Pretty Clean: How to Clean Nail Polish Spills

Surprise! Nail polish remover actually isn't the best way to clean up your messy varnish stains.

how to clean nail polish spills
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The Internet offers no shortage of suggestions for removing nail polish that’s been spilled on carpet, fabric or hard surfaces. Common treatments include using nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and even hair spray.

The problem is that those things just don’t work very well. You know how I know? I tested them by holding my own little Science Fair in my home, like a big old nerd.

The test was pretty simple: I selected a dark shade of purple nail polish, which I painted in swatches on a rag and allowed to dry. Then I treated each swatch using different solvents and found that virtually none of them worked.

So what will work, you may be wondering? Please step this way, and I will tell you.

How to Clean Nail Polish Off Carpets and Fabric

A word of caution at the outset: Nail polish remover is commonly recommended as a way to remove varnish stains from fabric and carpeting. In the tests I did, I found that it will work … but it will take a lot of time and effort, because repeated applications will be needed. It also must be the acetone, rather than the non-acetone, kind. And you absolutely must do a spot test to ensure that it doesn’t cause damage or color loss.

READ MORE: 3 Nail Polish Removers That Don’t Smell Terrible

With that warning out of the way, sure, nail polish remover will work to, well, remove nail polish. But it’s not really the best thing to use, simply because it’s not the most effective.

Instead, opt for a product specifically designed to remove nail polish from fabric, like Motsenbocker’s Lift Off Markers Pens & Inks Remover or Carbona Stain Devils #1 — Glue, Gum & Nail Polish. These, and other similar products, can be found at hardware or home improvement stores (of course, you can also just order them online!)