How to Remove Nail Polish from Upholstery


Tammy asked: Help! I dumped a whole bottle of nail polish (brown colored) on my mauve recliner. Can I save my chair? It was my mom’s and she has passed, so it means so much to me.

Nail polish spills on upholstery can be an accident that seems impossible to remove. Whether you’ve dumped the entire bottle or just brushed your freshly polished nails against the fabric, the polish can be quickly removed following the steps below.

Using Nail Polish Remover

You Will Need:

  • Spoon or dull knife
  • Cotton balls
  • Paper towels
  • Nail polish removers
  • Spray bottle
  • Water
  • Clean cloths or towels

Steps to Remove the Polish:

  1. Start by testing a small, hidden area first to ensure that the nail polish does not remove the upholstery dyes or damage the fabric.
  2. After the test area has shown no adverse effects, you are ready to tackle the spill.
  3. Begin by scraping away as much nail polish as possible using the spoon or dull knife.
  4. Next, moisten a cotton ball with nail polish remover and blot the area where the polish has spilled.
  5. Follow the nail polish remover with a clean cloth. Continue blotting to absorb the moisture and removed polish. Turn the cloth over often to keep a clean area in use.
  6. Repeat until the stain is removed.
  7. When the stain is gone, spray the area with clean water to rinse.
  8. Blot with a clean cloth to remove the water.
  9. Continue this process until all of the nail polish remover is removed.
  10. Allow the area to air-dry completely.

Alternative Removal Methods

You Will Need:

  • Spoon or dull knife
  • Cotton balls
  • Paper towels
  • Cleaning Product (choose one or try several, but use caution when mixing cleaners as some toxic fumes can be created)
    • Hairspray (the cheaper the better)
    • Rubbing alcohol
    • Brake fluid cleaner
    • Ammonia
    • Goof Off
    • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Spray bottle
  • Water
  • Mild detergent or carpet cleaner
  • Clean cloths or towels

Steps to Remove the Polish:

  1. If the spill is large, begin by scraping away as much as possible with the spoon or dull knife.
  2. Now you are ready to remove the remaining nail polish.
  3. First apply some water to the stained area to keep it wet while you test your cleaning product on a small hidden area to ensure there are no adverse effects.
  4. If the test area goes well, use the cotton ball or paper towel to apply the cleaning product to the nail polish.
  5. Use a clean soft cloth or paper towels to gently scrub the area.
  6. Change the towels often so that you are always working with a clean cloth.
  7. Continue to keep the stain wet with water and apply the cleaner (or variety of cleaners) until the stain is completely removed.
  8. When you have taken out all of the nail polish, rinse with water.
  9. Blot with a clean cloth to remove any remaining water.
  10. If necessary, clean the area with a carpet cleaner to ensure that all of the cleaning product is removed.
  11. Again, rinse with clean water and blot with a clean cloth to rinse.
  12. Allow the area to dry completely.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Non acetone nail polish remover is sometimes less harsh than those with acetone.
  • Avoid using bleach as it will discolor the upholstery as it removes the color from the polish. Be aware that hydrogen peroxide can also have a bleaching effect on some fabrics.
  • Keeping the stain wet as you are working will help it come out faster than if it dries.
  • It is often easier to remove polish stains from lighter fabrics because there is less risk of damaging the coloring of the fabric with the cleaning products. Use extra caution with dark colored upholstery to ensure that the coloring is not ruined.

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