How to Remove Nail Varnish Stains

Written by corey m. mackenzie
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How to Remove Nail Varnish Stains
Nail varnish colour is meant to last -- removing it from unintended areas usually requires a solvent. (Nail polish image by Alexandra Stukkey from

Nail varnish is meant to provide colour to nails for as long as it remains on the nail. The varnish is not water-soluble, which means only solvent-based cleaners may remove it. The same substance you'd use to remove the varnish from your nails will remove it from many other surfaces. However, solvents may remove dyes in some textiles, including carpets. Prevent damage to items by testing the remover product on a small, discreet area before applying it to the nail varnish stain.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Plastic scraper
  • Rubber or nitrile gloves
  • Cotton balls
  • Nail polish remover
  • Cloths
  • Sponge
  • Carpet and upholstery shampoo
  • Detergent
  • Rubbing alcohol

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  1. 1

    Scrape off any nail varnish you can using a plastic scraper.

  2. 2

    Put on rubber or nitrile gloves. Wet a cotton ball with nail polish remover.

  3. 3

    Dab the cotton ball over the nail varnish stain. When the cotton ball is dirty with nail varnish and won't pick up any more, switch to a new cotton ball saturated with the remover.

  4. 4

    Wipe the area with a wet cloth to remove remaining traces of nail polish remover.

  1. 1

    Put on nitrile or rubber gloves. Wet a cotton ball or a piece of clean sponge with nail polish remover. Dab this onto the stain -- don't rub it, or you may end up spreading the stain over a wider area.

  2. 2

    Change to a fresh cotton ball or sponge as often as needed. Continue blotting at the varnish stain until no visible trace remains.

  3. 3

    Place washable fabrics in your washing machine. Wash with detergent as you normally would.

  4. 4

    Shampoo carpet or upholstery with a carpet and upholstery shampoo to further clean the material.

  1. 1

    Soak a cloth in rubbing alcohol. Gently blot the nail varnish stain.

  2. 2

    Set the first cloth aside when it is covered with the varnish and use a new cloth, saturated with rubbing alcohol. Continue doing this, and switching to clean cloths, until no trace of the nail varnish stain remains.

  3. 3

    Wash washable fabrics in your washing machine. Use carpet and upholstery shampoo on other fabrics.

Tips and warnings

  • Nail polish remover and alcohol are flammable. Do not use these products around open flames, such as pilot lights, candles or lit cigarettes.
  • Do not use nail polish remover on acetate, triacetate or modacrylic fabrics.

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