Women are queens of multitasking, especially when it comes to painting our nails. None of us have the time to sit patiently and actually let our nails dry properly, so we keep ourselves busy and try our best not to mess up our pristine manicures. But when wet nails and your favorite sweatshirt collide, panic can ensue, especially if you were using black nail polish while wearing white clothes. We’ve all been there, but you need to act fast to prevent permanent polish stains, whether on your clothes or your hardwood floor. The situation can easily be dealt with, so don’t throw away your nail-polish stained clothes just yet.
First thing’s first, let the nail polish actually dry and resist the urge to wipe it off at all costs. Repeat—do NOT mess with it until it has dried. Trust us, trying to rub off wet nail polish will just make matters worse. You can gently dab at the wet nail polish with a cloth or towel, but don’t wipe it. Rubbing will cause spreading and an even bigger mess. You can also place an ice pack on the nail polish to speed the drying process along and harden it. Once it’s dry, take a knife or a pair of tweezers to scrape off any excess nail polish chunks. Then, it’s time to get down to business.
Nail polish remover seems like the obvious solution when it comes to getting rid of the stubborn stain, but it doesn’t work on your clothes the same way it does on your nails. Nail polish remover with acetone can actually have a reaction to certain fabrics and colors. Avoid using it on clothes with acetate, triacetate, or modacrylic, and make sure that your impacted clothing is washable. If it meets these requirements, do a tiny spot test with the nail polish remover to see how it reacts to your clothes and then proceed to tackle the stain. We recommend testing the inside of the piece of clothing or a small area near the hem or sleeve. Use a paper towel or cloth to gently dab the stain (again, don’t wipe) until it’s no longer visible. Then, rinse it under cold water and toss it in the washer.
If your clothing reacts badly to the nail polish remover, you can also try a non-acetone nail polish remover. Spot test it again, and use it to attack the stain with a toothbrush, according to Persil. You can also try rubbing alcohol and even hairspray with the toothbrush technique. If none of these seem to do the trick, not all hope is lost—you can seek professional help from your local dry cleaner. While it’s much more satisfactory to take matters into your own hands and DIY the nail polish stain, your dry cleaner probably knows best. Plus, you’re less likely to ruin your clothing for good.
If you spill nail polish on the ground, that’s a completely different story, so check out the best method to get rid of the stain and soak up the polish.