How to Get Nail Polish Out of Your Clothes

It is possible!

How to Get Nail Polish Out of Clothes
Photo: Getty Images

Doing your own nails while watching reality TV and sipping on a glass of wine is a relaxing moment of self-care until you realize that drops of red nail polish have somehow made it onto your clothes.

It's completely reasonable to freak out in the moment because you've stained your favorite pair of jeans or T-shirt, but the good news is that it is possible to get nail polish out of clothes.

So take a deep breath, read through these expert tips, and get to work. Your clothes will be as good as new in no time.

What Makes Removing Nail Polish from Clothes Difficult?

The durability of your favorite nail polish is exactly what makes it so tough to remove from clothes. "Nail polish is designed to be a hard, durable color finish," says Jennifer Ahoni, Tide Principal Scientist. "They are typically designed to survive exposure to many soaps such as body wash or hand soap, so it can make it particularly tough when it comes to removing accidental stains using typical soap-based cleaning products."

Time is another factor. "The longer the polish is left to sit and seep into the fabric, the harder it is to lift, so it's best to get to these stains as quickly as possible for best results," says Madeline Miller, The Laundress Product Specialist.

How to Remove Nail Polish from Clothes

Luckily, there are a few methods of getting nail polish out of clothing. Below, the two experts share their tips and tricks.

  • Remove the excess polish from the clothing: For polish that's wet, Miller suggests lifting it with a paper towel or cloth. For partially dried polish, use an old credit card or dull knife to gently lift away residue. "For a larger spill, transfer wet polish to a rag or paper towel, but take care to avoid rubbing or smearing, which can worsen the stain," Miller says. "Simply pat and replace with a clean portion of towel or rag until the wet spill is absorbed and only the stained fabric is left behind."
  • Treat the stain: Use a stain remover to get the remaining polish off of the fabric. "Pour a small drop of the stain remover within the border of the stain," Miller says. "Using a cotton ball, dab lightly, allowing the color to transfer to the cotton ball. Replace with a new cotton ball as the polish absorbs, and add more stain remover as needed — sparingly to keep the stain from spreading." Miller suggests The Laundress's Stain Solution, which is designed to remove color-rich dye stains (like nail polish) from all washable fabrics, including "dry clean" tagged fabrics such as silk and wool.
  • Rinse, then throw in the wash: Rinse the spot with water, then properly wash it in the washing machine. "Use a high-quality detergent such as Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty 10X," Ahoni suggests. "For extremely tough nail polish stains, you may want to try a pre-soak first in a solution of water and 1 tbsp of detergent. Wash on the wash cycle and warmest temperature as recommended by the garment care label."
  • Air dry the garment: "Never place stained items in the dryer — instead, air dry to ensure all stains have lifted. If needed, repeat the stain removal and laundering process," Miller stays.

VIDEO: 10 Trendy Round Nail Designs That Will Convince You to Go Shorter

What to Keep in Mind When Removing Nail Polish Stains from Clothes

Nail polish remover can be used as a last-ditch effort for removing nail polish stains from clothes, but be careful about the type of formula you use. "Make sure your polish remover is acetone-based or just plain acetone, as some conditioners can leave an oily residue on fabrics," Ahoni shares. "It's also a good idea to make sure there are no dyes in your nail polish remover as these may stain garments."

It's also important to keep in mind the garment's washing instructions. "For delicate items like silk and wool, I'd recommend avoiding using nail polish remover or another solvent to treat a nail polish stain. Your safest bet may be to consult a professional dry cleaner to treat this stain," Ahoni says. "If you want to attempt it at home, make sure you consult your fabric care label. If the label says, 'dry clean,' this is usually just a recommendation to take the item to a dry cleaner, but it's best to gently hand wash the garment if you choose to wash it at home. 'Dry clean only' on the other hand means that the piece of clothing is very delicate, and it's safer to take it to a professional."

The Bottom Line

Time is of the essence when it comes to removing nail polish stains from clothes, but it's also important to use the right method and tools in order not to further damage the garment.

"The longer the polish sits and dries, the more it can seep into fabric, potentially causing a more resistant stain," Miller says. "The best way to prevent damage would be to avoid exposing treasured garments or fine surfaces like marble to the nail painting process in the first place, as it is inevitably messy. During at-home nail painting, we recommend wearing old T-shirts or sweats that you don't mind staining, and thoroughly covering home surfaces that may be exposed with newspaper."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles