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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Nail Polish Stains

By Dr. Laundry January 13, 2009

Q. How can I remove dark red nail polish color from my jeans and pink shirt?

A. Nail polish is tricky to remove once it has dried on clothes. If it is dry, you will need to try the same thing you use to remove it from your nails — nail polish remover. This is what I would try:

  • We want to re-dissolve the nail polish, but first test any nail polish remover on the item to be sure it won’t remove color. Place a drop on a hidden area like inside seam, then wait 1 minute, and blot with a towel. If after drying there is no color change, etc., this means it should be safe to use the product on the item.
  • Use an absorbent pad with either nail polish remover or acetone (except on acetate fabrics) and dab onto the nail polish. I like to do this from the backside of the stain to encourage it to release from the fabric. You will need to place another dry pad on the opposite side, under the stain. As the polish slowly dissolves into the dry pad, you will need to replace it with a fresh pad to prevent the polish from re-depositing back onto the original fabric.
  • Keep changing the saturated original and dry pads until no more colored polish is seen.
  • Now apply liquid detergent, rub into the original spot, wait 3–5 minutes and then wash in the hottest water recommended on the care label.
  • Don’t forget to thoroughly wash your hands after using the nail polish remover/acetone to remove the chemicals from your skin.
  • Check for success after washing as you may need more than one application of this approach.
  • Do NOT dry the item in your dryer as this will set the stain further making any removal much more difficult/impossible.