how to get nail polish out of clothes

How to Get Nail Polish Out of Clothes

It’s nice to throw yourself a little pamper session at home once in a while! You can pop a face mask on, open up a bottle of Prosecco, and paint your nails.

It’s such a relaxing experience until you realise that you’ve caught your sleeve on the edge of the nail varnish bottle.

The calm atmosphere quickly turns into one of panic as you try to get rid of the bright red polish that’s drying into your dressing gown. Will the polish stain? How do you remove the varnish? And more importantly, what else have you accidentally painted in the process?

As it happens nail polish can be removed from most types of clothes. You just need to put in a little work and be patient! Follow the steps below to put an end to your nail varnish fiasco!

Nail varnish comes in all types of colours, dries incredibly fast and goes hard when it’s dry. And while it may look great on nails, it’s not the type of product you want landing on your fibre-filled clothing!

This fanciful lacquer can be a little troublesome to remove from items of clothing, but with the right tools and a lot of patience, you can get rid of the colourful blemish.

removing nail polish stain with acetone

Things to Keep in Mind When Removing Nail Polish Stains

  • Don’t rub or wipe the stain because this can spread the varnish, and can drive it deeper into the materials fibres. Just blot the stain clean!
  • It’s usually easier to remove nail varnish from clothes once it’s dried. It can also be less messy.
  • If you’re unsure about removing nail polish from your clothes, particularly delicate materials, you’d be better off taking your nail varnish-stained garment to a dry cleaners. A dry cleaner will be able to use different tools and products to remove the polish for you.
  • Test first! You must always test your chosen cleaning method out on a discreet patch of clothing before using it properly. A lot of chemical lined cleaners damage clothes.
  • Keep in mind that acetone will dissolve acetate, so check your clothes tag to see if your garment contains this fibre. Although acetate isn’t really a common fibre in most clothes, if your garment does contain a hint of it, keep acetone away from it.
  • Don’t tumble dry your item of clothing until you know for definite that it is free from nail polish. The intense heat from the dryer will set the stain even more, and this will make it very hard to remove later on.
  • Be patient. The methods below will take some time to complete, and you’ll probably have to repeat some steps multiple times. So, take your time, and don’t rush because that’s when you’re most likely to make a mess!

fresh nail polish stain on clothes

How to Get Fresh Nail Polish Stains Out of Clothes

Tip: The methods below are most suitable for cotton, nylon, linen and polyester materials. They are not suitable for delicate materials. If you need to clean nail varnish off a delicate fabric (like silk, wool, acetate and rayon), you should ask a professional cleaner for help.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Old credit card or teaspoon
  • Tissues
  • Acetone-based cleaner or nail varnish remover
  • Small pot
  • Cotton buds
  • Towel
  • Running water
  • Washing machine/hand wash
  • Detergent

Steps to follow: 

  1. Grab an old credit card or teaspoon and carefully scrape up any nail varnish blobs from the area. Be careful not to spread or push the polish further into the material’s fibres! 
  2. Keep a tissue at hand to catch any drips—you don’t want to spread the stain! 
  3. Continue to do this until you’ve collected up most of the nail polish. 
  4. The area is likely to be quite dry by this point because nail varnish dries quickly. 
  5. Pour a small measure of acetone cleaner/nail varnish remover into a pot. 
  6. Grab a cotton bud and dip it into the liquid. 
  7. Find a discreet patch on your item of clothing (the seam, for example) and dab the wet cotton bud onto it. 
  8. Wait and see what happens. 
  9. If your item doesn’t change colour and the acetone hasn’t had any effect, you can continue using it to treat the nail varnish stain. 
  10. Pop a towel down on a flat surface and put the stained item on top (the towel will catch any drips). 
  11. Grab a new cotton bud and dip it into the acetone. 
  12. Start blotting at the nail vanish stain. Work from the outside of the mark towards its centre. 
  13. Continue to do this until all of the colour has been lifted from the material. Swap your colour-filled cotton buds frequently, so you don’t re-apply the nail vanish to the treated area. 
  14. When you’re done, rinse your item under the tap to flush out any acetone. 
  15. Then wash your garment as per the washing instructions on the tag, using a suitable detergent.
  16. When the item has been cleaned, inspect it for stains.
  17. If you spot any stains, repeat the method above when the clothes are still wet.
  18. When the stain has gone completely, you’ll need to launder your item again and dry it.


Alternative method

credit card ice bag and tweezer

If you’ve got a relatively new nail varnish stain, but you’d rather treat it when it’s dry, follow these steps instead.

  1. Fill a bag up with some ice cubes.
  2. Place the ice-filled bag onto the back of the nail varnish stain – this will speed up the drying process and will harden the polish for you.
  3. Wait while the polish dries.
  4. Scrape away as much polish as you can from the area by using a credit card.
  5. Tweezer away any little bits of nail varnish that you can see.
  6. You can now follow the method above from Step 5.


How to Get Older Nail Polish Stains Out of Clothes

Didn’t spot the blob of nail varnish on your top until you got home? Don’t worry, you can still treat hardened, old nail polish spots.

To remove an older nail polish stain you can use the steps above. Just scrape as much of the varnish off, then blot the painted patch with multiple cotton buds that have been dipped in acetone.

Keep going until all the colour has been removed from the material. Then you can wash the garment (follow the instructions on the care label).

If the polish is really old, you’ll likely have to repeat the method above a few times to get rid of the mark completely.


How Do You Remove Nail Varnish From ‘Dry Clean Only’ Clothes?

dry clean only

If you’ve got nail polish on a garment that is ‘dry clean only’, you will need to take your item to a dry-cleaning shop to get it cleaned.

It is possible to dry clean some items at home. But given the fact that you need to remove a stain in this case, rather than just cleaning the garment, it would be better to get professional help.

You could end up doing more harm than good if you attempted to remove the nail varnish at home.


How Do You Get Nail Varnish Off Clothes Without Acetone?

If you don’t have any acetone at hand, you can swap it for rubbing alcohol, an acetone-free nail varnish remover, or hairspray.

However, you should keep in mind that these products may cause damage to your garments, so test them first. Plus, these alternatives get mixed results.