At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

How do I Remove Nail Polish Stains?

B. Miller
B. Miller

Nail polish stains can be difficult to remove after an accidental spill. Most women who use nail polish will eventually have a nail polish stain that will need to be cleaned up from carpeting, upholstery or clothing, though. There are a few successful methods to remove a nail polish stain.

If the stain is new, it is important to remember to blot up as much of the nail polish as you can with a clean cloth. Do not rub the stain with the cloth and do not allow the stain to dry, as this can set the stain and make it even more difficult to remove. One method that can be effective is to place nail polish remover on the stain, then blot it up. You might have to do this several times before the stain is fully removed, after which you can wash with warm water and soap.

Nail polish remover can help remove nail polish stains.
Nail polish remover can help remove nail polish stains.

Another similar method is to use hydrogen peroxide mixed with water on the stain instead of nail polish remover. Both of these methods can lift the stain fairly easily. However, if you choose to use either of these methods, be sure to spot test first on an inconspicuous area of the carpet or article of clothing as each has the potential to damage fabrics. Do not allow nail polish remover to soak into the carpet -- this will remove the nail polish stains, but it could also destroy the latex backing of the carpet. It is safe to let the hydrogen peroxide mixture sit on the stain for a while, but again, remember to spot test.

Clear nail polish.
Clear nail polish.

If you have old, dried-on nail polish stains, these will be more difficult if not impossible to remove. First, scrape off the excess with the edge of a knife or a spoon. You can then try cleaning them as above, with a paper towel dipped in nail polish remover or with hydrogen peroxide. If the clothing is made of a specialty material like silk, leather or suede, it is best to bring the item to a professional cleaner so you do not risk damaging the item.

Darker shades of nail polish are more likely to leave stubborn stains.
Darker shades of nail polish are more likely to leave stubborn stains.

Searching online brings up numerous tips for removing nail polish stains. Some suggest spraying the stain with hairspray or bug spray, and then using a toothbrush or other bristled brush to scrub the stain out. Other sites suggest using an oxygen-based cleaner or rubbing alcohol on nail polish stains. These stains are persistent, but if you keep trying different methods, you are likely to find one that works.

Discussion Comments


@galen84basc -- Don't worry, a lot of people have the same problem you do. There are actually several good ways that you can use for nail polish stain removal from fingernails and toenails, and best of all, they're all cheap!

OK, so your first step is to soak your fingernails sans polish in warm water that has some dishwashing soap in it.

After that, take a terrycloth washcloth and gently buff the nails dry. Then take an old toothbrush and gently scrub the surface of your nails with that. Finally, you can take some hydrogen peroxide and use it like you would nail polish remover.

If that didn't take care of it, you've still got a few more options. The first one is my personal favorite since it makes your fingers smell nice -- you take a little bit of whitening toothpaste and basically brush your fingernails with it.

You can also try rubbing the nails with lemon juice or bleach, but both of these methods are very harsh on your nails and your skin, so I would only recommend it as a last resort.

You can help prevent stains on your nails by using a base coat before you paint, or using lighter colors -- darker colors do tend to stain nails, as you've noticed.

Good luck!


What about nail polish stains on the nails themselves? I really have a problem with that. It seems like every time I take nail polish off my nails, the nail underneath is sort of tinted the color of the nail polish, or worse, it turns a sort of yellow color.

I know I don't have any fungus or anything like that, so I don't know why my nails would turn yellow like that.

Also, it seems to happen more often with darker polish and more often on my toenails, for some reason.

So are there any good tips on how to remove nail polish stains from nails? I hate feeling like I have to paint my nails all the time just to cover up the stains my last paint job left.

Any ideas?


Ooh, nail polish stains are the worst. After a terrible incident with a bottle of nail polish balanced on a book one night I ended up with carpet stains of nail polish all over the place.

I rent, so naturally I was scared to death and trying all kinds of things to get the stain out.

I finally did end up getting most of the nail polish out with a nail polish stain remover, but there were still marks where that had worked, so then I had to use all my laundry stain removal skills to lift that stain!

All in all, a total pain. I would almost rather deal with paint stain removal than nail polish stain removal.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Nail polish remover can help remove nail polish stains.
      By: travis manley
      Nail polish remover can help remove nail polish stains.
    • Clear nail polish.
      By: Africa Studio
      Clear nail polish.
    • Darker shades of nail polish are more likely to leave stubborn stains.
      By: larisabozhikova
      Darker shades of nail polish are more likely to leave stubborn stains.