Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

How To Remove Nail Polish From Carpets

how to remove nail polish from carpets custom graphic

If you're the type of person who likes to do their nails at home, then you're probably going to need this guide at some point! Since they say ‘knowing is half the battle’, it's best to learn how to deal with a nail polish spill, especially if you’ve got carpeting or rugs in your house.

As you know, nail polish is designed to stick well and harden as it dries; therefore, the only way to remove it from your nails is to break down the adhesive first. While the same principle applies to getting nail polish out of carpet, commercial nail polish removers that are essentially designed to do exactly that, are not always advisable to use on carpet. So, before dousing your carpet in polish remover, take a look at this carefully researched guide to safely get rid of that terrible nail polish stain on your carpet.

Important Tips to Keep in Mind

red nail polish spilt on a white plush carpet

1. Act Quickly

When it particularly concerns nail polish on carpet, it's important to act quickly. The heavy liquid can fall deep into the gaps between the fibres and create a stain that's hard to tackle; even more so if it has time to dry. 

In this case, it's best to grab paper towels, and very gently place them onto the stain immediately. Their job is to soak up all the excess polish before it begins to sink deeper into the carpet. As the paper absorbs the liquid, replace the towels with clean, dry ones as necessary. This rule applies to any liquid spillage on a fabric, especially carpets and rugs. By preventing the liquid from spreading, it keeps damage to a minimum, and helps make the clean up easier. 

2. Know Your Materials

Secondly, it's a good idea to know what you're working with to address the problem appropriately. Things like colour, and the type of fabric the carpet is made of are key factors here as they will govern what methods you should, and shouldn't be using for cleaning the carpet.

Darker carpets, for example, should not be cleaned with nail polish removers or ammonia-based cleaners of any kind since they can bleach the carpet, and cause discolouring. Rubbing alcohol or hairspray, on the other hand, are more suitable options.

Similarly, light-coloured carpets can use non-acetone, dye-free nail polish remover to clean a spill. Avoid things like dyed soaps or ginger ale to clean lighter carpets as you risk staining them further. 

IMPORTANT: Beyond staining and bleaching, since nail polish remover can melt synthetic fibers, and water can damage wool when washing, it is highly recommended that you check your carpet fabric, and act accordingly from there.

How to Clean Wet Polish From Carpets

bottle of non-acetone nail polish remover on an orange background

Now that we've established some rules, it's time to dive into the actual cleaning. Bear in mind that these methods are for fresh, still-wet spills. Just ensure to do a spot test on an inconspicuous area of the carpet to make sure it is safe for your carpet fabric.


This method is primarily effective because of the alcohol content found in hairspray. 

  • Begin by wetting the area with cold water, and then spraying the stain generously with hairspray.
  • Next, take a clean, soft toothbrush, and gently scrub the stain. Keep a container of fresh, cold water nearby to rinse the bristles of polish. 
  • Use paper towels to soak up excess water, and continue cleaning until the stain has been removed. 
  • Finish off by dabbing the area with paper towels once again, and leave the carpet to air-dry.

Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover

For carpets made from natural fibres, a non-acetone, clear nail polish remover can be used in the following manner.

  • Soak a cotton ball in the liquid remover, and gently dab at the stain to help loosen up the polish from the fibres. 
  • Then take a clean and dry paper towel or white cloth, and also dab over the stain with it. This is done to lift the polish out of the carpet by soaking it up in the paper towel or cloth.
  • You must repeat this process of alternating between the remover and clean cloth until the stain is gone completely. The key is to be gentle and to keep changing the cotton and towel as it gets too saturated with polish.

Rubbing Alcohol

Since alcohol is the key ingredient in hairspray to remove carpet stains of this nature, similarly, rubbing alcohol can work wonders too.

  • Much like how the nail polish remover method works, you need to dab the stain with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball to loosen up the polish, and then dab again with a clean cloth or paper towel. 
  • Once again, replace the cloths or towels as the colour from the nail polish stain begins to transfer. Repeat until you lift the stain completely.

Vinegar and Dish Soap

A little household vinegar and some dish soap can help get rid of fresh nail polish stains too. 

  • First, make a solution out of 1 glass of warm water, and just a tablespoon each of liquid dish soap and distilled white vinegar. Pour this into a spray.
  • Use the spray to directly apply the cleaning solution to the stain, and allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes. Ensure that you're being generous with this, as you'll want to saturate the area with the solution. 
  • Once done, dab the stain with a vinegar soaked white cloth to loosen up the stain further. 
  • That said, it's quite effective for obvious reasons. Begin by, brush the stain with a soft toothbrush, and keep rinsing the bristles with cold water to remove the stain entirely.

NOTE: At the end of each cleaning method, use paper towels to absorb as much liquid from the carpet as possible, and then leave the area to air-dry.

How to Remove Dry Nail Polish Stains From Carpet

cleaner pointing to their watch after red nail polish has spilt on carpet

While all of the methods above work on wet stains, there's a slightly different approach needed for dried nail polish on a carpet. 

Dry stains tend to respond really well to hairspray, but they require a bit of preparation before you can begin using the method mentioned earlier.

The key here is to first remove the hardened polish as gently as possible. This means using a butter knife to scrape out whatever you can, and vacuuming the carpet to pull those dry bits out.

Once done, you can then refer to the hairspray method and successfully get dry nail polish out of your carpet!

While all of these methods require a fair amount of effort, they are indeed effective ways to deal with nail polish stains on carpet. Of course, if you are unsure of yourself, or don't have the time to do it, you can always hire a professional carpet cleaning service to assist you. Particularly for tough or old nail polish stains, it might be best to leave the task in the hands of professionals who are equipped with the right tools and cleaning solutions needed for the job. Nevertheless, cleaning guides like this exist for when you're in a pinch but need a solid solution. The methods shared above are tried and tested, and should be everything you need to get nail polish out of a carpet.

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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