Advertiser Disclosure

How to Get Nail Polish Out of Carpet in 10 Easy Steps

Maria Dryfhout / Shutterstock

Trying to figure out how to get nail polish out of carpet can feel like an impossible task. It doesn’t have to be, though. There is a tried-and-true method that actually makes it possible to get your carpet looking new again. Keep reading to learn more about how to remove nail polish from carpet.

10 steps to get nail polish out of carpet

There’s nothing quite like feeling your heart sink when you see your bottle of fingernail polish slip out of your hand and fall onto the floor. Fortunately, there’s a proven way to get fingernail polish out of carpet. Just be sure you’ve verified with your carpet manufacturer that all of the products required are safe for the type of carpet you have.

Step 1: Determine if the stain is wet or dry

If the nail polish is still wet, dab the area with a paper towel until the towel no longer picks up color. If it’s dry, scrape as much of it off as you can. Try using the edge of a butter knife to break the nail polish away from the carpet.

Step 2: Apply nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol

Pour either nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol onto an old washcloth that you don’t mind getting dirty. (Note: research the type of carpet you have to make sure nail polish remover won’t stain it further.) Gently dab the stain area until you no longer see color coming up, just like you did with the paper towel.

There’s nitrocellulose in the nail polish remover that forms a film for removal. As for the rubbing alcohol, it’s made up of about 70% alcohol and water, perfume oils, and denaturants.

Step 3: Create a cleaning solution

Create a special solution with liquid dishwashing soap, warm water, and white vinegar. Combine 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar with 2 cups of warm water and then pour the mixture into a spray bottle.

Sodium lauryl sulfate, the active ingredient in Dawn, bonds with the polish and allows for easy removal with water. Then, the acetic acid in the white vinegar assists in pulling the color from the carpet once and for all.

Step 4: Apply the cleaning solution

Spray the solution directly on the nail polish stain a little at a time. Grab an old washcloth again and dab the stain. If you can, use a different washcloth so that you can monitor the color coming up. Keep dabbing until there’s no more color transferring to the washcloth.

Step 5: Apply water

Use a different spray bottle (or thoroughly rinse out the first one) to wet the area with water. Spray the nail polish stain with warm water and dab it with a paper towel once again to be certain no color remains.

Step 6: Dry with paper towels

Take several paper towels and pile them on the area that the stain is in. Weigh down the paper towels with something heavy, like a stack of books. This helps absorb all of that moisture you created on the carpet.

Step 7: Wait

Let the moisture from the stain absorb into the paper towels for about an hour. You want to be certain no moisture remains; otherwise, your next problem might be mildew, which could then lead to mold. It’s important to take the time to complete this step.

Step 8: Apply carpet freshener

Take some carpet freshener and sprinkle it over the area of the nail polish stain. You should now have clean and dry carpet, but the carpet freshener helps rid the area of any remaining smells from the vinegar or nail polish. Vacuum up the carpet freshener if there are directions to do so. This depends on the type of carpet freshener you use.

Step 10: Blot the carpet dry

Very gently sponge the stain with cold water and blot it dry. Use a very small amount so it doesn’t create much moisture. The idea is to set all of the products you just used, acting as a sort of sealant for the stain.

Products and tools you’ll need to remove nail polish from carpet

  • Nail polish remover: It’s inexpensive, yet can do wonders to remove the nail polish from your carpet. The nitrocellulose in the nail polish forms a film and helps remove stubborn polish from tough surfaces.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Technically called isopropyl alcohol, this is a great product to have on hand in the house, even if you don’t spill nail polish on your carpet. It’s got a  70% alcohol content that conquers tough stains.
  • Liquid dishwashing soap: When it comes to picking out a liquid dishwashing soap, you can’t go wrong with Dawn. It’s the brand that’s trusted to clean up animals after oil spills. That means it provides a great defense against impossible grease or even bright red nail polish in your carpet.
  • Carpet freshener: This is a must-have if you want to get rid of any lingering odor from the combination of nail polish and the products used to remove it. A sprinkle of carpet freshener will banish the smell from whatever room you’ve spilled the nail polish in.
  • Spray bottles: It’s always a good idea to have some spray bottles on hand. What’s nice about them is that you can control how much you’re spraying. You can also combine ingredients to make a special mix that nail polish won’t stand a chance against.
  • White vinegar Vinegar is one of those products every household should have on hand. It’s a miracle ingredient when it comes to cleaning and stain removal. The acetic acid in the white vinegar works well to pull the nail polish color from your carpet.

The bottom line on removing nail polish from carpet

The moment that nail polish hit the carpet, your heart sank. You probably thought it would be impossible to figure out how to get nail polish out of carpet. Now that you know it’s not impossible, you can breathe a little easier. Your carpet isn’t ruined. All is well. You can now focus on far more important things, such as enjoying your new home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does nail polish remover stain carpet?
Not typically, but it can. This is why it’s important to first find out what type of carpet you have, what material it’s made of, and how nail polish might impact it.

How does vinegar remove nail polish from carpet?
Vinegar is one of those miracle household products that everyone should have in their cupboard. It has acetic acid in it, an active ingredient that directly combats the source of a stain to eliminate it.

Will rubbing alcohol stain my carpet?
No, rubbing alcohol is less risky than nail polish remover. Unless you have a highly sensitive type of carpet, rubbing alcohol won’t discolor it.

Is getting nail polish out of carpet the same, whether the nail polish is wet or dry?
Almost. In the first step, you’ll either dab the area with a paper towel if it’s wet, or you’ll scrape the polish off the carpet if it’s dry. After that, you’ll follow the steps exactly either way.


Man on computer

Everything for your move, all in one place

Curate your personalized moving checklist, set up TV & Internet, and more with a free MYMOVE account.

Get Started

Already have an account? Sign In

View our Privacy Policy

Related Articles

How to Get Slime Out of Carpet

Every child loves slime, but as soon as that colorful concoction gets into the carpet it can become a parent’s worst nightmare. Thankfully, slime time doesn’t have to ruin your carpet or rugs if they fall victim to the goo. We’ve provided a simple step-by-step guide on how to remove slime from carpet and rugs […]

Read More

The Best Carpet Cleaners to Buy in 2020

Carpets and rugs are always in use at home, so they collect and hold the majority of dirt and debris that come with daily life. Regular vacuum cleaners are great for dirt and some hair, but bigger stains require a dedicated carpet cleaner.

Read More

How to Make and Use Homemade Carpet Cleaner

Whether you want to reduce the use of plastic products, avoid toxic chemicals, save money, or all of the above — making your own carpet cleaner solution at home is often the most effective way to clean carpet stains.

Read More