How to get nail polish out of clothes

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Have you spilled nail polish on an article of clothing? We’ve all been there. Nail polish stains do not have to ruin your clothes and they can usually be lifted easily. In this article we tell you everything you need to know about how to remove nail polish stains from your clothing without spreading the stain or making it worse. 

How to remove a nail polish stain from clothing

What to use to remove nail polish from clothing

I often get asked what products should be used to remove nail polish stains from clothing or carpet. Before you reach for any general purpose cleaning solutions, you should try removing the stain with nail polish remover. Nail polish remover dissolves nail polish so it makes sense that nail polish remover might be useful for removing nail polish stains from all kinds of materials. 

I would recommend attempting to remove nail polish stains from clothing with nail polish remove before trying any other cleaning solutions. A few other options of products that might help to clean nail polish stains if you do not have nail polish remover around are windex and hairspray. These products work similarly to the nail polish remover by helping to dissolve the nail polish stain. You should use these in the same way to use nail polish remover to remove a nail polish stain.

How to remove nail polish stains from clothing

To remove a nail polish stain from clothing you should first fold a paper towel a few times then soak the bottom inch or two of the paper towel in nail polish remover. Next take the paper towel and put the part that is soaked in nail polish remover on the stain and gently dab the stain. You only want to soak the bottom of the paper towel with nail polish remover so that the nail polish remover can travel up the dry part of the paper towel and pull some of the ail polish stain with it. 

You should continue to gently dab the stain with the paper towel until it seems like the paper towel is not lifting off much nail polish anymore. If the nail polish stain is large you might need to swap in a clean paper towel a few times. Once the paper towel is not lifting a lot of nail polish off of the article of clothing anymore it might be time for a light soak. Simply soak a clean paper towel in some nail polish remover then lay it on the article of clothing for 15-20 minutes to slowly soak up more of the stain.

How to remove a nail polish stain from clothing

How to prevent a nail polish stain from spreading?

Nail polish remover works to remove stains from clothing by dissolving the nail polish and soaking it up. This method of action has both pros and cons when you are removing a nail polish stain from clothing. The obvious pro is that nail polish remover can help lift the stain off of your clothing. The potential con is that if you are not careful nail polish remover can carry the nail polish to other parts of the clothing and spread the stain. Luckily, there are ways to mitigate the potential for spread. Here are a few tips to prevent nail polish stains in clothing from spreading when you clean them. 

  • You should blot nail polish stains rather than rubbing them with a circular motion. This is particularly important in the initial phases of cleaning when there is a lot of nail polish getting absorbed into the nail polish remover. Rubbing the stains in a circular motion might spread the stains further. 
  • If the stain is large, you should start at the outside of the stain and work your way inwards. The area immediately surrounding the stain is the most vulnerable to stain spreading. When you are working around the border of the stain, your paper towel will be relatively clean. 
  • Do not soak the stain in nail polish remover when there is still a large amount of nail polish remaining in the stain. If the stain is soaked in nail polish remover, the nail polish solution will travel up the dry parts of the shirt and bring the dissolved nail polish with it. After most of the nail polish has been removed, you can soak the remaining stain in more nail polish remover. 
  • If you are removing a nail polish stain from a thin piece of clothing you should put a divider in between the front of the shirt and the back of the item. This might be something as simple as a piece of tin foil or cardboard. You just want something separating the different pieces of fabric so that the nail polish does not soak from one piece into the other.

Is it easier to remove a wet or dry nail polish stain?

Another question I get asked frequently is whether nail polish stains should be removed from clothing when the nail polish is wet or dry. You should try to remove nail polish stains from clothing when the nail polish stains are still wet. If the nail polish is still wet you will need less nail polish remover. This is an advantage because, as we said before, using an excessive amount of nail polish remover can encourage a stain to spread. 

Of course if you have a dry nail polish stain on your clothing you can still use these methods. You might just need to use a little more nail polish remover to remove the stain.

What if the nail polish stain is not fully removed?

If the nail polish stain is not fully removed from the clothing, it might be time to take the article of clothing to the dry cleaner. There are solutions that dry cleaners use that can help to remove nail polish. The fact that you removed most of the stain when the nail polish remover was still wet will give your article of clothing a better chance of fully recovering.

Surfaces you should not use nail polish remover on

The acetone used in nail polish remover is a common solvent used in industry. You should keep acetone away from products that are made with acetone because it can dissolve these products the same way it dissolves nail polish. Here is a list of surfaces that you should not use nail polish remover on.

  • Wood surfaces. Acetone is commonly used in varnishes that are applied to wood surfaces. You should keep nail polish remover away from wood surfaces to avoid dissolving this varnish. 
  • Adhesives. Acetone can be used to dissolve adhesives. Keep nail polish remover away from any adhesives and glues that you do not want to dissolve.
  • Newspapers, books, and other printouts. Acetone is commonly used as a solvent for printer ink. Nail polish remover can pick up and dissolve printer ink. 
  • Fabrics that contain modacrylic, acetate or triacetate. Before using nail polish remover to remove a stain from a piece of clothing you should make sure the clothing does not contain one of these materials as acetone can dissolve them. The cleaning label on the inside seam of most garments would indicate if one of these materials was present. 

Cleaning specific materials


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