail polish remover on a paper towel or cotton ball. Dab it onto the stain and let it sit for a minute or two. This will dissolve the polish.
Step 4: Flush and Blot Again
- Rinse the back of the fabric under cold water again. Then blot the front of the stain again with a clean section of paper towel or rag.
Step 5: Repeat as Needed
- Check if the stain is gone. If not, repeat steps 3-4, applying more remover and flushing/blotting until no more color transfers to the paper towel.
Step 6: Wash as Usual
- Once the stain is removed, go ahead and wash the clothing as you normally would to eliminate any residual smell or stains. Air dry.
Using this simple process on fresh stains can often remove them completely. The key is to not let the polish dry, which makes it much harder to get out.
How To Remove Dried Nail Polish Stains
If you didn’t catch that nail polish stain right away, removing it from fabric gets a bit more complicated. Here are the best methods for dried/set-in stains:
Method 1: Nail Polish Remover + Dish Soap
For light-colored fabrics and recently dried stains, try this:
- Mix equal parts nail polish remover and Dawn dish soap in a small bowl. The soap helps the acetone work better on set-in stains.
- Using a toothbrush or small brush, scrub this mixture into the stain.
- Let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Flush the back with cold water and blot the front with paper towels.
- Check if the stain is gone. Repeat if needed.
- Wash as usual.
Method 2: Baking Soda Paste
For delicate fabrics, try a baking soda paste:
- Make a paste with 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water.
- Gently rub the paste onto the nail polish stain using a toothbrush or your fingertips.
- Let it sit for up to 8 hours, then rinse with cold water and wash as usual.
The abrasive baking soda will help lift the stained fibers over time without harsh chemicals.
Method 3: Vinegar Soak
For tough set-in stains, try soaking in vinegar:
- Fill a bucket or sink with cold water and 1 cup white vinegar.
- Soak the stained clothing item for at least an hour. For heavy stains, soak overnight.
- Rinse with clean water and wash as usual.
The acetic acid in vinegar helps break down stubborn nail polish stains.
Method 4: Hydrogen Peroxide
- Apply undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide directly to the dried nail polish stain.
- Let bubble for 5-10 minutes. This oxidizing agent can lighten and lift stains.
- Rinse and wash as usual.
Method 5: Laundry Pre-Treater Sprays
- Spray laundry pre-treatment stain remover onto dried nail polish stains before washing.
- Let sit 5-10 minutes.
- Wash as usual with detergent in the warmest water safe for the fabric.
Tips To Avoid Nail Polish Stains
The easiest way to keep clothes free of nail polish stains is to take precautions when painting your nails:
- Wear an old stained t-shirt to protect your clothes from drips.
- Lay down paper towels or newspapers to catch polish drips.
- Paint nails on a table rather than holding hands over clothes.
- Apply a fast-drying top coat to help polish set quickly.
- Be extra careful cleaning up polish on the edges of your nails.
- Change clothes with care right after painting nails. Undo buttons/zippers slowly.
- Stay still while polish dries – limit hand movements and multitasking.
- Wash hands carefully after removing polish to get rid of staining residue.
Can You Get Nail Polish Out of Other Materials?
The techniques in this guide can be used to remove nail polish from more than just clothes. Here’s how to tackle stains on other common materials:
- Apply nail polish remover to stain. Let sit 5-10 minutes.
- Blot gently and repeat until stain lifts.
- Rinse with water and blot dry.
- Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch. Let sit overnight.
- Vacuum up powder in the morning.
- Clean stain ASAP before polish dries!
- Gently dab with non-acetone remover and rinse.
- Use saddle soap or mild leather cleaner to condition the area.
- Wipe with non-acetone remover to lift fresh stains.
- For dried stains, try toothpaste or olive oil. Gently rub into stain and wipe away.
- Avoid getting wood too wet.
- Re-oil treated wood to condition.
- Scour with baking soda paste.
- Full-strength acetone or nail polish remover can also work.
- Avoid abrasive scouring pads.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about removing nail polish stains from clothing and other materials:
What kind of nail polish remover works best?
For fabric stains, use an acetone-based nail polish remover. The acetone is more effective at breaking down and dissolving dried nail polish. For delicate fabrics, try a non-acetone remover.
Can I use nail polish remover on all fabrics?
Avoid acetone-based remover on silk, wool, or other delicate fabrics as it may damage fibers. Test remover on a small hidden area first. Use non-acetone or try other natural stain removal methods.
How do I get nail polish out of jeans or denim?
Denim is durable enough for acetone nail polish remover. Try Method 1 scrubbing with remover + dish soap. For heavy stains, lay jeans flat and pour remover directly on stain to soak before scrubbing.
What about nail polish stains on suede?
Suede is very absorbent and stained fibers can’t be replaced like normal fabric. Try baking soda or corn starch gently applied with a soft brush. Avoid excessive moisture so the suede doesn’t get misshapen.
Will hairspray remove nail polish stains?
Yes, hairspray can work to dissolve nail polish stains since it contains alcohol. Spray it on the stain, let it soak for 5-10 minutes, then rinse and blot. The alcohol helps dissolve the polish.
What do I do if nail polish leaks in the washing machine?
Stop the washer immediately! Remove all items and check for stains. Hand wash stained items with nail polish remover and dish soap. Give the empty washer a rinse cycle with hot water and add baking soda or vinegar to help remove traces of polish.
The Bottom Line
Removing fresh wet nail polish from clothes is easy – just use nail polish remover, dish soap, and cold water. Set-in stains are more stubborn, but soaking in vinegar or scrubbing with baking soda paste can get rid of dried polish too.
The key is to act fast before the spilled polish has a chance to fully bond to the fabric fibers. If you do end up with a stain, try the effective techniques in this guide to get your clothes looking fresh and clean again.