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How do you remove nail polish stains from your carpet?

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December 14, 2011 3:38PM

I'm a material researcher and I've reviewed this extensive answer. There are many inaccuracies and bad advice here, along with extremely effective and absolutely clear recommendations that should work very well.

Nail polish is, for practical intents and purposes, a form of nitrocellulose lacquer. Nitrocellulose, the first plastic ever invented, is an excellent coating material for human cuticle, and that's why it's used in nail polish. But if it spills and gets on something unintended, it can make a difficult stain.

To effectively remove any stain, a good approach is to know what the chemical composition of the stain is, and then use a physical or chemical strategy tailored to that chemical, while being mindful of avoiding damage to the item being cleaned.

Applying this strategy to nail polish leads directly and logically to nail polish remover (acetone), which happens to be an excellent solvent for nitrocellulose.

Acetone will indeed remove most any nail polish from most anything. Of course, acetone is such a powerful solvent that it can also dissolve the item you're trying to clean. For this reason, a trial on a small, inconspicuous area of the stain is essential. Some answerers did recommend nail polish remover, while others recommended other solvents that may work with nail polish. Still others mixed the nail polish remover with water or other reasonable things, partly to dilute the effect of the acetone. I commend them all: they get a gold star!

If acetone won't work out, then one can use physical or physico-chemical means, such as scrubbing and detergents. Here, the goal will be to break the film formed by the nitrocellulose, thereby admitting water and floating chips of the nail polish away from the stained fabric. Some people recommended scrubbing with brush, pumice, and so forth, possibly with some acetone or detergent. They also get a gold star!

More info about nail-polish remover

To remove nail polish from carpets, nail polish remover will work but you need to use caution because it can also remove dye from your carpet or upholstery. You can try and bleach your carpet, but only if you have a white carpet.

Note: Be aware when mixing chemicals or cleaners; the potential of causing toxic fumes can be harmful.

On a light-colored carpet it might not be noticeable but on darker colors, test first. Otherwise, a little nail polish will be the least of your worries. How about having to replace a whole roomful of carpet or trying to match the carpet color to dye one patch?

Always test any kind of chemical stain remover/cleaner in an out-of-the-way place like a corner. Under a cushion might be a good spot for upholstery.

Non-acetone polish remover is probably safer, but there are no guarantees. Nail polish remover may be harmful to your carpet or fabric.

Here is more advice from contributors:

  • Do not use nail polish remover unless you read the label. It is harmful to some different types of carpets and fabrics.
  • I don't know if this will work for "old" stains, but for new ones: Use a lot of water, keep the stain wet! Use about 15-20 squirts of hair spray and 3-5 splashes of rubbing alcohol. Scrub gently with a small scrub brush. Blot with paper towels. Repeat as necessary. Don't forget to keep pouring water during the process.
  • Get the stain wet. (will need lots of water). Spray with hairspray about 15 times. Drizzle with nail polish remover. Scrub with a toothbrush for 2-3 min.. Repeat process 3-4 times. Then vacuum over for about 5 min.. And repeat process until wanted/needed results. (Depending on type of hairspray, spraying the stain with it may make stain worse. Make sure your hairspray is NOT extreme hold or anything that's strong.)
  • I tried shaving cream, nail polish remover, hair spray, Windex, rubbing alcohol, and water. It sort of came out.
  • I had three streaks of pink nail polish splattered all over the carpet. i pretty much used everything on this site- Windex, nail polish remover, shaving cream, hairspray and lots of water. I feel sick from the fumes and there is still a little left but i think the key is persistence - continue to scrub and scrub and add stuff and most should come out. it's a lot of work and it sucks. in the future i think i will paint my nails outside!
  • One tablespoon of ammonia and 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide.
  • I have very light silver gray carpet and bright red polish. I called the carpet maker and they said to use nail polish remover. It worked! Then I cleaned the spot with a little carpet cleaner. Good as new.
  • Between everything everyone advised, I got the nail polish out. I used nail polish remover, hydrogen peroxide, carpet cleaner, water and hair spray and it got it out!
  • I had an old nail polish stain on the carpet. I tried to remove it with nail polish remover and it did not come out at all. I thought that it was hopeless to get out so I left it there. I decided to look online and see if I could find a better solution. I used water, hair spray and rubbing alcohol and it worked on an old stain!
  • Do not use bleach. A bleach stain leeches the dye out of the carpet. After that all you will be able to do is replace the carpet or cover it with a rug.
  • Nail Polish Remover, Water, Hairspray, Hydrogen Peroxide, Carpet Stain Cleaner, Rubbing Alcohol.
  • I used Spot Remover from Stanley Steamer and a lot of rubbing and scrubbing and the spot came out.
  • Brake fluid cleaner. Works in no time.
  • I spilled dark purple nail polish on our brand new beige carpet. The lady at the local hardware store recommended "Goof Off." It took quite a bit of the stain out. From there I used ammonia to get the rest up. The Goof Off worked great to get the polish off the tile & grout, too.
  • I spilled a whole bottle of black nail polish on a white rug. Use Oxyclean! It works.
  • I used HOT WATER, NAIL VARNISH REMOVER, HAIR REMOVING CREAM, THEN SOAP POWDER IN THAT ORDER, then I scrubbed like a maniac with a dish scrubber, you know the ones with one rough side? For some reason if you don't use it in order it doesn't work!
  • I just used nail polish remover and water and it came out.
  • You can remove nail polish stain of a fabric, carpets, and counter tops using Motsenbocker's Lift Off #3. We tried it on our quilt an it made the nail polish stain just disappear, like magic! You can purchase it at any hardware store. We purchased it at The Home Depot for about $6.00. It also removes permanent ink and marker stains.
  • I know this sounds crazy but using carburetor and choke cleaner (found at any auto parts store) did the trick for us. My boyfriend the "miracle worker" used this after I spilled bright pink polish over beige carpet. The only bad thing was the smell was pretty strong from the cleaner and it took a few days to go away, but it was amazing how it works.
  • My stain wasn't old, i spilled blue nail polish on my tan carpet, and I poured water on it, I kept it wet, then scrubbed, and dabbed, tried not to push it more into the carpet, then then, i poured more water on it, and then i poured nail polish remover on it, scrubbed and dabbed it, then hair spray! put hair spay on it, and scrubbed, did that for about 15 min, and it came out.
  • Water and hydrogen peroxide. My arm now hurts from scrubbing, but it's gone.
  • Water, hair spray and nail varnish remover worked after about 15 minutes scrubbing. A little tip, use a stiff nail brush to scrub with, seemed to lift it a lot faster.
  • Just use some hydrogen peroxide that's the most safe and it works well, it's also usually available at home. I used it on a day old stain of hot pink nail polish and it worked fine. I scrubbed it with a brush. Be careful not to tear your carpet up to much. And to make sure the hydrogen peroxide could not hurt my carpet I suck it up with a Bissell carpet cleaner.
  • hydrogen peroxide and small amounts of nail polish remover works great. and if not then get really hot water pour and lightly scrub! hope u get the stain out! it worked for me
  • I just started with some nail polish remover and then used Resolve for Pet Stains with water...IT CAME OUT IN 5 MINUTES!!
  • I splattered nail polish on my carpet and I found that torpensol works really well. Put it on a wet cloth, don't put it right on the carpet because it will sink all the way through. I'm sure that is not good for the carpet. It took a lot of scrubbing and your house will smell for a while but at least it all came out.
  • After I stopped crying about spilling a half a bottle of red nail polish on my new beige, shag carpet, this is what I did: I read the suggestions here and then proceeded to pour a large amount of rubbing alcohol all over the stain and then soaked it with hairspray. I used washcloths and kept rubbing the stain and in a matter of a few minutes the stain lifted. I washed it with a little soap and water. It's still wet, but the stain appears to be gone. The good part is that alcohol and hair spray dry very quickly, unlike tons of soap and water. Hair spray is the miracle stain remover...it also removes ball point pen from tons of things!!
  • According to the author of Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean, Linda Cobb, try the above mentioned methods and precautions with non-oily nail polish remover. If this does not work, buy straight acetone at a beauty supply house, pretest, and apply with an eye dropper or non-silver spoon, blotting immediately after every application. She adds that once the polish is removed, follow with Spot Shot Carpet Stain Remover (Apply as directed). If some polish still remains, apply hydrogen peroxide to lighten.
  • After freaking out that i had just spilled a very large amount of bright neon purple polish on my parents off white carpets (pretty big deal considering they just allowed me to move back in and pay for me to finish my degree), i ran for the Resolve carpet cleaner which did very little, i tried acetone-free nail polish remover, which worked a bit better, the combination of the two and a good scrub brush pulled the stain almost entirely out (i blotted the stain occasionally with paper towels. Then following the advice from this page i dumped about half a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a large amount of hairspray onto the stain, let set for about 30 seconds and then scrubbed with a hand towel, following with a small amount of soap and water. The stain appears to be gone! hopefully I'll never have to to tell my parents!
  • I tried the whole nail polish remover and water and scrubbing for like a half hour, and the stain went from something barely noticeable, to a huge stain that my parents will totally freak out about! I'm worried now, but then i used oxyclean, and it FINALLY came out.
  • I spilled a streak of dark blue nail polish on my new beige carpet. The stain was a streak and some dots spanning about 2 and a half feet. Window cleaner (with ammonia), hydrogen peroxide, and scrubbing and blotting got the stains out in a short period of time. It's not a miracle fix. There is a little "shadow" if you look at the carpet with an eagle eye and in the right lighting and direction, but it would appear gone to a casual observer.
  • My daughters age 11 and 4 were playing around and broke bright red nail polish on our tan carpets. After much scrubbing and Oxy clean nothing worked. Then I went to Home Depot and bought Motsenbocker's Life Off 4 Acrylic Enamel and Spray Paint Remover. It was the best 4 bucks I ever spent. You just splash this stuff on the stain and let it sit for a minute then you agitate it. Then put paper towels on the stain and put a phone book on top for pressure and for added weight I had my 2 daughters stand on top of the books for that hour (trust me they didn't mind). Came up in an hour. It just soaked up. This stuff is great.
  • I just moved into an awesome apartment with my new boyfriend, and the carpet is a brand new very light tan color. He was at work and I spilled half a bottle of maroon polish right in the middle of the living room. We just moved in about a week ago...lol, so we have just the necessities, carpet cleaner excluded. So I tried alcohol, and hair spray. The stain is gone, and I highly doubt that my new clean freak boyfriend will notice!
  • Aftershave, hot water and oxy power. It really works.
  • I spilled BLACK nail polish in my sister's room (I'm always such a klutz in that room so it was super URGENT for me to get out the polish). So I started out with water and some bath and body soap with a paper towel, it didn't do much but turn it into a gray stain. I came to this site and read quickly through some of the advice. I dabbed the stain with alcohol and more water and soap. And that worked as well. With that it started coming off more and more. So I added hair spray and WOW did it work! And with some added carpet cleaner it was almost like it was never there. It took a while for me to start getting the stain out so it soaked it, but other than that it looks just like new!
  • I spilled several splotches of blue nail polish on a tan rug, so I scrubbed it with water immediately and came to this site. I read through mostly all the answers and scrubbed it with carpet cleaner, more water, lots of nail polish remover, and then more carpet cleaner. It worked like a charm. The carpet is a bit damp now and the fumes made me sick, but it looks good as new. Tip: for me, hydrogen peroxide only made it worse.
  • I used a combination of nail polish remover, water, hairspray and Windex which reduce the color of the stain and made it barely visible to the eye
  • Old Nail Polish - I would try rubbing alcohol, water, and a steel brush. It worked for me after about two minutes. You can't even see it any more
  • I spilled bright quick drying red nail varnish on my cream rug last night. I initially used nail varnish remover and this dissipated the worst of the bright red color. However, I was still left with a large pink area where the red dye had been diluted. I made a paste using Vanish Oxi Action granules (in the pink tub) and covered the area with the paste. I then used Vanish carpet cleaner foam and sat the foam on top. I left it for about 20 minutes, by which time the foam had soaked through and only the residue granules remained. I scraped these off and then hoovered the area. I repeated this five times and the stain was gone. The colored pattern in the carpet remained (i.e. no bleaching effect to be concerned about).
  • Try using nail polish remover and right after that, while its still wet, apply baking soda and a little bit of water. work it in and rinse with warm water.
  • Try using Goof off. If you have a extra piece of carpet left over from when it was installed, take that and put some goof off on it. Gentle rub the spot. What happens when you use the scrap carpet is that it will transfer the same dyes for the scrap to the carpet so when you are done, it won't leave a different discolor spot from where you cleaned it. Be gentle. If you don't have the same carpet scrap to use, use goof off on a clean white cloth. Wet the cloth with water first to help dilute the goof off a little, then put some goof off on it and rub gentle. The water is important so that the strength of the goof off won't rub a discolor spot on your carpet. I'm a painter and I've dealt with many things like this before and it seems to work. Good luck.
  • All you have to do is put hydrogen peroxide and Club soda on the stain. Yes, it can be flavored, but as long as it is bubbly water.
  • I have a light green carpet and spilled bright pink nail varnish on it. I scrubbed hard with water and nail varnish remover at first, but it removed only a small amount of the stain away and it turned purple. I researched more and found that I should scrub it with hairspray and rubbing alcohol. I had no rubbing alcohol but I had plenty of hairspray so I just used that, and it got most of it away so you couldn't notice it at all unless you get really close
  • My 8 year old kicked over a bottle of red nail polish onto her beige bedroom carpeting. She tried to keep it wet and scrubbed with water and a rag while I searched the internet for a solution. This was the first site I came to and the first dozen or so remedies I read were chemicals or a scary combination (potentially dangerous) of chemicals which we don't have in the house. I went to the cupboard and found a bottle of Revive by EcoSense - it is actually a wrinkle relaxer - but made from melaleuca oil. We sprayed it on and scrubbed with tooth brushes, then vacuumed up the "foam" as we went. It instantly started to remove the polish. In places where the polish had become more dry we scrubbed longer, but the stain is gone. Also didn't have to worry about potentially toxic fumes.
  • After spilling hot pink nail polish on a white bedspread, I tried everything on this site and nothing worked. A friend and I then tried nail polish remover and scrubbed with a pumice stone and the stain came out in 2 minutes. Very relieved!
  • I used a little nail polish remover... a lot of water... and lots of mean green and scraped it with a tooth brush.
  • I spilled a lot of pink nail polish on a new carpet. Read several of these answers and did the following: Put lots of water on the stains - then hairspray then non-acetone polish remover. Scrubbed with a tooth brush. For the first 10-15 minutes it didn't look like I was making much progress. I then added a carpet cleaner "Spot Shot" and scrubbed some more; then more polish remover and "Spot Shot & scrubbing. After about 20 minutes I could see some progress. When about 90% of the stain was gone I gave up - but when I looked at the spot 15 - 20 minutes later, there was NO INDICATION that I had spilled anything. Not even a hint of pink color in my beige carpet.