6 Tricks To Get Nail Polish Out Of Carpet

(Yes, one of them is nail polish remover.)

Sorry, but what were you doing painting your nails on the carpet anyway? Friend, you know better than that. But hey, accidents happen. Maybe the cat stalked through and flicked over your bottle of Lincoln Park After Dark, sending shimmering, oil-slick splatters all over the imported rug that you paid a pretty penny for. Or you just forgot to put the nail polish lid back on all the way and enjoyed a post-pedi Dandasana, kicking that Game of Chromes across your thick, plush bedroom carpet. The hypotheticals are endless. It doesn’t actually matter how it happened because we’re going to help you fix it—before anyone else even notices!

  • A few things: Best to catch the nail polish stain while it’s fresh. And don’t freak out. Whatever you do, don’t rub it in. The key to getting nail polish out of carpet is to blot, blot and blot.

  • So before you even attempt to remove the stain with any product, grab a rag or some paper towels (or, if it’s a lot of nail polish, you can scoop up the liquid with a plastic spoon) and gently dab at the spot until most of the excess nail polish is gone and you’re just left with a mark on the carpet.

  • If it does happen to be a dried nail polish stain (oops!), try scraping at it with a knife. We’d go with a sharp paring knife or something similar. Mind your fingers. Use a vacuum attachment to suck up the hard, dried nail polish bits before proceeding.

  • Now behold, our choose-you-own-adventure guide for cleaning nail polish out of your carpet. Select which technique works best for you, depending on what sort of cleaning supplies you’ve got on hand—or pantry items to use as DIY cleaning solutions—the type of carpet and how bad the spill is.

6 techniques for removing nail polish from carpet

Vinegar

  • Soak the offending nail polish stain with a generous amount of white vinegar. Yes, this is going to smell super weird. Vinegar and nail polish, blech.
  • Lay a vinegar-soaked rag on top of the stain. Yep, more vinegar.
  • Let the whole deal sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Blot the stain with the vinegar-soaked rag.
  • Scrub (yes, it’s okay to do it now) the mark with a clean, damp rag. If you’re super offended by the smell, try mixing a drop of dish soap like Dawn with warm water and dab at the (former!) stain, then rinse with clean water.
  • If you’re still miffed by the odorous vinegar/nail polish combo, hit the spot with some Febreze Fabric Spray, which comes in a variety of fresh scents that aren’t vinegar or nail polish.
  • Let the spot air dry completely.

Baking soda & ginger ale

  • Dump some baking soda onto the nail polish stain, covering it completely.
  • Soak the spot with ginger ale.
  • Let the solution sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Blot the stain with a clean, damp rag until the stain is gone.
  • Let the spot air dry completely.
  • Vacuum up any baking soda residue that’s left over.

Ready-made products

  • Several store-bought cleaning products are known for getting nail polish out of carpet and can be used to spot treat the stain. As with all widely available cleaning products, be sure to follow the directions on the label. Most require a clean rinse to finish with a damp rag.
    • Window cleaner with ammonia
    • Adhesive remover
    • Dry cleaning solvent

Nail polish remover

  • (So obvious, right?!)
  • Okay, so first be sure to test this method on a discreet section of carpet or rug (think the corner or under a strategically placed piece of furniture) because it could cause discoloration.
  • Nail polish remover works best on fresh stains.
  • It’s important that you’re using non-acetone or dye-free nail polish remover.
  • Nail polish remover works best to remove polish from light or white carpet.
  • Soak a rag with nail polish remover, and blot or dab at the nail polish stain until it comes off.
  • Be sure not to totally soak the carpet with the nail polish remover. Only apply it directly to the stain.
  • Blot, don’t scrub.
  • If you don’t have nail polish remover (and might we ask what’re you even doing painting your nails without nail polish remover nearby? Bold move. #respect), you can substitute rubbing alcohol and follow the same guidelines.

1. Hairspray

(You know you’ve got an old bottle of it lying around somewhere.)

  • First, make sure your hairspray has a high alcohol content, which will be most effective when removing the nail polish from the carpet. Alcohol-free hairspray won’t work on stains—it’ll just make your nail-polish-soaked carpet even stickier.
  • Hairspray actually works best on already dried stains. Before applying the hairspray, be sure to do the knife trick to scrape off as much dried nail polish as possible and vacuum up the dried bits.
  • Wet the nail polish stain with cold water.
  • Spray about 10–15 pumps of hairspray. Yes, that’s a lot of hairspray!
  • Add a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol to the stain, in addition to the hairspray.
  • Use a soft-bristled brush (an old toothbrush would work well) and scrub (yes, scrub!) the stain with cold water.
  • Let the spot air dry completely.

2. Shag carpet? Give ’er a trim.

  • Yeah, we’re serious. If you spilled nail polish onto your shag rug, chances are the carpet strands are long enough that you could just take a little off the top without making any noticeable bald spots.
  • So blot up as much nail polish as you can, and then take some sharp scissors and gently snip the stained strands right off the rug. We’re pretty certain no one will ever know the difference.

3. Bonus: finish with dish soap & warm water

Once you’ve successfully removed the nail polish from the carpet (congrats!), hit the spot with a quick soapy water bath to help get rid of any potential leftover residue from your cleaning product—and to help diffuse that pungent nail polish smell. (Oh, and in case you’re looking for more ways to make your house smell good, we’ve got some ideas.) Add a small drop of dish soap like Dawn to warm water to dilute it. Scrub the affected carpet area with a sponge or clean rag soaked with the soapy water solution. Rinse the soap residue with warm water by blotting it with a clean, damp rag. Let the spot air dry completely.

We know you didn’t learn your lesson. You’ll continue to paint your nails on the couch, in bed and splayed out on the carpet in front of the television, streaming Riverdale or whatever. We don’t blame you. But now that you’re hip to the ways of how to get the nail polish out of the carpet, you’re really free to do as you wish. A lot of these techniques can be applied to upholstery, too. But you should still be at least a little conscientious about where you spill your nail polish, since you do risk discoloring the fabric with some, if not all, of our stain removing tricks.

But what better excuse to treat yourself to a mani-pedi at the salon? After all, you didn’t want to risk ruining the carpet, dah-ling.

Oh and hey, when you’re done painting your nails, you should totally sanitize your makeup. Yep, that’s a thing.

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