How To Clean Spilled Nail Polish


Just about everyone who enjoys a home manicure has found herself wondering how to clean spilled nail polish off carpet, wood, clothing, or tile.

I’m no exception, thanks to my two cats who decided to chase each other around the house while I was painting my nails. Between Cat #1 tipping the bottle on the table, and Cat #2 running through the spill then over my carpet and sofa, I got to learn how to clean spilled nail polish off a variety of surfaces.

Hopefully, you won’t have to know how to clean all of these surfaces all at the same time, but if you do, I’ve got you covered.

How To Clean Spilled Nail Polish

How to Clean Spilled Nail Polish -- white nail polish spilled on a pink background

Still Wet? Do THIS First!

The easiest way to clean up freshly-spilled nail polish is by liberally sprinkling it with sugar or table salt. The crystals in either will absorb the wet polish, making it so much easier to clean! Just shake it all over the area, wait a few minutes, then scoop it up. Don’t use your vacuum cleaner, though — the polish-sugar mixture may clog your machine.

On Clothing or Upholstery

If the spill is wet, perform the step above. To treat the remainder, grab paper towels and blot the spill, rotating the sheet as you work, so you’re continually working with a polish-free spot. Do NOT wipe the area or you may smear the polish further.

If the spill is dry, hold an ice cube on it for a minute to make the polish brittle, then gently pry or scrape away as much as you can. Vacuum the area to remove any flakes before proceeding to treat the stain.

Natural fabrics: (cotton, linen, wool, etc.) Place a thick layer of paper towels under the stain then dab at it with an acetone nail polish remover and clean, white cloth. It’s important that the nail polish remover doesn’t contain moisturizers or you may wind up leaving behind another stain. Be sure to spot test your fabric in an inconspicuous place for colorfastness. Rinse the spot well then immediately launder as usual.

Synthetic or non-colorfast fabrics: (acetate, batik, etc.): Acetone will melt acetate or acetate-blends, while it will destroy the dye on some natural materials. In either instance, take the item to a dry cleaner since they have solvents that can treat the stain without causing damage.

On Wood

No polish remover! It’s tempting to grab some remover and swipe at the spill, but doing so will ruin the wood’s finish. Instead, gently place a couple of paper towels on top of the spot and let them sit without moving for 10 seconds to absorb as much polish as possible. Don’t let them sit any longer, though, or the polish will bind the towel to the wood. Then proceed to the next step.

Use alcohol. Rubbing alcohol (known as surgical spirits in the UK) will get the stain up quickly — liberally apply it then wipe with a clean, lint-free cloth. Repeat using a clean cloth until the stain is gone.

On Hard Surfaces

Wood, laminate, vinyl, and linoleum: Wipe up as much of the spill as possible with a paper towel while taking care not to spread the mess further. To remove the rest of the stain, lightly spray with rubbing alcohol/surgical spirits then immediately wipe with a clean, lint-free cloth. Repeat until stain disappears.

Ceramic, porcelain, cement: If the spill is wet, blot with a paper towel but do not allow them to remain in place for more than a few seconds or the polish will bind them to the floor. Once the area is dry, clean the spill with acetone-based nail polish. Rinse well afterward, then dry.

Grout: Spot test an inconspicuous place with acetone for colorfastness. If there is no color change, wipe the dry spill with acetone-based nail polish remover. If the color changes, use a stiff-bristled brush and rubbing alcohol on the spill. You may need to reseal the grout after cleaning.

On Carpet

White or light-colored carpeting: Using clear, straight acetone and a white cleaning cloth, dab at the spot to transfer the stain from the carpet to the fabric. Do not saturate the rug with the acetone; instead, get the cloth damp then dab at the carpet. Rotate your material continually, so you are always working with a clean spot rather than re-staining the area.

Getting nail polish out of carpet can take a long time, especially if the stain is big, but it will work. It’s also a lot less expensive than replacing the carpet, so keep at it! Once finished, wipe the area with a damp white cloth to remove the acetone, then let dry.

Colored carpeting: Since acetone may damage the carpet’s color, you should do a spot test in an inconspicuous area. If the dye doesn’t budge, use the acetone method above to clean the spill.

More How-Tos:

How to Clean Wood Floors

Homemade Floor Cleaner for ALL Types of Floors

Natural, Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

Pin How to Clean Spilled Nail Polish

How to Clean Spilled Nail Polish - My cat knocked over my polish and I thought my carpet was ruined forever. This worked to clean up the polish AND got rid of the stain! #cleaning #cleaningadvice #cleaningtip #nailpolish #spills #homemaking


  1. Bernadette Sharp says:

    Thanks for this post! It was quite helpful for me. My girl spilled some nail polish on the kitchen floor (it’s laminate) and your tips worked great for me in this case. I cleaned the polish very fast and there are no signs left.Thank you for sharing!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’re welcome!

  2. If you spill it on hard wood you can throw sugar on the Polish while it’s still wet and it’ll clump together 🙂

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’re absolutely right, Thao!

  3. Jim Koster says:

    Here is a simple trick that worked for me. I once removed nail polish stains from a wooden furniture using aftershave lotion.
    It contains lots of alcohol like hair spray and works the same way. I guess it should work on clothings too, never tried though.

  4. Katie Coleman says:

    Realize this is an old thread but I broke an entire bottle of red nail polish on a marble tile floor with white grout last night. What finally got it ALL out was alternating pure acetone and then Clorox Clean Up spray. Neither worked well alone but alternating it came up completely. I just let it sit- no scrubbing or anything. I did the acetone a few times, then the bleach, then repeat. lt looks like nothing happened.

  5. I spilled it on my white nike hurache. I used non acetone nail polish remover. I’ll go buy nail polish remover with acentone

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Spot test first!

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