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How to Get Fingernail Polish Out
of Wood Flooring and Furniture

June 11, 2014

There’s a reason why our “How to Get Fingernail Polish Out of Carpet and Fabric” post is popular—accidents happen! Especially when it comes to drippy, brightly colored nail polish. So what do you do when you’re ready to paint the town red and you accidentally paint your hardwood floors (or antique end table or dining room chairs) too? Don’t panic! Learning how to get nail polish off wood isn’t as difficult as you may think.

First, skip the nail polish remover. It can ruin the finish of hardwood floors and wooden furniture. Instead of nail polish remover, use rubbing or denatured alcohol. Depending on the type of wood, its finish, and other factors, you may also need some fine steel wool to remove all the nail polish.

How to Remove Nail Polish From Wood

Whether you need to know how to get nail polish off a wood table or hardwood floors, these tips will help keep the wood safe.

  1. Understand what you are dealing with. Because of its porous qualities, wood may not fully release the color, and some woods are more porous than others. Oak, for example, is more porous than birch, cherry, or maple. The finish on your wood should protect it from most spills and stains, but nail polish can still get into the grain.
  2. The easiest way to remove nail polish from wood is to clean the spill while it’s still wet. Use a cotton swab to soak up the excess, making small swipes with the grain to dab it up. Remove as much nail polish as you can before using your stain remover.
  3. While rubbing or denatured alcohol is a proven solution for removing nail polish from wood, how gentle you are in the removal process will determine the end result. Use a clean, soft cloth (felt works great) and try to go in the grain’s direction. Use light pressure because rubbing the stain too aggressively may damage the finish and the wood.
  4. You may be able to gently buff out any remaining nail polish without chemicals using 0000-grade steel wool. Gentle pressure working along the grain is key to getting the nail polish out.
  5. If you do get overzealous, spot treat the bare wood with wood touch-up markers available at most hardware stores. You can also lightly sand the unfinished area and blend the bare spot in with the surrounding wood using an oil-based finish applied with a touch-up brush.

How to Get Nail Polish Off Hardwood Floors

Wood flooring is its own separate beast, so the more knowledge you have about your hardwood floors, the less likely you are to damage them. Your hardwood floors may be stained and sealed with a range of finishes, so in addition to knowing species of wood, it’s good to know what finish is on your floor if you need to repair any damage.

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Here’s how to get nail polish off a wood floor:

If the nail polish stain is still wet, try some white sugar first. White sugar attracts nail polish and causes it to congeal. Once the congealed nail polish and sugar have hardened, brush it off the wood with a soft brush. If you can still see any of the nail polish stain, it’s time to move on to the rubbing alcohol.

When the nail polish has penetrated the wood, gently rub the nail polish stain in the direction of the grain using rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth. Switch to a clean cloth as needed until you have removed as much nail polish as possible.

If you discover a dried nail polish spill on your wood floors, you may need something stronger than rubbing alcohol. Mineral spirits aren’t as strong as acetone products like nail polish remover, but they do a great job of removing nail polish without damaging most wood floors. Spot test first and rub gently.

Regardless of what nail polish remover you use on your hardwood floors, there may be tiny spots you’ve missed. Grab some hairspray and spray the remaining spots. Let it sit for a minute. Wipe away the hairspray residue with a wet cloth and clean your wood floor with a recommended cleaner.

While we are all for empowering do-it-yourselfers, it’s important to know when to walk away. If the spot is large or on a valuable piece of furniture, you may need to call a professional. Whatever you do, don’t use nail polish remover—it will likely do more harm than good, making quick work of removing the wood’s finish along with the unwanted nail polish color.

Once the polish is removed, you may want to do a deep clean around the house. With your nails shining so bright, you don’t have to worry about messing up the paint because we’re more than happy to make your home sparkle from top-to-bottom. Give The Maids a call at 1-800-THE-MAIDS or get your free estimate online.

Do you have any nail polish horror stories?

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