How to Clean Nail Polish Off Any Surface

    It’s easy to spill nail polish, but much harder to remove it! Luckily, our cleaning Pros know the best tricks for getting dried nail polish off all kinds of surfaces. So don’t despair, learn how to clean nail polish properly and you’ll never have to worry about nail polish stains again.

    How do you get dried nail polish off without remover?

    Of course, the easiest way to remove dried nail polish is with nail polish remover. Most removers include acetone, ethyl acetate, and isopropyl alcohol, which break down the nail polish quickly and easily. You can make a DIY nail polish remover using rubbing alcohol. Other good alternatives are lemon juice and white vinegar. These DIY nail polish removers won’t work as fast as the real thing, but they are still effective.

    In some cases, however, you need to use different solutions to remove nail polish. Acetone, the ingredient that makes nail polish remover so effective, can damage paint and plastic. Lemon juice can corrode metals and bleach other surfaces. And white vinegar can be harmful to natural stone and rubber.

    Based on their experience cleaning nail polish stains off all kinds of surfaces, here are the tips our Pros say work best.

    Nail polish remover
    Rubbing/ denatured alcohol
    Baking soda
    Sticky tape
    Windex/ ammonia
    White vinegar
    0000-grade stainless steel wool

      How to get dried nail polish off of plastic

      The trick to removing nail polish from plastic is to do so without damaging or discoloring the plastic surface. You can try scraping the polish off some hard plastics, but the best way to remove nail polish safely is to use alcohol.

      Begin by using a plastic putty knife or pan scraper to lift as much of the polish as possible. Take care not to press too hard. Also, avoid using a scraper harder than the plastic itself. It might be tempting to reach for a butter knife, but you’re more likely to scratch the plastic.

      Next, apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to the stain using a Q-tip. Rub the mark to remove the nail polish, and then wash with clean water. You may have to repeat this several times to completely remove the polish.

      Pro Tip: Don’t have any rubbing alcohol? Hand sanitizer or mouthwash formulated with alcohol will do the trick!

      Another method that works very well on softer plastics is sticky tape. Stick the tape over the stain and rip it off to remove the nail polish.

      How to get nail polish off wooden surfaces

      Nail polish is notorious for damaging wooden surfaces. It can seep into unfinished wood and leave a permanent stain, or strip the varnish from wooden tables and floors. So how do you remove nail polish from wood?

      Step 1: Use a plastic knife to scrape up as much polish as possible

      Step 2: If the polish won’t scrape off, press it for 30 seconds with a hot, damp cloth and try again

      Step 3: Use a small amount of rubbing or denatured alcohol on a cotton swab to remove the stain

      Step 4: Flush the area with clean water and dry it thoroughly

      Not got any rubbing or denatured alcohol to hand? Try these instead. Just remember to always use sparingly, always rub with the direction of the wood grain, and remove any residue afterward.

      • Hairspray — spray onto the nail polish and leave for 30 seconds before removing
      • Mineral spirits — use as little as possible and remove residue immediately to protect the finish of the wood

      How to remove nail polish remover on a wood table

      If you spill nail polish onto a wooden table, it’s a mistake to use nail polish remover. The acetone in nail polish remover can damage the finish of the wood and make an even worse mess. If the acetone dries on the table, it’s likely to do permanent damage. However, there are ways to reduce the stain left behind.

      Acetone evaporates quickly and doesn’t always look like it’s going to cause damage. But over time it will break down the varnish on the wood, so it’s important to remove any residue immediately.

      • Use a couple of drops of dish soap in 1 cup of water and blot the stain using a cotton swab. Do not rub. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.

      If the acetone dried onto the wooden surface and left a bleach mark behind, you can use heat to reduce its appearance.

      Step 1: Heat a dry iron (no water in the reservoir).

      Step 2: Place a clean washcloth on top of the stain. 

      Step 3: Iron the washcloth for about a minute using a circular motion. Don’t allow the iron to stay still over the stain, or you might burn the wood. 

      Step 4: Remove the cloth and check the stain. Repeat as necessary.

      Use a washcloth that doesn’t have a textured surface, as the texture can end up imprinted into the wood. If you do find this happens, repeat the ironing with an untextured cloth and it should lift the print.

      Another unconventional cleaning method that works is using real mayonnaise and ashes. Wood or cigarette ash works best. Cover the stain with a thin layer of mayo, sprinkle with ashes, and buff until dry.

      If you find the nail polish or nail polish remover has permanently discolored your wooden surface, you can use wood stain to touch up the damaged area and remove the mark for good.

      How to remove nail polish from the floor

      The method for getting spilled nail polish from your floor depends on the type of flooring you have. If you have real wood floors, use the methods above for wooden tables. Alternatively, try these Pro tips! 

      How to get nail polish out of carpet

      If you spill nail polish on the carpet, do not rub the spill. You’ll only spread it around and make any stain worse. Instead, use a plastic scraper to remove as much polish as possible, then blot with a clean cloth or paper towel.

      Next, use glass cleaner such as Windex. Always spot test an inconspicuous area first. Glass cleaner works best on dark-colored carpets. The active ingredient is ammonia, so you can always use a very dilute ammonia mixture instead. Just make sure the area is well ventilated.

      Pro Tip: Learn more about cleaning safely with toxic and non-toxic cleaning products

      If you don’t have ammonia/glass cleaner, or have light-colored carpets, use nail polish remover instead. Make sure to use a remover without acetone, as acetone can damage the carpet fibers.

      White vinegar is also an effective cleaner for carpets. Use a spray bottle to apply it to the stain, leave for a minute, and then blot up. Rinse the carpet thoroughly with plain water once clean.

      How to clean nail polish off tile

      To remove nail polish from tile floors (or walls), follow these steps:

      • Use a plastic knife to remove as much polish as possible
      • Apply a little acetone to a clean cloth and rub the stain to lift the polish
      • Make a paste from baking soda and water and scrub to remove the last of the mark — an old toothbrush makes a great tile scrubber!

      Always make sure not to leave acetone on the tile for too long or it can damage the surface, especially on porcelain, granite, and marble tiles. Use the baking soda paste to clean the tile once you’re done removing the polish.

      Pro Tip: Learn all about cleaning ceramic tiles!

      How to get dried nail polish off metal

      Metal is one of the easiest surfaces to remove dried nail polish. Start with a plastic tool to remove the polish. For hard metals, you can try a sharp scraper instead. Next, use nail polish remover or denatured alcohol to remove nail polish residue. If the polish is very stubborn, carefully use 0000-grade stainless steel wool to remove the stain.

      How to get nail polish out of clothes

      It can be tricky to get nail polish or paint out of clothes — but not impossible. For natural fabric, use nail polish remover. Spot test an area first. Acetone can damage synthetic fabrics, so avoid using it on these materials.

      Many people ask, does nail polish remover stain clothes? Acetone is unlikely to bleach color-fast fabric, so it should be safe on all colors. However, some nail polish removers mix acetone with other ingredients that could cause bleaching or make colors run. This is why it’s important to spot-check any item before applying nail polish remover.

      Rubbing alcohol is an alternative to nail polish remover, but it can damage delicate and synthetic fabrics, so again spot check it first.

      Once you’ve spot tested your solution, pour a small amount directly onto the stain. Use a clean cloth to blot off the excess and lift the nail polish. Don’t rub or wipe the stain, as you’ll spread the dye.

      To clean nail polish from synthetic or delicate fabrics, use baking soda. With a clean, damp cloth, pick up a small amount of baking soda and use it to blot the stain. Repeat as necessary.

      Whatever cleaning method you’ve used, finish by washing the clothing to remove any traces of the cleaning solution. Use a regular cycle and your normal detergent in a washing machine, or hand wash delicates.

      Pro Tip: Got other fabrics in your house? Learn how to clean a fabric couch or sofa

      How to get nail polish off walls without removing paint

      Removing nail polish from walls can be tricky to do without damaging the paint. The same solutions that strip the polish itself will also affect the wall finish. Rubbing alcohol is less harmful to paint than nail polish remover, so is a good first solution to try first.

      • Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to a cotton swab and use it to clean the stain
      • Avoid smearing the cleaning solution around the nail polish, as this will damage the paint
      • Use dish soap and water to clean the wall and remove any trace of cleaning solution
      • Thoroughly dry the wall

      You can also use a very mild Borax solution to clean nail polish from walls. Add 1 teaspoon of Borax to a quart of water and clean as above.

      Pro Tip: Get our complete guide on how to clean walls like a Pro!

      Final thoughts

      Nail polish can be tricky to remove from surfaces, but not impossible. However, prevention is better than cure. Before painting your nails, put down a paper towel or old cloth to absorb any accidental spills from polish or remover. If you do spill any nail polish, always try to remove it immediately with a clean cloth and fresh water. But if it dries on, follow the tips above to remove nail polish from almost any surface!