How to remove nail polish from clothes

Nail polish accidents happen to the best of us. Whether you spilled it while painting your nails or rubbed up against a freshly painted surface, getting nail polish out of clothes can be a real challenge. But fear not, there are several effective methods you can try to remove those stubborn polish stains. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process for getting nail polish out of all types of fabrics, from delicate silk to sturdy denim.

remove nail polish from clothes

Why Is Nail Polish So Hard to Remove from Clothes?

Nail polish is notoriously difficult to remove from clothing for a few key reasons:

  1. It’s oil-based. The main ingredients in nail polish are resins, solvents, and pigments suspended in an oil base. This oil-based formula makes nail polish highly resistant to water-based stain removers.
  2. It dries quickly. Nail polish dries and sets very rapidly, especially on fabrics. The longer a nail polish stain sits, the harder it becomes to break down and lift out of the fabric.
  3. It contains pigments. The vivid colors in nail polish come from pigment particles suspended in the formula. These pigments can deeply penetrate fabric fibers, making the stain extremely difficult to remove.
  4. It’s tricky to spot clean. Unlike a food or drink stain that sits on the surface, nail polish seeps into the weave of the fabric. This makes it challenging to target the stain with spot cleaning methods.

Fortunately, with the right techniques and cleaning products, you can usually remove fresh nail polish stains from clothing without too much trouble. Older or set-in stains will require a bit more time and elbow grease, but the methods below can help lift even the most stubborn nail polish marks.

How to Remove Nail Polish from Clothes

Here are the most effective methods for removing nail polish from clothing, organized by fabric type:

Cotton, Linen, and Other Washable Fabrics

For cotton, linen, denim, and other machine-washable fabrics, try these steps:

  1. Blot the Stain: As soon as you notice a nail polish spill, blot the area with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towels. This will help lift as much of the polish as possible before it has a chance to set into the fabric.
  2. Apply Nail Polish Remover: Next, use a cotton ball or clean cloth to dab a small amount of acetone-based nail polish remover directly onto the stain. Avoid rubbing, as this can push the stain further into the fibers. Let the remover sit for 5-10 minutes to help break down the polish.
  3. Rinse with Cold Water: After the nail polish remover has had time to work, rinse the affected area thoroughly with cold water. Avoid using hot water, as this can set the stain.
  4. Wash with Detergent: Once you’ve rinsed away the loosened polish, launder the garment as usual using your regular laundry detergent. Be sure to check the care label first and avoid using hot water or high heat, as this could further set the stain.
  5. Repeat as Needed: If any trace of the stain remains after washing, repeat the process of applying nail polish remover, rinsing, and rewashing until the stain is fully removed.

For particularly stubborn stains, you can also try pre-treating with a stain remover like Carbona Stain Devils or Clorox Stain Remover before washing.

Silk, Satin, and Other Delicate Fabrics

For more delicate fabrics like silk, satin, and chiffon, you’ll need to take a gentler approach:

  1. Blot the Stain: As with washable fabrics, start by blotting the nail polish stain with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towels.
  2. Use Non-Acetone Remover: Avoid using standard nail polish remover, as the acetone can be too harsh and potentially damage delicate fibers. Instead, opt for a non-acetone remover, which will be gentler on the fabric. We recommend trying Zoya Remove+ Nail Polish Remover or Patchology Nail Polish Remover Pads.
  3. Test on an Inconspicuous Area: Before treating the entire stain, do a spot test on an inconspicuous area of the garment to ensure the non-acetone remover doesn’t cause any discoloration or damage.
  4. Apply Remover and Blot: Carefully apply the non-acetone remover to the stain using a clean cotton ball or cloth. Blot gently, don’t rub. Allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Rinse and Dry Flat: Rinse the affected area thoroughly with cold water. Avoid agitation or wringing, which could distort the delicate fabric. Lay the garment flat to air dry.
  6. Repeat as Needed: If the stain persists, repeat the process of applying the non-acetone remover, rinsing, and air drying until the nail polish is fully removed.

Wool, Cashmere, and Other Dry Clean Only Fabrics

For dry clean only fabrics like wool, cashmere, and velvet, your best bet is to take the garment to a professional cleaner as soon as possible. Attempting to remove nail polish stains at home could damage these sensitive materials. However, if you need a quick fix, you can try the following:

  1. Blot the Stain: Start by blotting the nail polish stain with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towels.
  2. Use Dry Cleaning Solvent: Carefully apply a small amount of dry cleaning solvent, like Guardsman Dry Cleaning Solvent, directly to the stain using a clean cotton ball or cloth. Avoid rubbing, which can spread the stain.
  3. Blot and Repeat: After allowing the solvent to sit for 5-10 minutes, blot the area gently to lift the loosened polish. Repeat the application of solvent and blotting until the stain is removed.
  4. Seek Professional Cleaning: Once you’ve done what you can at home, take the garment to a reputable dry cleaner as soon as possible. Their specialized equipment and techniques will give you the best chance of fully removing the nail polish stain without damaging the fabric.

Preventing Nail Polish Stains

Of course, the best way to deal with nail polish stains is to avoid them in the first place. Here are some tips to help prevent nail polish mishaps:

  • Paint your nails in a designated area, away from clothing and fabrics.
  • Wear an old t-shirt or smock to protect your clothes while painting.
  • Allow nail polish to fully dry before putting on clothing.
  • Be extra careful when painting your nails while wearing your favorite outfit.
  • Clean up any spills immediately using the methods outlined above.

You can also try using a nail polish stain remover wipe, like Cutex Nail Polish Remover Wipes, to quickly blot up any fresh spills before they have a chance to set.

FAQs About Removing Nail Polish from Clothes

Q: Can nail polish be removed from clothes without using nail polish remover? A: Yes, there are a few alternative methods you can try:

  • Use rubbing alcohol or vodka – Apply a small amount to the stain and blot.
  • Try dish soap – Mix a bit of dish soap with water and gently scrub the stain.
  • Use hairspray – Spray hairspray directly on the stain and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before blotting.
  • Try baking soda and vinegar – Make a paste of baking soda and vinegar and scrub it into the stain.

Q: Will the nail polish remover damage the fabric? A: Nail polish remover, especially those containing acetone, can potentially damage delicate fabrics like silk, satin, or wool. Always do a spot test first and avoid rubbing the remover into the fabric too vigorously. For sensitive materials, use a gentle, non-acetone remover like Zoya Remove+.

Q: How do I get nail polish out of white clothes? A: White fabrics can be a bit trickier, as any discoloration from the nail polish will be more noticeable. Be extra gentle and thorough when using nail polish remover, and consider adding a bit of lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide to the wash cycle to help lift and brighten the stain.

Q: Will the stain come out if I wash the garment right away? A: The sooner you can treat a fresh nail polish stain, the better. Blot and apply remover immediately, then wash as soon as possible. Letting a nail polish stain sit and set will make it much more difficult to remove over time.

Q: Can I use nail polish remover on my hands to get the stain out? A: Using nail polish remover directly on your skin is generally not recommended, as the acetone can be drying and irritating. It’s better to use the remover on a cotton ball or cloth and dab it onto the fabric stain. For any polish that gets on your skin, simply wash with gentle hand soap and water.

By following these steps and using the right cleaning products for your fabric type, you can successfully remove even the toughest nail polish stains from your clothes. Just remember to act quickly, be gentle, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help for delicate materials. With a little effort, you can keep your wardrobe looking fresh and polished (pun intended!).

Sharing Is Caring:

As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.