How To Get Nail Polish Off Carpet, Clothes, And The Rest Of Your Stuff

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Here's a sobering fact: I can't think of a surface I haven't spilled nail polish on, multiple times. Past victims include clothes, furniture, rugs, and a tortoise. Being a human lacquer hazard, though, I've picked up a bunch of ways to vanish vernis, even when the situation seems dire. And if you allow me to share my hard-won knowledge, I will feel much better about my lack of nail-eye coordination. Will you help me, help you? Please? OK then, I'll quit babbling and make with the solutions. Here's how you get Chinchilly and Zulu off the following items:

Wood
First rule of Clean Club: Never, ever, ever, ever use nail-polish remover on finished wood. It will literally take off the finish and leave you with discoloration much worse than a little spilled polish. No, what you want for this job are mineral spirits. Pour them on a rag and then wipe them over the polish until it's all gone—very simple and effective. Just wash the area thoroughly afterwards so there aren't spirits sitting there, soaking into your floors or chair.

Carpet
Use acetone! Clear acetone, specifically, since a lot of polish removers are dyed. The most important thing with carpet is not pushing the polish in deeper. So if it's still wet, gently place something absorbent on top—paper towel is great—to soak up as much as you can. Then it's time to dab. Don't pour acetone directly on the carpet; put it on a rag, then gently dab it onto the stain, over and over. This will feel like it takes a million, bajillion years. Maybe you should hire someone off Craigslist to do it. Or, consider it an exercise in mindfulness and appreciating boredom—so zen! Just keep dabbing 'til it's all gone.

Clothes and Upholstery
If the polish is still wet:
Use a paper towel to absorb as much as you can (just lay it lightly on top). If the damaged item is a blouse, make sure none of the polish seeps through to the other side of your shirt by layering paper towel under the stain. Then, use polish remover the same way you would on carpet. If the polish smear is small, try using Q-Tips instead of a rag.

If the polish is dry:
As a first step, try holding an ice pack on the patch of polish. The cold should make the lacquer harden to a point of brittleness and contract a little so it's easier to break up and scrape off. You can also try picking the bits off with a pair of tweezers or brushing them gently off with an old toothbrush (if it's in tiny flecks). After you've gotten off as much as you think is possible, use the acetone Q-Tip or rag-dabbing technique up top.

Note: Is your item made of acetate or another lab-created fabric? DO NOT USE POLISH REMOVER; IT COULD DISSOLVE YOUR CLOTHES. Take them to a dry cleaner instead—they have access to a bunch of solvents we lesser mortals can only buy in the sketchiest corners of Amazon.

Your Phone
Acetone can melt plastic, so if you can't chip the polish off by hand (don't gouge at the surface of your phone with scissors or something, ok?), there's this stuff called Goo Gone that really works. It's composed primarily of toluene, acetone, and methanol, though (all nasty stuff), so use it extremely sparingly, no huffing it, and don't get any on yourself or anyone else.

Leather/Suede
Ugh, I'm sorry—there's no great solution here. If anyone in the comments has a miracle fix, please do tell. Otherwise, I just try to minimize by dabbing non-acetone remover on the stain and trying as hard as I can not to spread it or get the remover on unaffected pieces of the item. If it's dry already, try the cold-pack trick you use on fabric and see if it'll shatter off...?

—Lacey Gattis

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  • Arielle

    Definitely need to try this. I've ruined comforters and sweaters. Wish I knew this before hand though!

  • jyohal

    What are mineral spirits?

    • ITGLacey

      Hey! They were actually developed as an early dry cleaning solvent that then had applications for a bunch of different things. In the UK, they're called "white spirits" instead. They look like this & they're usually in the cleaning/paint & home maintenance aisle at the store:

  • Ellen

    i recently spilled taupe nail polish on my beloved Acne Needles, right along the crotch/zipper. I tried dabbing it off and using diluted nail polish remover AND I took them to the dry cleaners but there's still a noticeable beige streak right down the front. Any ideas on getting it out/covering it up without further removing the indigo dye? HELP

  • http://www.wernerbeauty.com/ Teckie

    I really could've used this advice as a teenager. I spilled dark grey nail polish on my cream bedroom carpet once, and I'm pretty sure my mom still hasn't forgiven me.

    • Me

      I'm a teen and I literaly just spilled polish on my cream carpet as well! I found that hairspray and water works really well . (Don't tell my mom though!) ;)

  • http://redlipstickandsparkle.wordpress.com Redlipstickandsparkle

    Very usefull post!

  • http://www.clevergirlreviews.com/ Clever Girl Reviews

    Great tips, I'm bookmarking this!

  • http://nailpolishsociety.blogspot.com/ Nail Polish Society

    Great post! I'm going to bookmark this. I know it will be useful in the future. :)

  • http://www.sveltecollective.co.uk/ Adeline

    What I really want to know is... how did you remove nail polish from that tortoise?!

    • ITGLacey

      Oh, he was SO angry. He kept crawling up on my foot (which is what he does when he wants to be picked up) while I was trying to paint my toes, so of course he ended up with polish all over his front leg. It was tragic; he kept hissing & making his "you are a terrible, awful, no good, very bad human who I hate" face. Luckily, I had Priti nontoxic polish remover, so I bribed him with watermelon to let me wipe him off & then put him in the shower.

      • http://www.sveltecollective.co.uk/ Adeline

        I love this story so much! Although don't tell him that, poor thing..

        Sudden thought: do tortoises have a great sense of smell? If so, nail polish must smell nasty to them.

        • ITGLacey

          hahahahaha—I think he does! He can definitely smell when I try to mix extra roughage in with his lunch (it's healthy but he's really only in it for the fruit) & will pick it out of his bowl.

          • http://www.sveltecollective.co.uk/ Adeline

            That's it, I kind of want a tortoise now (I have issues with reptiles, so that says a lot).
            Animals with jerk tendencies are the best.

  • ITGLacey

    Thanks for the tip, Katie!

  • Weeee

    This will be useful before my landlady comes back!

  • Jen

    White Spirits (Mineral Spirits) work perfectly on Leather. I never used this technique for nail polish stains but I once did after finding the nastiest piece of gum sealed to my favourite leather jacket! The gum was gone in seconds & the leather was left intact - Should definitely work with polish too..

  • Lisa

    I've got a solution to Suede: I have a cream micro-suede couch, and spilled pink polish on it. After absorbing and dabbing, there was still a mark. Well, first I googled for a solution and got multiple results to try out. I got an old toothbrush, some water, nail polish remover, and a tiny bit of toothpaste (I guess the baking soda in it helps work out the stain?). I mixed all of these, layer by layer into the stain with the toothbrush. It took more than a few minutes of scrubbing, but it finally came up. Today you cannot tell that it ever happened.

  • Bre

    For my suede couch and booties I used a Mr. Clean magic eraser. Damp it with COLD water and spot test a non noticeable area. I haven't found a suede it doesn't work on.. but you never know. Then rub lightly in a circular motion and voila! A clean couch once again.

  • Annie

    You can also try methyl ethyl ketone or methyl amyl ketone. They are a balance between acetone and mineral spirits. Ethyl acetate is also worth a shot since it is usually the primary solvent used in nail varnish. These should be mild enough to not damage but more polar than mineral spirits so as to be more effective

  • Charlotte

    I spilt red polish onto beige carpet just last week (which I have a habit of doing) I poured nail polish remover over & rubbed which just smudged the stain and made it bigger. After some Googling I came home from work and tried some (cheap) window cleaner spray on the stain. Voila, gone! I was amazed & managed to do it before the boyfriend arrived home ;) Just keep rubbing/dabbing the stain until there's no more colour left on your cloth.

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