How to Remove Nail Polish from Carpet


Amelia asked: Help. I’ve spilled black nail varnish on a cream carpet. The area isn’t very big. Some of the varnish is just on the surface, however, there is a big circle patch that has gone right down to the bottom of the carpet. If I don’t get it out, I will lose my deposit! Help please.

Pulling spilled nail polish out of carpet fibers can be time consuming. The amount of cleaning required will depend on the amount of nail polish spilled and the fibers of the carpet. Be prepared to spend some time removing big stains. Regardless of the size of the stain, the removal method remains the same. Here are the steps to lift the stain.

Cleaning Up Fresh Spills

You Will Need:

  • Soft cloths
  • Nail polish remover (with or without acetone)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Water
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hairspray
  • Carpet cleaner

Steps to Clean Up Fresh Spills:

  1. Fresh spills are the easiest to clean up and most likely to completely be removed from the carpet.
  2. If a nail polish spill occurs, keep the area moist. Preventing the polish from drying and setting will help make it much easier to remove.
  3. Get an old, soft cloth and blot up as much of the spill as possible. Change to a fresh part of the cloth frequently to avoid spreading the stain.
  4. Blot the area well with water to keep the polish moist and prevent it from drying.
  5. Moisten another soft cloth with a small amount of nail polish remover. Test a small, hidden area (in a closet, under a piece of furniture or back in a corner) to ensure the nail polish remover does not remove the color from the carpet. Keep the stain wet with water while you are watching the test area.
  6. If the test area works well, moisten the cloth with additional nail polish remover and blot it onto the stain. You should see the nail polish transferring to the cloth.
  7. Change the cloth often and continue blotting until the stain is removed.
  8. Add water as necessary to keep the polish from drying.
  9. Rubbing alcohol or hair spray (which contains alcohol) can also be applied to the stain to help with removal.
  10. If the carpet is white or light in color, hydrogen peroxide can also be applied. This can have a bleaching effect and should not be used on colored or dark carpets without testing it first.
  11. Continue blotting with a clean portion of the cloth until all of the polish is removed.
  12. Once the stain is removed, clean the area with water and a mild soap or carpet shampoo to remove any remaining cleaning product.
  13. Rinse by blotting thoroughly with a cloth moistened with plain water.
  14. Press out as much moisture as possible with a clean, dry cloth.
  15. Allow the area to air dry completely.

Cleaning Up Dried Spills

You Will Need:

  • Soft cloths
  • Nail polish remover (with or without acetone)
  • Water
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Carpet Deep Cleaner/Wet Vac
  • Carpet Stain Remover
  • Carpet shampoo
  • Old toothbrush

Steps to Clean Up Dried Spills:

  1. Cleaning up dried spills is more challenging because the polish and color have already set on the fibers of the carpet. Removing them will require both loosening the bond from the fiber and then cleaning it away.
  2. Begin by moistening the area with water to get the ball rolling.
  3. Once the area is well moistened with water, apply some nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol.
  4. Use an old, small brush, such as a toothbrush, and gently brush the fibers. Work from the bottom toward the top if possible. The brush will help to “peel” the loosened paint from the carpet. Pay close attention to the carpet when you are scrubbing. Scrubbing to aggressively can damage the carpet fibers and leave a “rough” looking area on the carpet.
  5. Vacuum the area frequently to remove any loosened polish.
  6. It may even be possible to pick some of the larger pieces out with your fingers.
  7. Add more water to keep the area moist and repeat with applying nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol. Stain remover, such as Resolve can also be used once the polish starts to loosen.
  8. Scrub and rinse.
  9. Repeat as necessary until the stain is removed.
  10. Wash the area to remove any remaining polish remover and allow the area to air dry completely.
  11. Other items that can be applied to the stain (These have been used by others with varying degrees of success. Always test a small, hidden area first to ensure it does not damage the color or carpet fibers.) are: shaving cream, goof off, hydrogen peroxide, window cleaner and Vanish Carpet Cleaner.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Acetone is the chemical that can bleach carpets. If you are concerned about discoloration, try a non-acetone nail polish remover first. It is still necessary to run a test area to ensure there is no discoloration, but the lack of acetone makes it more gentle on the carpeting.
  • Do not use bleach on carpeting. It is too harsh for the carpet fibers and can cause discoloration and damage.
  • If the spot is small and only on the surface, it may be possible to remove it by trimming the fibers of the carpet. The process for trimming these fibers is the same as removing an area of carpeting that has a burn mark. More information is available in our guide How to Remove Cigarette Burns from Carpet.
  • If the stain is large and cannot be removed, it may be easier to replace that section of carpeting. Instructions for this process are available in our guide How to Fix Bleached Carpet.


  1. Avi says:

    This worked so well for me. On my shag rug, I only used nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol while the polish was still wet. It was out in five minutes. Thank you so much.

  2. Kelly says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I just discovered that my nail polish bottle had tipped over on my light cream carpet. I was able to work the stain while it was still wet. I initially used nail polish remover, but that eventually reached a point where it would do nothing more. I then switched to hair spray and that cleaned up the remaining color. I am very grateful to have the stains gone. Thank you very much!


  3. Katie says:

    Oh, thank you so much! My entire bottle of red nail polish spilled all over my carpet and I had no idea how to remove it! Unfortunately, it dried, but I managed to remove the stain before my roommate got home. If it weren’t for this post, I would have been kicked out! Thank you so much!

  4. Bryanna says:

    Nothing seems to be working.

  5. Sydney says:

    It works great! I’m in love; hooray!!

  6. Kyra says:

    Well, it’s a waste of time.

  7. Jenny says:

    Worked well for me. Thanks.

  8. Kaz says:

    Thank you so much for that. I just dropped a bottle of maroon-colored nail varnish on a very light colored carpet and it rolled across the floor, leaving a trail about 12 inches long, including big blobs! It took about 30-45 minutes to remove, but it’s all completely gone. I only needed warm water for dampening the carpet and nail varnish remover. I can’t even see where the stain was! Sure, it took some elbow grease, but it really did the trick. Thank you!

  9. Charlie says:

    I spilled dark blue polish – left it. Was wondering what to do; ie. out of polish remover!
    Nightmare. Then bought and tried acetone, little result. Then thought, why not gently use the kitchen brush + acetone and carefully brush it into the carpet pile whilst blotting. Works! It loosens up with varnish. But be patient and give it a couple of days!
    Good luck. :)

  10. Irate Husband says:

    Thanks…here’s another method: Ladies, HOW ABOUT NEVER DOING THIS OVER THE CARPET and instead OVER TILE, OR OVER THE BATHTUB!!!???!!!

  11. LInda says:

    Thank you, thank you – tried using nail polish remover, but it only removed so much. Then, I switched to hair spray and like magic, it’s all gone!

  12. Frey says:

    Thanks. I found that just using a makeup wipe and leaving it that my stain went fairly easily with a bit of scrubbing.

  13. Fiona says:

    My granddaughter spilled red nail polish on my cream carpet! I blotted with nail polish remover and not much happened, then I poured the nail polish remover over the stain and it started to come out/up really fast. So, lots of nail polish remover and paper towels really works well. :) Thanks.

  14. Freya says:

    You are a life saver! Thank you so much. I spilt black nail varnish on my brand new cream carpet and I though that would be the end of it! Was very skeptical at the beginning, but it worked a treat. Can’t thank you enough!

  15. Charlotte says:

    Thanks so so much! I looked at the ingredients on the hairspray and hair mousse has the same alcohol, so I tried that as well. Also, window cleaner works to get out stains.
    Bright red paint that was all over my light brown carpet is almost invisible!
    It’s great; thanks so much.

  16. Sherralin says:

    Yeah, the hair spray worked!! It got dark red nail varnish out of light green carpet.
    Perfect, perfect, perfect!
    Thank you.

  17. Pauline M says:

    You are a lifesaver … Black nail polish on tight-weave woolen tan-coloured carpet in a rental property is not a good look!! Nail polish remover, then hairspray, then an old toothbrush/baby shampoo mix brought the stain right out – good as new!

  18. Linda S says:

    My little granddaughter spilled purple polish on my white carpet & I didn’t know ’til 2 days later! A combination of all methods saved the day for my carpet. Thanks so much!

  19. Terri says:

    THIS REALLY WORKED!!! My mom dropped a bottle of red polish on her carpet Christmas Eve. I cleaned it on Saturday and you can’t even tell it was ever there. The carpet was a light beige.

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