Mother and child having fun with nail polish

How to Remove Nail Polish From Your Hardwood Flooring

Written by: BuildDirect



Time to read 4 min

Nail polish is prized for its strength and staying power when it’s neatly on your nails, but that same swipe of color loses its appeal when it’s dripped on the floor. Don’t let some wayward drops of color mar your beautiful hardwood. Though spilled nail polish may seem like a disaster, there are several remedies. Consider your choices carefully before you choose the right option for your individual situation. While there are several DIY solutions, there are also some cases where you may want professional help. Find out which approach is right for you.


White Sugar

If you catch the nail polish spill in time, you may not have to worry about removing a stain from your floors at all. Pour white sugar over the spill as soon as possible, and the sugar will attract the polish before the floor can absorb it. The sugar should congeal with the nail polish and harden. Wait for the polish to dry and you can simply sweep up the mess.

If you don’t catch the nail polish spill while it’s still wet, or if you find that the sugar doesn’t absorb the entire spill, you can use one of the following methods. These will help you with dried nail polish, where the stain is more difficult to handle.


Acetone nail polish remover is the most obvious answer for a nail polish spill. While acetone is extremely effective for removing nail polish, it does come with some potential hazards. This powerful solvent can remove more than just nail polish from your floors. Depending on the material, acetone may remove some of the finish from your hardwood floors as well. For this reason, you should always test acetone in an inconspicuous place before you use it on your nail polish stain.

Place a small amount of nail polish remover on a cotton swab. Dab on the floor in a corner or other unseen area to see if the floor suffers discoloration or damage. Don’t use an excessive amount of acetone on your test spot, as you will ultimately be using as little of the solvent as possible on the stain.

Most hardwood floors are treated with polyurethane that’s been baked or cured to create a durable finish that can withstand a small amount of acetone. Knowing what your floor is finished with can help you decide whether this is a smart choice for cleaning.

To clean up the stain using acetone, dab at the nail polish with a dampened cotton swab, avoiding the floor surrounding the stain as much as possible and focusing on the nail polish. Begin by blotting and rub only as needed to get the most difficult parts of the stain. Finish with a cloth moistened slightly with acetone to remove any lingering streaks of color on the floor.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is a gentler alternative to acetone that may work on floors that don’t have a finish durable enough to withstand acetone. This is gentler than an acetone product but still has the potential to cause some damage to your floors if they’re delicate. Test the rubbing alcohol with a cotton swab in a corner or other inconspicuous area.

Use a cotton swab to blot at the stain lightly, and rub with a cotton swab or cloth only where the stain is resistant to your gentle dabbing. Rubbing alcohol is a gentler alternative to acetone which will work on many nail polish stains. If the nail polish doesn’t respond to the rubbing alcohol, however, avoid soaking the floor with this liquid to get the polish off. It’s better to try another method than to oversaturate the floor with rubbing alcohol.

Mineral Spirits

Painters often use mineral spirits to clean their paint brushes. This solution is often chosen as an effective alternative to turpentine. Mineral spirits aren’t quite as hard on your floors as an acetone product would be, making it an appealing choice when you’re worried about causing unsightly damage to your floor’s finish. Use the same method with mineral spirits as you use with other products. Test in an unseen area to make sure the product doesn’t seriously damage your flooring. Focus your removal efforts on the stain and avoid the surrounding area.

Use a cotton swab to apply the mineral spirits directly to the stain and finish with a cloth to gently wipe up streaks or remaining stains. If the stain doesn’t respond to mineral spirits, avoid scraping or rubbing too hard, as this will only remove the finish.

Should You Leave it to a Professional?

Hardwood floors typically take on a personality of their own over time. If your home has older hardwood floors, it’s likely that you already have some scratches, scrapes, and areas of discoloration. These can give the home its own sense of charm when you approach the hardwood as a distinctive feature that’s meant to take on some wear. If you’re alright with adding a few spots of discoloration to your floors, the above methods are a safe bet. Though they may remove some of the finish, they shouldn’t damage the floor significantly when used carefully.

If you have new hardwood floors , or you’re concerned about maintaining a sleek appearance with no signs of marring, you may want to avoid cleaning a nail polish stain on your own and turn to a professional instead. A professional cleaning and restoration service should be able to help with both the cleaning and any repairs that are necessary afterward. Though you can use a wood touch-up stain marker on your floors for a DIY fix, a professional can offer a more seamless approach to restoring your wood stain.

Nail polish stains on hardwood floors can be alarming, but there are several ways that you can approach this problem. With gentle care, you should be able to get the nail polish off the floors with minimal damage and retain the look you love of the beautiful hardwood in your house.