How to Remove Nail Polish from Carpet

Published on May 18, 2017 | Updated - Jan 5, 2024

how to get nail polish out of carpet

Our 10-year-old daughter has decided that she’s old enough to paint her nails without parental supervision. Whilst this has become an ongoing conversation in our home, as a professional carpet cleaner, I’m reminded of just how difficult it is to remove nail polish from the carpet.  

Nail polish is a paint that contains hardeners to help it set quickly and bond to nails. This means that nail polish can’t be “cleaned away”, and we instead need to use solvents to break down and remove the nail polish slowly. This is easier said than done. 



How to Treat a Nail Polish Stain

To remove a nail polish stain, we need to use a solvent to dissolve the nail polish. This process is similar to using mineral terps when we clean up after painting with an oil-based paint. 

Rubbing alcohol is an effective solvent on some types of nail polish, but it’s likely you’ll need acetone or nail polish remover to achieve the best possible result. Rubbing alcohol is a “dry solvent”, so it totally evaporates after use, whilst acetone is a “wet solvent” that leaves a residue. This means that rubbing alcohol is safer and less likely to damage your carpet, so we recommend using rubbing alcohol as our first option in the treatment process.  


What you'll need

  • 1 Bottle of rubbing alcohol. We recommend using Isocol, which can be purchased by most chemists. 
  • Bottle of clear nail polish remover or acetone (coloured nail polish remover may leave a stain) 
  • Clean white cloths (preferably terry towelling) 
  • 1 teaspoon of dishwashing detergent diluted in water. 
  • Sponge 
  • Rubber gloves or disposable gloves 



Direction Step in removing nail polish from carpet

  1. If the nail polish is still wet, scrape off or scoop up as much of the nail polish as possible with a butter knife or spoon. Take care not to spread the stain further.  
  2. Using a dry towel, blot the stain. Do not rub, as the stain will just spread. Roll your finger across the stain as if placing a fingerprint using mild downward pressure. Continue this process until there is no further colour transfer to the towel.  
  3. Put rubbing alcohol onto a clean, white cloth wrapped over your finger (we strongly recommend wearing gloves through this part of the process). As in step 2, roll your finger over the stain. You’ll need to continue this process using fresh pieces of cloth to slowly extract the nail polish from the carpet and remove nail polish effectively.  
    Attack the stain from different angles, and as you progress, you will need to work to separate the carpet fibres to get to the bottom of the pile. This is a time-consuming process and may take an hour or so for one stain. Continue until there is no further transfer of colour to the towel. 
  4. If the rubbing alcohol isn’t effective, or a significant stain remains, repeat step 3 using acetone or nail polish remover. Remember to be patient. This process can be slow and tedious.  
  5. Dip a sponge into the dishwashing detergent and water mixture and liberally sponge the stain. This will help flush out any remaining nail polish remover and help to remove the polish.  
  6. Blot up the solution using paper towels. Try standing on the paper towel for better absorption.  
  7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 with fresh water.  
  8. Speed-dry the carpet using a fan. 



Using strong solvents on carpets comes with a number of risks. Whilst rubbing alcohol is generally safe to use, acetone or nail polish remover can pose some challenges.  

  1. Before using nail polish or acetone on the carpet, test the product on an inconspicuous area of the carpet and check for colour loss or colour transfer to the cloth you’re using.  
  2. Overuse of acetone or nail polish remover can also affect the glue that holds the carpet together, causing fibres to come loose.  
  3. If you fail to rinse the acetone or nail polish from the carpet using steps 5 to 7, the solvent will remain active and may unset the dyes in your carpet, causing discolouration over time. 


It is nearly impossible to remove a nail polish stain totally, but you should be able to reduce the stain to a faint mark that, hopefully, you can live with. You will tend to find that some of the nail polish will run down the carpet fibres when it comes into contact with the nail polish remover, affecting the entire carpet fibre and the backing. You will decrease the possibility of this occurring by using small amounts of nail polish remover; however, this is often inevitable.  

If in doubt, call the professionals at Electrodry Carpet Dry Cleaning. Our specialised stain removal systems safely remove all kinds of stains. Nail polish is tricky to remove, however, and even after our professional stain treatment, a faint nail polish stain is likely to remain.  


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