How to Clean Nail Polish Off of Any Surface, You Big Klutz

A couple of months ago, there I was, minding my own business, painting my nails midnight blue when, of course, of course, in my mostly-white bedroom, I knocked the bottle over. 

I saw my life flash before my eyes as the polish hit not only my beige carpet, but also my (white!) wooden bed and cabinet, (white!) sheets, and DVD player. I know, why do I even have a DVD player in the year 2016? No — focus! The issue at hand here is the tragedy I endured. 

My whole room was seemingly covered in the darkest nail polish I own (after black, of course) — something that has never, ever happened while using clear nail polish. I did this thing that I do when I’m stressed — freeze up and purse my lips, trying not to cry — and then I took action, cleaning off what I could while it was still wet and, what felt like hours later, trying to clean off dried nail polish, too. That’ll teach me for never closing the nail polish top when I’m busy with it.

Always screw the top of your nail polish shut, everyone!

Since then, I have perfected the art of removing nail polish off of things because, since that was neither the first nor the last time I’d spilled nail polish on things (although it was, to date, the worst), it’s something I clearly need to know offhand.

Here’s how to clean nail polish off of (almost) every surface:


If the stain is still wet, blot at the area with paper towels and remove as much of it as possible. Make sure that you don’t make the stain bigger by rubbing — dab at the area instead. 

The best way to remove any excess nail polish from carpets is acetone-free nail polish remover. I learned the hard way that acetone can cause a stain, too, so make sure it’s acetone-free.

Pour a small amount of remover onto a cloth or sponge and, using the same blotting motion you did with the paper towel, dab at it until it comes off. DO NOT RUB IT, as this will make the stain much worse. Again, I learned this the hard way.

Clothing and Sheets

If the nail polish is still wet, blot at it with paper towels and try to clean as much of it off as possible. Then, no matter what material is in question, I strongly urge you to not use nail polish remover here. Some people do this. I’ve done it. I regretted it. Don’t do it. 

You have a few options here and, unfortunately, it’s trial and error. Hydrogen peroxide can remove the stain, but it may bleach your clothing, so use this only if it’s on light colours. If you have a dry-cleaning agent on hand, this is obviously your best bet, but why would you have that on hand at the exact moment you need it, right? 

A nifty and little-known trick is to use hairspray on the area and scrub gently before putting it in the wash.


DON’T USE NAIL POLISH REMOVER on your furniture. Seriously! It will remove the finish on your wood. 

If the nail polish is wet, blot at it with a cloth or paper towel. If it’s dry, you can try to very, very gently scrape it off (if you don’t care about your fingernails at this point, they work well for this — don’t scrape at your furniture with anything sharper than that). If the mark persists, pour some rubbing alcohol onto a cloth and gently press it onto the area.


The worst thing I did was try to remove the nail polish from my DVD player with acetone. It basically melted the plastic finish. To avoid the same, dab at the stain with paper towels if it’s still wet. If it’s dry, even better. Scrape what you can off very, very lightly (you don’t want scratches in your stuff). It’s best to remove what you can this way. 

Next, use acetone-free nail polish remover on a cotton ball to remove the excess. Be very gentle and keep checking that nothing weird is happening to the finish, because all appliances are obviously different.

  • Have you ever spilled your nail polish?
  • What’s the most horrifying spill you’ve endured?
  • Any cleaning tips to add?


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