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The Simple Method That Will Get Nail Polish Stains Out of Clothes From Laundry Pros

Plus, the DIY solvents that work — for less!

We’ve all had it happen. You’re painting your nails and suddenly there’s a blob of polish on your favorite shirt, skirt, jeans, etc… Don’t panic! While getting the polish out might seem like a hopeless cause, it’s actually possible to remove the stain. “Like other stains, you want to act fast as stains are generally tougher to remove when dried,” says Kim Romine, Procter &Gamble Fabric Care scientist. Keep scrolling to learn how to get nail polish out of clothes in just a few easy steps.

How to get nail polish out of clothes: 4 simple steps

Step 1: Remove excess polish

Begin by using a putty knife or the flat edge of a spoon to gently scrape away any excess nail polish. “Be careful not to scrape too hard and damage the fabric or further spread the polish,” says Patric Richardson, the Laundry Evangelist and author of Laundry Love. If the polish is dry, be especially careful in scraping as dry polish has already adhered to the fabric and pulling at it could cause the garment to tear.

Step 2: Rinse with water

A woman washes clothes with her hands in soapy water. Hand wash clothes. High quality photo
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Next, if the polish is wet, turn the article of clothing inside out and rinse with room temperature water from the side that doesn’t have the stain. “You’ll want to run the faucet from the back side of the clothing because the nail polish is sitting on the surface of the fabric and when you go from the underside, you’re forcing it off the fabric,” says Richardson, who notes that even dry-clean-only fabrics can typically be rinsed over just the small spot where the polish stain is located. The goal is to rinse away as much of the remaining wet polish as possible.

One caveat: “Always check the fabric content label first before attempting to remove any stains,” says Romine. “If the item’s material contains acetate, triacetate or modacrylic, or if it’s a delicate or dry-clean-only item, do not try to pre-treat with solvents or nail polish remover, and take it to the dry cleaner as soon as possible,” she advises.

Step 3: Treat with nail polish remover or acetone

Whether the polish is wet or dry, the next step is to use an acetone-based nail polish remover or acetone to remove the stain. If you use nail polish remover, make sure it doesn’t have conditioners that can leave an oily residue on your clothing or dyes that can further stain the garment. You’ll also want to make sure the item is color-fast, says Romine.

Do this by soaking a white cloth in your solvent, and testing on an inconspicuous part of the garment. If no color comes off on the towel, continue to pre-treat the nail polish stain. “Do not rub the stain into the fabric, as this will only spread the nail polish into the garment’s fibers,” says Romine. “Blot the stain with the cloth in a circular motion from the outside in to keep the stain from spreading. Use dabbing motions to get nail polish out of clothes and onto the cleaning cloth.” Repeat until the polish is gone.

See this video from House Cleaning Hacks on using acetone to get rid of nail polish on clothing:

For fabrics made with acetate

Acetone will destroy acetate fabrics on contact, but there is a trick you can try to get polish off of these fabrics, says Richardson. And it only works if you have public, chlorinated drinking water, he says. Start by soaking the fabric for three days, changing the water after each twenty-four-hour period to keep the chlorine and other chemicals fresh in the water. When the three days are up, remove the fabric from the water and use the edge of a credit card or a putty knife to scrape away the polish.

“Often this works to remove the stuck on polish, as the chemicals in the chlorinated water loosen the polish’s hold on the fabric, allowing it to be scraped away,” says Richardson. Then, just use a soft brush and some dish soap to wash away what remains of the stain. “It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot,” he says. If the polish stain hasn’t softened after three days, you can let it sit for another day or two continuing to change out the water and then try again.

Don’t have nail polish remover or acetone handy? Though an acetone-based polish remover or straight acetone will work best, there are a few other items you can use in place of these when you need to act quickly.

How to get nail polish out of clothes with isopropyl alcohol

“Rubbing alcohol is a solvent and could help in breaking down the polish,” says Romine. Use the same process you would use with the polish remover or acetone to blot the stain away, repeating until it’s gone.

This video from Homesteading Farm Life demonstrates the use of alcohol to remove paint, which is quite similar to nail polish:

How to get nail polish out of clothes using dish soap or laundry detergent and water

After you rinse, depending on how much nail polish is left you may just be able to use soap and a brush to get the rest of the polish out,” says Richardson. “Dish soap contains surfactants that will clean away the loose particles of the polish,” adds Romine. Simply scrub at the remaining stain gently with a soft brush using either dish soap or a laundry detergent like Tide.

How to get nail polish out of clothes using vinegar

Vinegar is acidic and will help, but a true solvent like acetone is more effective at breaking down the nail polish, Romine says. Use the same steps as above.

How to get nail polish out of clothes with baking soda and vinegar

Rinse out as much as possible first, then sprinkle on baking soda and put vinegar on top. It will foam up and get fizzy and that foam will help lift the remaining polish out of the fabric into the foam, says Richardson, who says this method works on wet paint, which is quite similar to nail polish.

How to get nail polish out of clothes with hairspray and dish soap

A hairspray with a high alcohol content will work similarly to regular rubbing alcohol if you don’t have an acetone-based polish remover around. Spray the stain with hairspray and then pour a few drops of dish soap on top. Then scrub gently with a soft brush or toothbrush to work the mixture into the stain. Repeat the process until the stain is gone. Then rinse and launder.

See a video of this method here:

How to get nail polish out of clothes using lemon juice, baking soda and dish soap

Lemon juice has citric acid that can help break down the polish. First, sprinkle baking soda on the stain, then add enough lemon juice to cause the baking soda to foam up. Finally, add a few drops of dish detergent, and scrub gently with a soft brush or toothbrush. Repeat the steps as necessary until the stain is gone.

See a video demonstrating the lemon juice method here:

Step 4: Launder the garment

Once you’ve completed these steps, you’ll want to first rinse and then wash the item using a high-quality laundry detergent. “For extremely tough nail polish stains you may also want to try an additional pre-treat with Tide liquid laundry detergent,” says Romine. Apply the detergent directly to the stain and let sit for 5-15 minutes. Wash on the wash cycle and warmest temperature as recommended by the garment care label. If the stain still persists, repeat the process before drying, as drying tends to further set stains, making them much harder to get out.


For more on removing stains, click through the links below!

How to Get Foundation Out of Any Type of Fabric, According to Experts

How to Remove Chocolate Stains From Every Surface in Your Home

How to Remove Toothpaste Stains From Clothes: Laundry Experts’ Fast Fixes

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