How to Get Nail Polish out of Clothes

Yes, it's possible.


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We all want the nail polish used for our manicures and pedicures to last as long as possible—but not when it spills on our clothes. What starts as a tiny circle of nail polish can quickly become a huge stain if you try to wipe it away without following the right steps. Fortunately, with some patience and a few cleaning supplies, you can get nail polish out of most clothes.

Considerations Before You Get Started

Find and read the fabric content label of your clothes before you try to get out a nail polish stain. Never use any type of nail polish removal liquids on acetate, triacetate, modacrylic, silk, or any fabrics that are not colorfast. Home cleaning methods can discolor or dissolve these fabrics, so take clothing in these materials to a professional dry cleaner instead.

When working with other fabrics, understand that it may take some time to get nail polish stains out, and it's important to take a couple precautions before you get started. Since you'll be using acetone, which has strong fumes, to remove the stain, work in an area with good ventilation. Be sure to also protect the surface of your work area, since acetone will ruin some types of furniture and plastic finishes.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Old credit card or dull knife
  • Eye dropper (optional, but handy)
  • Washing machine or sink


  • Acetone or acetone-based nail polish remover without conditioners
  • White paper towels
  • White cotton rag
  • Cotton swabs (Q-tips)
  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • Laundry detergent


How to Get Nail Polish Out of Clothes

Follow these steps to remove fresh and dried nail polish stains.

  1. Lift Away the Polish

    Do not try to rub or wipe away the wet nail polish! Rubbing pushes the stain deeper into the fibers and can make it spread. Instead, use the edge of an old credit card or a dull kitchen knife to lift away as much of the nail polish as possible while it's wet.

    If the nail polish has dried, try gently scraping bits of the polish away from the fabric with an old credit card.

  2. Read the Care Label and Do a Spot Test

    Take a few seconds to read the fabric care label to make sure you can use acetone without damaging the fabric. Before treating stains on colored clothes, dip a cotton swab in the acetone, find a seam, and rub the swab on the fabric. If any color is transferred to the swab, using acetone will change the color of the clothes. Try rubbing alcohol instead, or head to a professional cleaner.

  3. Treat with Acetone

    Place several layers of white paper towels under the stain to absorb the acetone as you work

    Dip a cotton swab or a small section of white cloth in the acetone. Working from the outside edges of the nail polish stain toward the center to keep it from spreading, gently rub the stain and blot with the white cloth. As the nail polish lifts and transfers from your clothes to the swab or cloth, grab a new swab or move to a clean area of the towel. Work slowly until all traces of the polish are gone.

    To avoid getting acetone everywhere, use an eye dropper to apply small amounts to the stain.

  4. Rinse the Acetone

    Rinse the acetone out of the fabric by holding the cleaned section under a faucet of cold water.

  5. Try Rubbing Alcohol if Traces of Color Remain

    Dip a cotton swab or cloth in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and gently rub the stained area to help remove any traces of the nail polish color. Rinse the area again with cold water.

  6. Wash as Usual

    Immediately wash the garment as you normally would, using your favorite laundry detergent. Check the stained area before you toss the clothes in a hot clothes dryer. If the stain remains, let the clothes air dry and then treat the stain again.

These steps also work to remove nail polish from carpet and upholstery. Since most pieces can't be tossed in the washer after the stain is removed, "rinse" the freshly cleaned area by blotting with a damp cloth and allow it to air dry.

More Tips for Getting Nail Polish Out of Clothes

  • Treat the nail polish stain as soon as possible to prevent it from smearing or spreading.
  • If you don't have acetone or rubbing alcohol, try using a hand sanitizer that has a high concentration of isopropyl alcohol.
  • Never put a nail polish-stained garment in a clothes dryer. The heat will set the stain and make it almost impossible to remove.
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