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How Do I Remove Nail Polish From Wooden Furniture?

Real Simple answers your questions.

Variety of nail polish shadesYunhee Kim
Q.: A large amount of nail polish spilled and dried on a piece of my wooden furniture. How do I remove it without ruining the finish?

A.: Cleaning and caring for hardwood surfaces can be tricky.
These delicate surfaces are beautiful when properly cared for. But an unfortunate spill, scratch, or dent is a sad sight on any floor or piece of furniture.

Nail polish is a formidable foe for any surface in the home. Wood surfaces are difficult for tough spills because wood is naturally porous. No matter how you treat the spill, there will probably be a spot left. Two factors that determine how much of a spot will remain are how porous the wood is and what type of laminate or finish the wood had been treated with before the spill. Because of the likelihood of a leftover spot, most experts recommend leaving this sort of cleaning to a professional. Yet there are a few safe options for cleaning a dried nail-polish spill on hardwood that you can try at home.

Laura Dellutri, the Healthy Housekeeper and the author of three books on cleaning, recommends three approaches to cleaning this type of spill.

1. Take a plastic putty knife and gently scrape the spill from the surface. The nail polish should slip easily from the wood. If the spill is stubborn, Dellutri says to apply a cloth dampened with hot water to the spill for a few seconds to loosen it, then proceed with the plastic putty knife. Be sure to use only a plastic knife.

2. Apply denatured alcohol to a cloth, and gently rub the spill until it comes off. Denatured alcohol is used to remove paint from woodwork treated with polyurethane. Although denatured alcohol is gentler than mineral spirits, which remove all paints and stains, be careful not to rub too hard or too long, as denatured alcohol will take up paint from the surface.

3. Use 0000-grade fine stainless-steel wool to gently sand away the dried nail polish. Steel wool with a 0000 grade is a very fine wool that will be tough enough to work the spill away from the wood, but soft enough not to damage the wood. If you do take off some of the wood finish, Dellutri recommends touching up the treated area with a wood touch-up product, such as a Minwax Wood Finish stain marker.

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