What is nail polish?

Nail polish, also known as nail varnish or nail enamel, is a protective coating for nails. The primary goal is to make nails less likely to break. Its second purpose is to make the hands and feet more appealing. Nail polish comes in as many colours as the human eye can perceive.

The nail polish formula has been changed many times over the years. It has developed a lot since its first use in China, in 3000 BCE. Nail polish was used in other cultures as well, like Ancient Egypt and Greece. 5000 years later, it is just as popular among the women of today.

Unfortunately, nail polish is also a common stain on clothes, upholstery and carpets. Every seasoned housewife fears nail polish stains, and for a good reason. Professional carpet cleaning companies place it in the top 5 most difficult to remove carpet stains.

It's worth noting that spilled nail polish is more than just a stain. Nail varnish and paint have a typical and rather strong smell. Make sure you air out the room very well while attempting stain removal. It's not a bad idea to wear eye protection, like ski goggles, if you have any.

Reading the above may make you shudder if you were planning on painting your nails. However, a fingernail polish spillage is not the end of the world. If you act quickly, the stain will go away like a bad dream. Read our guide below to learn how to get rid of nail varnish from carpet fibres.

How to clean nail polish out of carpets
Removind nai polish stains

How to remove nail polish from carpet?

There are several ways to deal with both wet and dry nail polish stains on carpets. These include home remedies, store brand cleaning solutions and professional carpet cleaning services. Before we detail any of them, let's lay down the basics first:

- Do not rub the stain under any circumstances if it is wet. This may smear it over the carpet fibres or cause it to go deeper inside. Gently blot the stain with a paper towel or a clean white cloth. You can use a coloured one, but only if it is colour fast.

- Do not scrape the carpet fibres with a dull kitchen knife if the stain is dry. If you do it, the chances of damaging the carpet are very high. Carpets are a costly investment, don't ruin it by using a £4 butter knife on a £5 nail polish spill.

- Check the carpet composition and colour fastness before you use cleaning products. Do a patch test in a small, hard to see area of the fibres first. This will prevent a disaster like bleaching your dark carpet all over from happening.

- Never spray or pour hot water directly onto the nail polish spillage. We advise rinsing the remainder of the stain with cold water or warm water instead. However, this should only be done after you've removed the vast majority.

- React as quickly as you possibly can to fingernail polish stains. For all intents and purposes, it is a miniature version of a paint spillage. You want to blot it up immediately and to prevent it from going too deeply inside. In the event it goes deep, and is left to dry, it may discolour* the carpet.

*Discolouration is a chemical process which alters the state of the material it occurs on. If this is happening on fabric, the chances of restoring the original colour are very slim. Necessary measures to prevent colour changes should be taken in all cases.

Now that the basics are clear, let's move on to the first nail polish stain removal technique. The first one is actually rather obvious, because it's nail polish remover. Keep reading to find out:

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How to remove nail polish carpet stains with nail polish remover?

Nail polish remover is, unsurprisingly, effective at cleaning nail polish out of carpet. It comes in three forms of packaging, which are namely:

  • individual pads, each of which has a small amount of remover applied
  • a bottle of liquid, which needs to be used with cotton balls or pads
  • a container filled with foam, used primarily for fingers than anything else

There are also three types of chemical compounds used to create nail polish removers.

1. Acetone

Acetone is the most popular nail polish remover chemical, and it is also the active component of paint thinner. Another name of the chemical is propanone, or dimethyl ketone. Be careful, as it is a highly flammable liquid and has a strong odour of its own.

2. Ethyl acetate

Ethyl acetate, contrary to acetone, has a sweet fruity smell. It is used to create nail polish remover, glue and remove the caffeine from coffee. It is a cheaper and much less harmful alternative to acetone.

3. Acetonitrile

Acetonitrile's other name is methyl cyanide, which may ring a bell for some readers. For those of you who are confused, this nail polish remover is toxic. It is banned for trade in all of Europe, so you need not worry about it.

Now that you are aware what the types of nail polish remover are, let's look at how to use them. Obviously, we will not explain acetonitrile's use, as it is illegal in the EU. However, the other two will be detailed below:

What to know about carpet cleaning powder

How to use acetone nail polish remover on carpet nail varnish stains?

After you blot the nail polish stain on the carpet, put clear nail polish remover on a white cloth. If it is not clear, it may cause a dye change in your carpet fibres, which you should avoid. Then, lightly dab or blot the stain, and remember to not rub or scrub it.

Keep blotting away until the stain is no more, then rinse the carpet with cold water and air dry the room. The trick is to use a small amount on the cloth, and be careful when applying it. If you use too much nail polish remover, it may reach the carpet underlay. This can trigger a process known professionally as delamination*.

*When a carpet is delaminated, the underlay's glue is no longer effective. The most common way of this occurring is when a flood or leak happens. Be sure to call a carpet fitting company as soon as possible if this happens.

There is another reason only small amounts are applied, especially on darker carpet fibres. Acetone is known to have a bleaching effect with reckless use. We highly advise patch testing before you commit to using acetone nail polish remover.

How to use ethyl acetate nail polish remover to remove nail polish stains?

Ethyl acetate is your go-to for dark coloured carpet. It comes with all the benefits of acetone, but without the bleaching effect. Other than that, it is used in the same way as acetone nail polish remover.

Ethyl acetate is more commonly packaged with cotton balls, which are handy for carpet cleaning. Pour tiny amounts of nail polish remover, then soak it with the cotton balls. If you want to be precise, you can use a pipette instead of pouring. As always, rinse with lukewarm water and let dry after you've cleaned the stain off.

Can rubbing alcohol remove carpet nail polish stains?

Rubbing alcohol is cheap and found in every local pharmacy or drug store. Aside from disinfection, it can be useful on both damp and dry nail polish stains. If the stain is dry, the rubbing alcohol will make it damp again, enabling its removal. It is also possible to use it on wax carpet stains, to the exact same effect.

Apply the rubbing alcohol to the fibres with a dry cotton swab, or a clean cotton cloth. Afterwards, blot with a different cloth, or use cotton balls, if you have them. This way, the cotton will soak the rubbing alcohol and nail polish alike. It's worth noting that rubbing alcohol is usable on any colour of carpet fibres.

Is hydrogen peroxide useful on carpet nail polish stains?

Hydrogen peroxide is also available in all local drug stores, and is a popular home remedy. It is used to remove stains from food, drinks, pets and nail polish all the same. This product acts as if it was scrubbed, without doing any actual scrubbing. It goes through dry stains and pushes dirt on the surface, where it is easily removed.

When using hydrogen peroxide, care is needed, as it is acidic and can burn you. Use a pipette, and blot with a cloth until fully removed, while wearing hand protection. Latex gloves are ideal for applying hydrogen peroxide, and they are also sold in pharmacies.

We want our readers to be very careful when using hydrogen peroxide. Much like acetone, it has a bleaching effect, which is much harder to control. Therefore, we do not suggest using hydrogen peroxide on non-white carpets.

Now, let's look at how professionals deal with carpet nail varnish stains:

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What products do professional carpet cleaners use on nail polish stains?

A product used by professional UK carpet cleaning companies is Prochem Solvex. This solvent is built to tackle paint, nail polish, ink and other similar substances on carpets. The cleaning solution is clear, and best used in well ventilated rooms.

It is applied with a clean, colour fast cotton cloth, by blotting and soaking. The manufacturer advises to not rub the carpet fibres in any circumstances. Do not over-apply, and do not pour directly onto the fibres. For best results, it should be combined with water rinsing.

This cleaning solution is very strong, so take appropriate measures. Wear protective gloves and a mask, as well as eye protection. Do not directly inhale the fumes, and keep out of reach of children.