How To Clean Spilled Nail Polish from Any Surface

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Use sugar on fresh spills to absorb the mess and wipe it up. If it’s already dry, here’s how to remove spilled nail polish stains from fabric, floors, and walls.

Overhead view of spilled nail polish that needs to be cleaned off floor

Just about everyone who enjoys a home manicure accidentally spilled nail polish on their floor, sofa, or clothes. When cleaning fresh spills, sugar or salt does the trick but the best method to remove dried nail polish spills and stains depends on the surface you’re cleaning.

How to Clean Freshly Spilled Nail Polish

The easiest way to blot up freshly-spilled nail polish is by liberally sprinkling it with sugar or table salt to absorb the wet polish, then wait 2 minutes and wipe it up with a damp paper towel. Don’t use your vacuum cleaner; the polish and sugar mixture can clog your machine. Once the spill is gone, use the methods below to remove discoloration left by nail varnish.

How to Remove Nail Polish On Clothing or Upholstery

You need to know the type of fabric you’re treating before choosing the best method to remove the dried nail polish stain. If you can’t identify the fabric type, or if the item is non-washable (silk, satin, leather, or suede), take it to a dry cleaner. Professional dry cleaners have solvents that can remove nail polish stains from most fabrics.

Step 1. Break away the dried residue

To quickly remove dry nail polish from fabric, hold an ice cube on it for a minute to make the polish brittle, then pry it up with a spoon. Shake or vacuum the fabric to remove flakes before using the below methods to remove the nail polish stain.

Step 2. Spot test

Begin by spot-testing the fabric in an inconspicuous place. Inside the bottom hem is a good place to spot test clothing. If there are no signs of discoloration or damage, continue to treat the nail polish stain.

For natural fabrics like cotton, linen, or wool, test with a cotton swab and acetone-based nail polish remover. Choose a clear remover that does not contain moisturizers that could further stain the fabric.

For synthetic fabrics, use a cotton swab and isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Do not use acetone nail polish remover on synthetic materials: it will melt acetate and destroy the dye on polyester and other synthetics.

Step 3. Blot and lift the stain

Insert a piece of cardboard beneath the fabric to protect your work surface. Then, dampen a cloth or paper towel with acetone (for natural materials) or rubbing alcohol (for synthetics). Use this to dab and lift the stain, rotating the towel as needed, so you’re always working with a clean spot.

Step 4. Rinse and launder

Once you’ve lifted the stain, rinse the area with warm soapy water, then launder it immediately in the washing machine or by hand using your usual detergent and cool water, not warm. Inspect the garment before drying to ensure all the stain is gone. You may be able to launder upholstered items, too.

How to Get Nail Polish off of Hard Floors

Always spot test treatments in an inconspicuous area to check for colorfastness. A closet floor is a good place for a spot test on flooring.

Step 1. Lift the dry residue

Use the edge of a credit card or a rubber spatula to remove any dried nail polish. You can apply an ice cube to make the polish more brittle and easier to pry up. It’s important to remove as much polish as possible before proceeding since excess polish can create a larger stain.

Step 2. Select your stain remover

Ceramic, porcelain, or cement floors: Use clear acetone-based nail polish remover.
Wood, laminate, vinyl, and linoleum floors: Use isopropyl rubbing alcohol.
Grout: Either acetone-based nail polish or isopropyl rubbing alcohol. (Spot test first.)

Step 3. Blot and lift

Use a clean, undyed cloth and the appropriate remover to blot and lift the dried nail polish stain. Do not rub, or you may spread the discoloration further. Rotate your material, so you always work with a clean spot and chance cloths.

Step 4. Rinse

Once you’ve removed the dried nail polish stain, mop your floor. For grout, you may wish to reseal the area to prevent future stains.

How to Get Nail Polish Out of Carpet

There’s no need to panic over nail polish spilled on your carpet or area rug. Spot test before treatment in an inconspicuous area. A closet floor is an excellent place to spot test carpeting.

Step 1. Lift the residue

For fresh spills, treat as explained above. Once the nail polish is dry, apply an ice cube for 2-3 minutes to make it easier to pry away. Use the edge of a credit card or a rubber spatula to remove the dried nail polish spill.

Step 2. Select your stain remover

White or light-colored carpeting: Use clear acetone-based nail polish remover.
Dark carpeting: Use isopropyl rubbing alcohol.

Step 3. Blot and lift

Use a clean cloth and the appropriate remover to blot and lift the dried nail polish stain. Do not rub, or you may spread the discoloration further. Rotate your material, so you are always working with a clean spot, and change to a fresh cloth as needed.

Step 4. Rinse

When you no longer see discoloration, clean the treated area with a cool, soapy cloth and press a towel on it to blot up excess liquid, then let it air dry. Do not attempt to speed up the drying process with a blow-dryer since heat can make the nail polish pigments permanently bond with your carpet fibers.

Step 5. Inspect and Shampoo

Once your carpet is dry, check again to ensure the nail polish stain is completely gone — sometimes stains return after drying. If needed, repeat the process. Once it’s fully dry, vacuum well to restore the carpet’s nap. You may wish to shampoo your carpet at this time to remove any lingering odor from the nail polish stain remover.

How to Get Nail Polish off of Walls

To get nail polish off painted surfaces like doors and walls, use a microfiber cloth or melamine sponge dampened with a small amount of rubbing alcohol. Clean the area with small, circular motions. Avoid pressing too hard, or you may damage the paint. Once the stain is gone, wipe the spot with a clean, damp cloth and let it air dry. If the area you’ve cleaned appears lighter than its surroundings, clean the entire wall.

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  1. Thank you for this emergency how-to! I accidentally knocked a bottle of red nail polish off the bathroom counter and had to get it off of tile, plastic, and the bath mat. Thanks to your tips, the floor and plastic are under control. While the bath mat is white, I didn’t have the energy to tackle it yet (and frankly, we’re not that attached to it). I‘m just so glad to have it off the tile and grout! That could have been a nightmare.

    Thanks again!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’re so welcome!

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!