How to remove nail polish from carpet, upholstered furniture and more

Have a polish-related whoopsie? Discover how to remove nail polish from carpet, textiles, soft furnishings and hard flooring

Removing nail enamel header image with text and vectorized bottle graphic on lilac background
(Image credit: Future)

Knocked talon paint off a table? You're probably wondering how to remove nail polish from carpet (or your couch). After all, with the cost of living going up, you may have to swerve those expensive salon manis and pedis in lieu of an at-home treatment instead. But without a purpose-built beauty bar setup, you run the risk of ruining your flooring, furniture, and all sorts of surfaces.

It happens to the best of us. You're leaning the pot on your sofa, and with an accidental nudge of an elbow, a curious cat, or an excitable child, your worst nightmare turns into messy reality.

All thoughts go through your head, and if you're in a real panic, you might be searching 'how to remove nail polish from the carpet' with wet fingernails or toes (eek). And if you don't have the best carpet cleaner to hand, what's a gal to do with that gloopy splat?

So if you need to get your favorite shade of pillar box red off your couch, cushion, carpet, or anything else in the home, gloss over these top tips for rapid finger polish removal. You'll need to work at super speed with the latest fast-drying products. So what are you waiting for? Let's get to work.

How to remove nail polish from carpet

Equipment list

1. A tea towel
2. Bleach-free detergent:
this Clorox disinfectant spray does the job (opens in new tab)

Struck with panic – and with the fear of losing our rental deposit – we reached out to Punam Chada, buyer, Carpetright (opens in new tab) who put the interior world to rights with her simple solution to remove nail polish from carpet. She says:

'When nail polish has been spilled on carpet, be sure to blot it with a tea towel, and gently remove as much as you can,'

'Then, fill up a spray bottle with water and a little bleach-free detergent. Spray the affected area. Grab a clean tea towel, and press it onto the affected area. Be sure to avoid paper towels, as they can become soggy and create a mess.'

Failing this, if you haven't got any bleach-free cleaners, try searching for the best carpet cleaning solutions that might just be lurking in the back of your utility cupboard or under the sink.

Or, if it's a big uh-oh, consider hiring a carpet cleaning machine from your local Home Depot (opens in new tab) or Lowe's store (opens in new tab) as soon as you spot the spill or at the end of your tenancy. It's obviously far cheaper to loan this appliance out for the day but there are affordable options if you want to buy.

Close up of woman's lower section covered with white towel painting toenails on white tiled surface in bathroom

(Image credit: Getty/John M Lund Photography Inc)

How to remove wet nail polish from hard flooring

Equipment list

1. A vac (take a look at the best vacuum cleaners)
2. Sugar (basic white granulated sugar from your cupboard)

Got paint on your laminate flooring, real wood, or tiles? Then take a look at this sweet hack.

'If you spill nail polish on your floor, quickly sprinkle sugar all over it whilst it’s still wet. The sugar will make the nail polish clump so you can sweep or vacuum up off the floor – no scrubbing needed!' says Rebecca Bebbington, content strategist at (opens in new tab)

Be sure to pick up every last grain of sugar though. Otherwise, you'll be reading our guide on getting rid of ants next! If you are worried about a pest infestation, we've heard that table salt can work too. Essentially, you just need a crystalized substance that can soak up the varnish.

Removing dried-on nail polish from hard flooring

If it has dried, you may be able to simply scrape it off with your fingers or a blunt butter knife (taking care not to scratch your flooring with the serrated edge). In some cases nail varnish remover containing acetone is fine, but don't leave it to penetrate into your floor covering, one expert warns:

'You can use nail polish remover on your ceramic tile as long as you don’t leave it on for too long.' says Fernando Garcia-Mantilla, co-owner, JDog® Carpet & Floor Care (opens in new tab).

'Simply scrub the polish spill with your remover and dry the area. Then, wash with water or a good tile cleaner a couple of times to ensure there isn’t any lingering chemical.'

'Like any flooring, the type of tile does matter for how you treat it. For ceramic tile, acetone nail polish remover will be okay. However, stone tiles that have not been sealed, some porcelain tiles, porous soapstone, granite tiles, and marble tiles can experience problems with the use of nail polish remover or nail polish that gets stuck in the cracks.'

'For these sensitive surfaces, you can wash the area using a soft-bristled brush with a solution of washing powder or detergent and water. Then, rinse with clear water and allow to dry.'

A feminine living room corner with beige/oatmeal upholstered snuggler sofa, radiator and decorative pink light fixture

(Image credit: Snug)
(opens in new tab)

How to remove nail polish from your upholstered couch

The best sofas can cost an arm and a leg, so don't take that splodge for granted if you spill varnish on your velvet or upholstered seat. In order to remove nail polish from soft fabrics, you'll need to act quickly. And the results may depend on what material your lounge seat is made from.

Happen to own one of the best velvet sofas? While they're beautifully soft and luxurious, dried-on polish is defo not on brand and can be harder to remove from this sensitive fabric. So if you want that velvet-staining atrocity to vanish you'll need to use one of the best washing-up liquids and a little water – all deets below... (ps. these tips can be used for other textiles than velvet, too).

Equipment list

1. An old toothbrush
2. Dish soap (You can't go wrong with Dawn on Amazon (opens in new tab))
3. A clean white cloth (Try these from Microfiber Wholesale store (opens in new tab))
4. A bowl


  1. Created a diluted solution of blue Dawn dish soap (1:4 ratio) and dip your white cloth into it.
  2. Slowly dabbed it on the stain, turning over to keep using a clean side of the cloth, until  the nail polish is removed
  3. Failing that, dip the toothbrush in the Dawn solution and gently work at the stain, using a clean section of the white cloth to remove the colored debris and soak up excess moisture.
  4. Allow to air dry, then brush the nap of the fabric in the opposite direction.

And if you're wondering how to clean a microfiber couch, we've got a comprehensive guide on this too, as well as more generic tips on cleaning sofas.

On the flip side, it's worth noting that if you are a little clumsy and are spilling everything from red wine to polish on your couch, you could consider investing in a spill-resistant sofa like those from Snug Sofas (opens in new tab).

A contemporary living room with cream leather sofa decor, black crittal-style window frames and round coffee table decor

(Image credit: Furniture Village)

Removing nail varnish from leather sofas naturally

'When it comes to your genuine leather couch, there’s nothing worse than that moment when you find yourself reaching out to try and catch your nail polish brush in time before it lands on your real leather sofa. This moment, almost certainly, occurs in slow motion, and you almost certainly, never catch it in time.' says Holly Grant, marketing manager, Leather Gallery (opens in new tab).

'Removing nail polish from a genuine leather couch is no joke and is a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not only does nail polish stain real leather, but if not removed correctly it can result in further damage and discoloration.'

Equipment list

1. White vinegar (Buy a gallon affordably at Amazon (opens in new tab))
2. Olive oil (No need for extra virgin – refined will do)
3. A blunt knife or spatula
4. An old toothbrush


  1. Remove any access polish with a blunt knife or spatula. If you have only noticed the polish after it has already dried, push down the surface of the leather and peel off the excess polish using your fingernail. 
  2. Mix white vinegar and olive oil (one part white vinegar and two parts olive oil) and slowly dip an old toothbrush into the mixture. 
  3. Using a toothbrush, scrub the mixture gently onto the stain. The mixture should aid the nail polish remnants in flaking off, while also conditioning your leather sofa at the same time!

A contemporary living room with painted wall panel and wallpaper decor, a stone colored three-seater sofa and blue area rug

(Image credit: DFS)

Using rubbing alcohol or surgical spirits on leather sofas

Equipment list

1. Surgical spirit (aka rubbing alcohol): shop for it on Amazon (opens in new tab)
2. A cleaning cloth: MR. SIGA microfiber cloths are ideal (opens in new tab)

OK, this sounds a bit scary, but if the stain hasn't vanished from your leather sofa, you'll need to go in with something stronger. Cue the rubbing alcohol.

'Rubbing alcohol or surgical spirit is one of the most underrated cleaning products. It is an isopropyl/ethanol that is commonly used as a disinfectant.' says Grant.

'Unlike water, which can potentially stain genuine leather, rubbing alcohol won’t penetrate the fabric and it dissolves quickly. Although it is less risky to use on genuine leather, it may not necessarily be ‘potent’ enough. If this technique fails, try non-acetone nail polish remover.'

A maximalist living room with pink velvet sofa, assortment of scatter cushions, printed area rug and printed wallpaper covering

(Image credit: Freemans)

Removing nail polish from cushions and pillows

The best pillows and scatter cushions are a great place to prop your hand while applying polish, but these soft supports are almost magnets to nail glazes. Thankfully cushions and pillows often come with removable covers, and many of the best washing machines can tackle these stains at low temperatures, with no problem.

For those which can't, follow the upholstery cleaning tips above.

A woman applying coral pink nail polish using a beige notebook on wooden table to lean on

(Image credit: Getty / Silke Woweries)

Be careful when using nail polish remover

The obvious thing to do when you've had a nail polish spillage might be to use nail polish remover to treat the stain. But acetone is strong, and while it's great at lifting that stubborn, colorful goo, you might do more damage to your textile wares. If in doubt, try an inconspicuous area, and try OPI's acetone-free nail varnish remover (available on Amazon (opens in new tab) or at your local drugstore).

'Removing nail polish from any fabric requires a careful approach if you want to salvage your rug or favorite blouse,' says Daniel F. Kirwan, president, and CEO, The Maids (opens in new tab).

'While nail polish remover with acetone will remove fingernail polish from just about anything, it can also remove dyes from fabric and even damage the fibers.'

And, if you have got a speck of polish on your shirt, consider looking at the care labels and washing symbols first to suitably launder clothing.

You may need to take extra care with silk items for example, so it's worth learning how to wash silk and how to wash clothes by hand if you think your washing machine's spin cycle is going to be a bit too harsh.

The experts at BISSELL (opens in new tab) concur. They say: 'Make sure to check the tag on whatever you’re cleaning to ensure it’s not dry clean only,'

'Place a towel under the stain so it doesn’t bleed through and blot up what nail polish you can. Soak the fabric in detergent and warm water for about an hour. Rinse around the stain with warm water. Then put some laundry pretreat on it and toss it in the wash. Woolite® INSTAclean™ (opens in new tab) [available on Amazon] is our favorite pretreat.'

Christina Chrysostomou
Ecommerce Editor

Bonjour, Yasou, Hello — I'm Christina, ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Along with my super creative colleagues, I create content to help you create a chic home on a budget. I live in a two-bed maisonette with a garage and garden in Essex. Geographically, it's perfect; I've got the forest on my doorstep, and London is just 15 minutes by tube or car. I specialize in small kitchen appliances so that you can prepare food with ease at home. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket.