How to remove nail polish from cotton clothing

Updated April 17, 2017

If you get nail polish on your cotton clothing, you may think that the garment is ruined. In truth, it is possible to remove most or all of the nail polish and preserve your garment. Nail polish is a synthetic polymer designed to be waterproof. The only way to remove nail polish from any fabric is to apply a chemical, such as acetone nail polish remover, that will dissolve the polymer. You can find acetone nail polish remover in most major chemists and beauty supply stores.

Wet a sponge with the acetone nail polish remover. Blot the nail polish remover on a hidden piece on your garment to test for colour-fastness. If the colour fades or bleeds, you will not be able to remove the nail polish.

Let the polish dry and scrape off as much as you can with a knife or nail file. Do not try to wipe the polish off while wet -- it will only spread the stain.

Turn the garment inside-out. If you can open the garment all the way, such as with a button-down shirt, then open the garment.

Put a clean white cloth or paper towel inside the garment beneath the nail polish stain. If the garment is open, turn it stain-side-down on top of the white cloth or towel. The cloth will absorb the nail polish as you remove it.

Soak a sponge with the acetone nail polish remover. Blot the area over the stain with the sponge for 10 seconds.

Rinse the garment with warm water and check the stain.

Repeat steps 2 through 4 until the stain disappears or the nail polish no longer transfers to the white cloth.

Turn the garment right-side out and apply a stain remover/pre-treater. Wash the garment to remove any remaining stain.


Check the care labels of your clothing for fabric information. If your garment is a cotton blend with acetate or triacetate, acetone can dissolve the fabric. Use a nail polish remover made with amyl acetate instead.

Things You'll Need

  • Acetone nail polish remover
  • Sponge
  • Knife or nail file
  • Clean white cloth or paper towels
  • Stain remover/pre-treater
  • Washing powder
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About the Author

Max Whitmore is a personal trainer with more than three years experience in individual and group fitness. Whitmore has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Cincinnati, fitness certifications and dietetics training from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Whitmore has written for several online publishers.