Skip to content
Drop in on Dr. Laundry

Dr Laundry Blog

How do you remove nail polish from shirt and pants?

By Dr. Laundry January 29, 2016

Q: How do you remove nail polish from shirt and pants?   A:  I wish I had a solid recommendation for you, but in my experience nail polish stains on fabric are generally permanent.  Lots of websites recommend using nail polish remover to blot away nail polish stains, but I have yet to see this actually work once the stains have dried.  That’s largely because even if you can get the nail polish remover to dissolve the nail polish, it’s still very difficult to work the dissolved polish out of the fabric structure.  It’s so much easier to wipe it off a hard surface, like a bathroom countertop or a finger nail.  Even so, you may have nothing to lose giving it a try if the alternative means discarding the shirt and pants.   The basic process is to soak a cotton ball in nail polish remover and then blot the stain.  The nail polish remover (typically a dilute solution of acetone) can dissolve the nail polish, which will transfer to a second clean cotton ball you also blot the stain with to pick up the nail polish.  This also assumes that the nail polish remover won’t hurt the shirt and pants–you will need to test a hidden part first with the nail polish remover.  Apply a few drops to a hidden area, wait a few minutes, and then blot dry with a paper towel.  You are looking not only for a color change, but also any distortion to the fabric.  If there’s no change, then go ahead with the treatment (you certainly have nothing to lose by trying).  Finish up by hand washing the shirt and pants in cool water with a little detergent, and allow it to air dry.  This way you won’t put any fabric with residual solvent into your clothes washer or dryer (which appliance manufacturers recommend against).  Good luck, and let me know how it goes.   –Dr. Laundry