Nail polish is a wonderful cosmetic. Fingernails and toenails are colored with the hues of the season. It even stops a run in pantyhose when you’re in need of a quick fix. You can label keys with brightly colored dots, so you know which one opens your door and which one goes to the utility shed.

When nail polish spills, however, it’s not such a wonderful thing. It needs to be cleaned up—and quickly. The way you clean up a nail polish spill will determine if the item or fabric onto which it spilled will ever be the same again. Cleaning up polish isn’t an everyday housecleaning task, but it’s one you should always be prepared for. Gathering a collection of typical housecleaning items will find you always prepared.


How to Clean Up a Nail Polish Spill


Cleaning Nail Polish—What You’ll Need

Even if these items aren’t all part of your housecleaning cache of cleaners, you may find you have most of them elsewhere in your home. If not, consider picking them up the next time you go shopping.

  • Non-acetone nail polish remover
  • Hairspray
  • Paper towels
  • Soft cleaning cloths
  • Sponge
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Dry cleaning solvent


Cleaning Up Nail Polish from Wood

If you’ve spilled your favorite nail polish on your wooden kitchen table or your grandmother’s heirloom wooden desk, your first step is to refrain from using nail polish remover. It will destroy the finish on the piece of furniture, and likely leave a horrible stain on the wood.


How to Clean Up a Nail Polish Spill from wood


Instead, spray a liberal amount of hairspray directly onto the nail polish stain. Don’t be afraid to really soak the stain. Allow the hairspray to sit on the stain for about 20 seconds. Wipe the mess away with a paper towel. Repeat the process until the stain is gone.


Cleaning Up Nail Polish from Tile or Countertops

This is much easier than you might imagine. Remove as much of the polish as you can with a paper towel, then immediately go over the stain again with a damp sponge. Use a paper towel moistened with a bit of non-acetone nail polish remover and quickly wipe away the stain if the polish spilled on tile.

You may do the same if the countertop isn’t granite or marble. If it is made of granite or marble, employ the hairspray method instead. Repeat the steps until the stain is gone.


Cleaning Up Nail Polish from the Carpet or Area Rugs

It’s the most awful feeling to spill polish on the carpet or on an area rug. Once you scream, then freeze for a moment in abject horror, performing the following steps to clean the area in question is your first concrete move.


How to Clean Up a Nail Polish Spill from carpet


Pour rubbing alcohol directly onto the polish. Blot away as much of the mess as you can with a paper towel. Repeat the process as many times as it takes, until the paper towel is no longer picking up traces of the nail polish color.


Cleaning Up Nail Polish from Fabric

There’s not much as disheartening as dressing up for a fancy event, then spilling nail polish on your carefully planned outfit just minutes before you need to head out the door. Sadly, it happens. Unfortunately this kind of spill likely means you’ll have to scramble quickly to replace the article of clothing that now sports the spill. It is possible to salvage the garment, however.

Start by using the hairspray method—pouring the hairspray directly onto the stain instead of spraying it, however. Blot the fabric and repeat the process until the stain is gone. Toss the article of clothing into the washing machine immediately after treatment, following the manufacturer’s laundering instructions. Don’t dry the garment until you’re certain all traces of the stain are gone.


Try Dry Cleaning Solvent if Needed

If the hairspray treatment doesn’t work, you may purchase dry cleaning solvent and blot the stain according to package directions. At that point, it may be well worth a trip to your local dry cleaners.

While it is certainly feasible to salvage almost anything you spill nail polish on, prevention is always the first step in averting this kind of small disaster. Consider using a small tray when painting your fingernails or toenails. That way if the polish spills it will stain the tray. Cover your clothing with an old towel when painting your fingernails or toenails. This will take the brunt of any spills in place of your clothes.

Between prevention and the aforementioned nail polish removal tips, you should be relatively free of this kind of small disaster. So enjoy your bright pinks and fire engine reds knowing that backup is only a simple step away.