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How To Get Nail Polish Out Of Clothes

If you like fixing your own nails, you know that no matter how much care you take, once in a while a smear of polish gets onto your clothes. If you have kids in the house, you may even have had a big nail polish spill! The bright, hard veneer of nail polish may seem impossible to remove, but you can learn how to get nail polish out of clothes in just a few simple steps.

The best way to get nail polish out of clothes is to treat it with straight laundry detergent, apply acetone, or blot it with rubbing alcohol. For white or delicate clothing, hydrogen peroxide works best. Other products that work include hairspray, vinegar, and commercial products such as Amodex.

In this article, you will learn what nail polish is made out of and how to approach stains on different fabrics. You will discover seven easy methods for stain removal. Finally, you will find tips on how to treat nail polish stains on special kinds of clothing like jeans.
How To Get Nail Polish Out Of Clothes

Does Nail Polish Come Out of Clothes?

In many cases, you can get nail polish out of clothes by applying the right treatment to the stain. But nail polish is a kind of varnish that dries hard, and it will not simply come away if you place your stained clothing in the washing machine!

So what exactly is nail polish, and why is it so hard to clean up? Without diving too deeply into some pretty complicated chemistry, nail polish contains a polymer called nitrocellulose that remains in liquid form while dissolved inside a solvent such as ethyl acetate. When exposed to air, the solvent evaporates, and the polymer hardens.

Most kinds of polish also contain various other chemical ingredients, such as adhesive resins that help the polish remain firmly stuck to a hard surface. On top of this, both gel and normal polishes usually contain a small amount of something called a plasticizer to keep the dried polish from cracking.

And finally, the ingredient that gives the polish its rainbow hue of available colors can also come in several varieties. While you can buy nail polish in almost any shade imaginable, almost all of these colors come from two basic types of pigments: inorganic or organic. Organic pigments have a strong chemical similarity to the coloring used in food coloring, while inorganic pigments come from things like different kinds of oxides.

This all says that nail polish is essentially a type of liquid plastic that will dry into a hard plastic varnish. The sticky resins that allow one coat of polish to keep your nails looking nice for a week will also cling to the fibers in fabric or to the tiles on your bathroom floor, which is what makes it so hard to remove these stains!

Of course, nail polish designers know this, and they offer a solution for most circumstances, known as nail polish remover! This product usually contains acetone, which can easily dissolve the polymers in nail polish. This lets you wipe away old polish on your nails and quickly apply a new color.

But can you use acetone on your clothing? Yes and no. While trying any of the stain-removal methods in this article, the thing to keep in mind is that your clothes could be made out of many different kinds of fabric.

Natural fabric such as cotton can usually handle any of the stain-removal techniques described here, but synthetic fabrics made of plastics, such as polyester, may respond differently to chemical treatments.

You also want to consider the delicacy of your garment. If you have a lacey or silky blouse, this delicate fabric may need more careful treatment than a sturdy cotton t-shirt. For instance, you should not scrub at a stain in these delicate materials.

If you want to learn how to handle a nail polish stain in any kind of clothing, keep reading!

How To Get Nail Polish Out Of Clothes: 7 Methods

How to Remove Nail Polish From Clothes

You can get nail polish stains out of clothing using methods that range from simply applying laundry detergent to using hairspray or special commercial products. Most of the time, with a little care and the right treatment, you can get that colorful varnish out of the fabric without damaging your clothing.

That said, keep two things in mind before choosing a stain removal method. First, check the care label inside your garment. This will tell you if the fabric needs hot or cold water, if it requires dry cleaning, and if you can put it in the washer, for instance.

Second, it’s always a good idea to spot-test a product before liberally applying it to the fabric of your clothing. You can do this by finding a hidden inside seam allowance and dabbing a drop of the product onto that spot. Let it sit for ten minutes, and then check to make sure that the stain-removal product did not leave a mark after you rinse it out of the garment.

1. Laundry Detergent

While throwing a shirt stained with nail polish into the washing machine will not accomplish much, applying laundry detergent directly to the stain is one of the easiest ways to fix the problem!

This method often works best on fresh, still-damp stains. If some residue remains, you may also want to try a follow-up treatment such as blotting with rubbing alcohol to remove any lingering bits of color.

  1. Use something flat and plastic like a credit card or a plastic spoon to carefully scrape up any wet polish. You do not want to smear the polish around any more than necessary!
  2. Next, gently blot the damp area with a paper towel. Again, you do not want to scrub, as this will spread the wet polish.
  3. Pour a small drop of laundry detergent onto the stain. You would need less than one teaspoon for most stains unless you had a giant nail polish spill onto the clothing!
  4. Use a clean cloth or another paper towel to continue dabbing at the stain. You should see lots of color coming away now that you have added laundry detergent.
  5. To rinse away the soap, hold the stain directly under the faucet of your sink and allow lukewarm water to gush through the stain, carrying away more color particles from the reverse side of the fabric.
  6. Check to see if any polish remains. If so, try another simple technique, such as applying rubbing alcohol.

2. Acetone/Nail Polish Remover and Soap

Does Acetone Stain ClothesBy far, the easiest way to get nail polish out of anything is to use nail polish remover. This is a no-brainer in most cases because nail polish remover is designed specifically to remove nail polish!

There is one big caveat with this method, though: that acetone–the main ingredient in nail polish remover–can damage some types of fabric. For this reason, you should always do a spot test before trying this treatment.

  1. Scoop up any excess wet polish with a tool such as a plastic spoon. If the polish has already dried, try carefully prying up some hardened polish with the spoon. On hardy fabric like cotton, you can usually pry away most of the dry polish in this step, but you should not scrape at delicate material, so skip this step if you have a delicate garment.
  2. For tiny stains, soak a cotton ball in acetone for the next step. For larger stains, use a more generous amount of acetone on a clean white rag.
  3. Dab at the stain with the nail-polish soaked rag or cotton ball. You will see lots of color coming away, so replace the rag or cotton ball as often as necessary.
  4. When you cannot see any polish on the fabric, rinse the damp area in your sink. To do this, hold the stained area stretched out so that the tap water can run straight through it. Use cold or lukewarm water and rinse thoroughly so that acetone does not remain in the fabric.
  5. Let the garment air dry and then check to make sure you do not see any discoloring or remaining stain.

3. White Vinegar

VinegarOne of the cheapest ways to treat nail polish stains is to use distilled white vinegar, a common household product you probably already have in your pantry! Vinegar will not instantly dissolve the nail polish varnish as acetone does. Still, it is a great option to keep in mind for more delicate materials or for any items that do not respond well to an acetone spot-test, as acetone can bleach some kinds of material, or even dissolve it!

Vinegar is a safer choice, though it does not work as quickly.

  1. Soak a clean rag in distilled white vinegar. Spread this over the stained area. Let this sit for ten minutes.
  2. Alternatively, for really big stains, try filling a bucket with two gallons of water, measuring in half a cup of white vinegar, and soaking the whole garment in the bucket for ten minutes.
  3. Use a soft clothing brush or old toothbrush to work at the softened varnish. Hopefully, you will see flakes coming away as you gently work the brush over the stain!
  4. Blot the stain with another clean cloth soaked in vinegar. This should lift any remaining bits of polish.
  5. Make sure to rinse all the vinegar out under running water.
  6. Let the garment dry to check to see if any staining remains. If not, go ahead and wash it as usual in your washing machine so that it does not end up smelling like pickles later on!

4. Hairspray

Hairspray is one of the more surprisingly effective removers you can use on nail polish stains. This method does take a little time because you need to allow the hairspray to dry fully after applying. But it’s one of the easiest things to try, especially if you have a small can of hairspray in your purse!

All you have to do is spritz the polish thoroughly with hairspray, and then let the hairspray dry. This may take an hour or more.

Then gently peel away the polish–it should come right off in one chunk!

5. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing AlcoholRubbing alcohol may not dissolve hardened varnish quite as quickly as acetone, but it offers a gentler alternative that is still highly effective.

This is one of the best methods to use if you need to get nail polish out of a carpet! This is because you would not want to leave a chemical like acetone embedded in your carpet since you can’t easily rinse out the carpet or place it in the washing machine.

This method works especially well on fresh, still-damp stains.

  1. To use rubbing alcohol on a nail polish stain, start by finding a microfiber cloth. This will work well to snag tiny flecks of varnish and remove them from your clothes.
  2. Next, soak a corner of the microfiber cloth in rubbing alcohol.
  3. Gently blot the stain with the damp cloth. You may need to soak different areas of the cloth to use as it picks up more of the varnish.
  4. Once almost all of the polish is gone, rinse the area in your sink and then apply a dab of dish soap. Gently work the soap into the stained area with your fingers, and then rinse away the suds.
  5. Check to see if any polish remains!

6. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen PeroxideHydrogen peroxide is one of the best products to use if you have a nail polish stain on white clothes, as it can essentially bleach the flecks of varnish and turn them white.

This product can also soften hardened nail polish, allowing you to peel it away. If you don’t like the idea of using commercial removers on your nails, you can soak your hands in hydrogen peroxide for a few minutes and then peel away the polish from your nails, too!

  1. Either pour hydrogen peroxide onto a large stain or use an eyedropper to drip just a little onto a tiny stain.
  2. Let the peroxide sit for ten minutes.
  3. Next, dampen a clean sponge with cool water. Use this to blot up the peroxide and the polish.
  4. Finally, use a clean paper towel to blot again until the stain feels less damp.

7. Commercial Products

Besides nail polish remover, you can buy various commercial products that sometimes prove effective in treating nail polish stains in clothing. These include oil-based soaps like Amodex and dry-cleaning fluid or powder.

You can also consider taking your stained garment to a professional dry cleaner, who can probably treat the stain easily.

Your average stain stick or stain remover will not work, though. This is because most stain removers treat grease-based stains or protein-based stains. They will not remove a polymer like a nail polish.

If you decide to try a commercial product, make sure you use a spot test first, and follow all the precautions listed on the package. Some of these products may contain dangerous chemicals that could harm you or your clothing if not used correctly.

How to Remove Nail Polish From:

Now that you know the best ways to remove nail polish from your clothing, check out these tips on how to get that pesky varnish out of special types of clothing!


The best way to get nail polish out of jeans is to use nail polish remover for fresh stains or the hairspray method for dried varnish.

As a word of caution, acetone can cause bleach spots in dark-wash or black jeans. For this reason, you may want to try the hairspray method instead if you have dark-colored jeans!

Jeans are made out of denim, which contains sturdy cotton fibers. These can handle stain removers like acetone in most cases. You can also follow up on your stain removal by putting the jeans in the washing machine to get out any lingering residue.

Polyester Dress

The easiest method for getting nail polish out of a polyester dress without damaging the garment is to try to gently peel away the hardened varnish using your nails or a pair of tweezers. Because polyester is also made of plastic polymers, you may find it much easier to scrape or peel varnish off it than a natural fabric such as cotton.

You can also use hairspray and rubbing alcohol, which should not harm the polyester.

Can you use acetone on polyester? Opinions vary on this issue. Acetone will remove nail polish more quickly than any other product, so you may want to try performing a spot test on a hidden area of your dress to see if you can safely use this product.

That said, in some cases, acetone can damage synthetic fabric such as polyester, so use it with care!

White Clothes

One of the safest ways to get nail polish out of white clothes is to use hydrogen peroxide. This works very much like OxiClean bleach and will essentially whiten the particles of polish embedded in your clothing!

For larger chunks of varnish, it can also soften the plastic-like varnish, allowing you to easily peel it away from the fabric.

If you have a more sturdy white garment such as a t-shirt, you may still want to consider using acetone. This will quickly dissolve the polish, and washing it with a little soap and water or simply placing the item in your laundry machine will take care of any residue.

Black Clothes

The safest way to get nail polish out of black clothes is to use the rubbing alcohol method. Depending on the kind of fabric and the type of dye used in it, other products like hydrogen peroxide or acetone might create bleached spots on the black fabric.

Rubbing alcohol or hairspray, which also often contains alcohol, should not damage the inky dye job.

If you really want to be extra-cautious, try using the simple laundry detergent technique first. This works well on sturdy black clothes like black jeans because you can safely scrub at the stain without worrying about damaging a delicate fabric.

How to Get Pink and Red Nail Polish Out of Clothes

The easiest way to get pink and red nail polish out of clothes is to use a nail polish remover that contains acetone.

You can use any of the same basic methods described in this article, such as nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, or hairspray on stains made by pink or red nail polish. These vibrant colors look serious when they harden onto your clothing, but you don’t need any special tricks to get bright-colored nail polish out of fabric!

The only difference with a vibrant polish is that you may continue to see a small amount of residue left in the fabric after using a removal method. Try adding step of scrubbing laundry detergent or dish soap directly into this residue, and then rinse it away. That should do the trick!

How to Remove Dried Nail Polish From Fabric

The quickest way to remove dried nail polish from sturdy, washable clothing is to use nail polish remover and then launder the garment immediately after.

For more delicate or white clothing, you may want to try a soak in hydrogen peroxide instead. This will usually soften the varnish, and you can then peel away the plastic-like substance quite easily.

For very delicate garments, you will want to spot test a product before using it on the stain. You may also want to test if you can simply peel away the hard polish using tweezers before you risk placing chemicals on the delicate material.

How to Remove Nail Polish Remover From Clothes

The best way to get nail polish remover out of clothes is to use a solution of soap and water as quickly as possible and then blot the spot clean and dry.

It may seem odd to worry about removing the remover, as it were, but the acetone in nail polish remover could harm the fibers in your clothing if left to soak into the fabric for too long. Plus, in some cases, acetone can severely damage fabric, even melting a hole in some delicate synthetics!

  1. If you need to quickly get nail polish remover out of your clothes, follow these steps:
  2. In a measuring cup, mix a tablespoon of dish soap and two cups of lukewarm water.
  3. Get a lean white rag and dip it in this solution.
  4. Use the rag to blot the acetone-stained area until it seems the stain is gone.
  5. Next, soak a second clean white cloth in plain water, and blot once more as a rinsing method.
  6. Finally, allow the garment to air dry!


You can get nail polish out of clothes using several simple methods such as blotting with nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol, soaking with hydrogen peroxide, or white vinegar. In some cases, directly applying laundry detergent and working it into the stain will work, too! Commercial products or even dry cleaning can also often remove hardened nail varnish.

You may need to treat nail polish stains differently on different kinds of fabric. For instance, hydrogen peroxide works well on white garments. You should try rubbing alcohol instead of acetone on synthetic materials if possible.

Have you ever tried to get nail polish out of your clothes? What method did you use, and did it work? Leave a comment below to let us know!