How to get nail polish out of fabric – 4 pro tips to banish stains

Nail polish is known for being a difficult substance to remove from fabrics, but these pro tips will help you remove the most stubborn spillages

hero with cleaning images with bottles of nail polish
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Accidents happen, and nail polish on fabric and carpets is one of the most dreaded stains. But there are plenty of ways to clean upholstery and get nail polish spills out of fabric, so no one will ever know. 

It pays to know how to remove it without causing further damage, so you can recover your beloved garments or upholstery. Here's what you need to know. 

How to get nail polish out of fabric

Cleaning experts say there are several methods you can try.

bottles of nail polish on fabric

(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. Act quickly

If you need to remove nail polish from fabrics then acting quickly should be your number one priority. ‘Immediate action is crucial in the home expert playbook,’ says Angela Rubin, owner of Hellamaid. ‘Grab a clean cloth or paper towel to gently blot the nail polish.’ 

Acting quickly will prevent the polish from embedding itself into the fabric, making your cleanup mission far more manageable. Remember, patience is key when dealing with nail polish stains on fabric. Avoid rubbing the stain vigorously, as this can spread it further. Instead, use gentle blotting motions and repeat the process until the stain diminishes or disappears.

Angela Rubin
Angela Rubin

Hellamaid is an award-winning cleaning company in Canada that's been featured on multiple global media brands.

2. Use acetone or nail polish remover

Acetone-based nail polish removers from Amazon can effectively lift nail polish stains for fabrics that can withstand stronger solutions. Apply a small amount to a cotton ball or clean cloth and dab (don't rub) the stained area. 

Start from the outer edges, work your way to the center of the stain and rinse the fabric thoroughly afterward.

However, for more delicate fabrics or those sensitive to acetone, consider using non-acetone nail polish remover from Amazon. It might take longer and require repeated attempts, but it's milder and less likely to damage certain materials.

3. Dish soap and warm water

botles of nail polish

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to try and remove nail polish stains without the use of harsh chemicals, cleaning specialist Shayne Jeramos suggests you prepare a concoction of mild dish soap and warm water – a home expert's trusty formula.

Engage the stain with a cloth baptized in this elixir. Dab with precision, then rinse with clean water to ensure no soapy residue remains on the battleground. Check the care label of the fabric first.

Another more natural formula for removing nail polish is made of vinegar and cornstarch. Make a paste by mixing equal parts white vinegar and cornstarch, apply the paste to the stain and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes and then scrub the stain with a soft brush or cloth. Rinse the fabric with cold water at the end.

Shayne Jeramos
Shayne Jeramos

Shayne Jeramos has been a cleaning specialist at Bright Cleaners for over 2 years and has extensive experience with residential and cleaning services.

4. Try hairspray and toothpaste

According to cleaning specialist Janille Mangat, another great idea is using hairspray. A controlled spray on the stain, followed by a swift blotting maneuver and concluded with a water rinse. This tactic employs the power of hairspray to dissolve and disperse the nail polish.

Non-gel, white toothpaste from Amazon can also sometimes help remove nail polish stains. Just be careful with toothpaste because once it dries it can also leave messy stains. The secret to trying the toothpaste trick is to keep the fabric extra moist. That way the toothpaste can go through the fabric and absorb the nail polish.

Janille Mangat

Janille Mangat has been working as a cleaning specialist at VMAP services for more than 2 years and has extensive experience with residential and cleaning services.

Test in an inconspicuous area

Before diving into any stain removal method, it's wise to test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric. This helps you ensure that the method won't cause any damage or discoloration. Fabrics vary, and it's better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to something as noticeable as nail polish.

After applying the solvent, rinse the treated area with cold water. This helps remove any residue and prevents the solvent from lingering in the fabric. If the stain persists after the first attempt, don't hesitate to repeat the process. Patience is key in stain removal!

Avoid using heat until you're certain the stain is completely gone. Heat can set the stain, making it nearly impossible to remove. As with removing chocolate stains, it's best to hold off on throwing that stained item into the dryer or using hot water until you've confirmed the success of the stain removal process.

If the stain persists or if the fabric is delicate (such as silk or acetate), consider seeking help from a professional dry cleaning service.

Does WD 40 remove nail polish?

If used carefully and not overused, WD-40 will remove nail polish from some surfaces, especially carpets. Spray a small amount of WD-40 on the nail polish stain. Wait then 30 seconds before blotting it with a damp, paper towel. Rinse afterward with water.

Timing, gentle cleaning tips, and choosing the appropriate method for the fabric type are key to successfully removing nail polish stains. Always test any solution on a hidden area first and remember to check the care label of the fabric before attempting any stain removal method.

Seraphina Di Mizzurati
Contributing Editor

Seraphina is a contributing editor at Homes & Gardens, writing Solved features on organizing and storage. She loves to decorate and also grow her own produce from her home in London. Her previous experience includes working at Women's Health and Fabulous Magazine.