Here’s how to get nail polish out of clothes


A guide to messy manicure mishaps.

Picture this: you’re putting the finishing touches on the hottest look you’ve ever pulled together, you’re almost ready to leave the house, and you notice your nails are chipped. No big deal, you’ve got a few minutes for an emergency nail polish touch-up.

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But in your rush to fix the problem, you knock over the bottle or gesture too enthusiastically with the brush in your hand and suddenly that bold colour that looks fantastic on your nails is also splattered on your clothes.

On the list of stressful things to spill on yourself, nail polish is up there with red wine. But don’t panic. While it might seem impossible to get out, all hope is not lost. Here are our tips for dealing with manicure slip-ups.

Should I clean nail polish stains when they’re wet or dry?

While your instinct might be to act fast and immediately start dabbing away, you’re better off taking a deep breath and waiting for the nail polish to dry. In trying to mop up wet polish, you’re likely to spread it around and make the stain bigger.

If you’re short on time and can’t wait for the stain to air dry, speed up the process by carefully chilling the area with an ice pack. This will dry and contain the polish, then you can move on to damage control.

What do I use to clean a nail polish stain?

If the stain is large and completely dry, try peeling it off the fabric with tweezers. Work slowly and gently, making sure you’re not pulling at any fibres or making a hole. If it doesn’t want to come off, don’t force it. The strength of your cleaner will depend on the formula of the nail polish, the kind of fabric you’re working with and the intensity of the stain.

First, try dipping a microfibre cloth or cotton bud in a small amount of laundry detergent or stain remover and lightly dabbing at the stain until it disappears. Using too much product can cause the polish to bleed and make a bigger mess, so work carefully and swap out your cloth when it starts getting dirty.

For more stubborn stains, dip your cloth or cotton bud in a tiny bit of non-acetone nail polish remover. Dab away, and the spill should be old news.

Will the nail polish or cleaning products damage my clothes?

No matter what type of cleaner you use, it’s a good idea to test it on a hidden part of the garment before you really get to work. Dab a little on an inside seam or under the arm to make sure it won’t cause any damage to the fabric.

Avoid products with acetone or bleach in them, as they can react badly with certain fibres and dyes. Getting stressed and roughly scrubbing your clothes like you’re trying to sand a table is also a bad idea. A gentle dab will do the job.

The most important lesson to learn, however, is when to surrender the job to a professional. When it comes to delicate fabrics like silk or clothes with special care instructions, it’s time to throw in the towel and schedule a trip to the dry cleaners.

How do I remove nail polish stains from leather?

If you’ve dripped polish on your leather jacket or your favourite pair of boots, try dipping your cloth in vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Follow the same process as any other clothing – starting with the tweezer-peel trick, then gently dabbing with a microfibre cloth or cotton bud.

For a foolproof guide on doing an at-home manicure, head here.

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