How to Remove Nail Polish From Wood (Fast & Effective)

Did you just spilled nail polish on the wood and you are worried? Do not worry. Your wood is recoverable and now we will reveal some tricks to remove the nail polish from wood and make it look like new by completely eliminating the stain!

If you’ve ever placed a cotton pad soaked in nail polish remover or acetone on a wood surface, you may have noticed an immediate chemical reaction.

How to Remove Nail Polish From Wood

The number one rule: You have to act fast! Once the nail polish has dried properly, it becomes increasingly difficult to remove it. 


I learned this the hard way and ended up ruining the finish on my nightstand. The important thing is not to let the panic invade you, because actually cleaning the nail polish of the wood is much easier than we think.

Important Advice!
Any nail polish remover dissolves not only nail polish, but also the lacquer that the wood is covered with.
Do not use acetone to remove nail polish stains from a wood surface because it will damage the surface.

The most important thing is to act before the nail polish dries. Dried nail polish is more difficult to remove than fresh nail polish stains. But we will show you how to remove both fresh and dried nail polish.

We recommend using hairspray! Anyone who has ever used hairspray to style their hairstyle with beautifully painted nails knows this the nail polish becomes dull. 

Why does this work? Because hairspray usually contains alcohol, which dissolves the structure of the nail polish.

Step to remove nail polish from wood

Step 1: Scrape the nail polish stain.

Try to gather as much nail polish as you can with your hands and fingers to use as little product as possible. Alternatively you can use a plastic knife. If the nail polish doesn’t peel easily dampen a cloth with warm water and place it over the stain for 30 seconds.

Step 2: Test on a small wood surface.

Even if hairspray is an effective method to remove nail polish stain, it’s important to test it on a small wood area before going to work on the stain. 

This way, if your product does damage the wood, you will be able to notice it in time and you can stop before it becomes discolored or permanently damaged.

The best way to use these cleansers when removing nail polish is to apply it to the nail polish stain with a cotton swab.

Step 3: Apply hairspray to the nail polish stain.

Hairspray is worth trying when removing nail polish. It contains ingredients as rubbing alcohol which can help remove nail polish stains. Also hairspray will maintain the aspect of the furniture without damaging it.

Pour a small amount of hairspray onto a clean cloth or cotton swab and apply it to the nail polish stain. Alternatively you can spray the stain in and around it, wait 20-30 seconds and gently wipe with a soft cloth or cotton pad.

Spraying the nail polish with the hairspray beforehand will add even more power. Spray hairspray on a tissue and press onto the nail polish stain and leave on briefly, then remove it for the wood surface. 

Blot only the stain and try not to scrub the surrounding wood areas, so you will avoid inadvertently expanding the wet stain. You should always scrub with the direction of the grain, not against it.

In addition to hairspray, rubbing alcohol or mineral spirits are options worth considering for removing nail polish from wood surfaces.

Did you spilled alcohol on the wood surface? I have for you the best tutorial how to get rid of alcohol stains without much effort or expensive chemical solutions!

Step 4: Use steel wool for difficult stains

If there is still some nail polish left on wood surface, rub the stain with fine steel wool. Make sure you rub the wood surface in the direction of the grain, carefully without damaging the wood.

If the nail polish stain remains on the wood surface, repeat the procedure several times.

Step 4: Wash again and dry

After the nail polish has been removed from wood, wash the area again with a new bowl of warm water. Use paper towels to remove the excess water and dry the area with a hairdryer. With a little elbow grease, the nail polish stain will eventually go away.

Type of WoodHow to Remove Nail Polish
White woodRemove the stain with a square of sandpaper .
Other effective detergents: acetone, amyl acetate.
Waxed woodRub the nail polish stain with 90 ° alcohol .
Apply a coat of colorless wax.
Painted woodDab the nail polish stain with a tissue soaked in acetone.
Teak woodSprinkle the nail polish stain with Sommières earth .
If necessary, erase the remaining traces with sandpaper .

How to Remove Fresh Nail Polish from Wood

  1. Dry the wood with paper towels, removing as much of the fresh nail polish as you can. 
  2. Fold the paper towels immediately after staining the furniture to avoid re-staining the nail polish.
  3. Moisten a rag with denatured alcohol. 
  4. Gently rub off any remaining nail polish left on the wooden furniture. 
  5. Fold the rag frequently as you remove the polish.
  6. Moisten another cloth with water. Twist it well and clean the wood gently. 
  7. Remove the denatured alcohol completely.
  8. Clean the wood using a dry towel.

How to Remove Dry Nail Polish from Wood

Painting your nails on furniture makes the wood susceptible to spills and drips. Accidentally knocking over an open bottle of nail polish can stain wooden furniture. Nail polish dries quickly on wood, leaving a crusty stain on the furniture finish. 

The longer you leave the polish on the piece of furniture, the more difficult it will be to restore the wood. Letting nail polish set on furniture can also damage the wood finish. 

Steps to remove dry nail polish from wood:

  1. Moisten a cloth with hot water. Lay the damp rag over the completely dry nail polish. 
  2. Cover the nail polish stain for one minute.
  3. Remove the cloth from the wooden furniture. 
  4. Gently scrape off the softened nail polish from wood using a plastic scraper.
  5. Dip 0000 steel wool in paste wax if the furniture finish is varnish, polyurethane, lacquer, shellac, or paint.
  6. Dip the steel wool in boiled linseed oil if the finish is oil.
  7. Rub the remaining dried nail polish into the wood finish using steel wool. 
  8. Rub along the grain lines of the wood.
  9. Clean the wood with a towel. 
  10. Remove any softened bits of nail polish and excess paste wax or linseed oil.

Here is an easy step by step guide how to remove linseed oil from wood using 4 simple methods!

How to Remove Nail Polish from a Wood Table

Dropped nail polish on the wood table? The first rule of thumb is not to use nail polish remover on wood, as it can make the situation worse and create more stains. To remove it, use hairspray. Let it act for about 20 seconds, then wipe the nail polish stain with a dry cloth. You may need to repeat the process a few times.

Remove those horrible nail polish stains from your wood table following these step by step instructions:

Step 1: Dampen a cloth with hot water and squeeze out the excess water. Place the warm damp cloth on wood table and let it work on the nail polish spill on the wood for five minutes. Heat and liquid soften nail polish.

Step 2: Remove the cloth. Place a plastic spatula on one end of the polish. Lightly scrape the wood, removing as much of the nail polish stain as possible. Avoid applying pressure with the putty knife and keep it flush with the wood surface.

Step 3: Dampen a paper towel with a teaspoon of mineral spirits to remove any remaining nail polish. Apply without rubbing on the stain.

Step 4: Dampen a clean paper towel with acetone-free nail polish remover and gently dab over the stain if you haven’t been able to completely remove it with the mineral spirits.

Step 5: Wipe the wooden table with a clean cloth. Use a spray wood cleaner to remove residue and buff with a lint-free cloth to restore the surface’s shine.

Then clean the area with cold water as with the other nail polish stain removal methods.

Did you have crayon marks on your furniture? I have for you the best guide how to remove crayon from wood!

How to remove nail polish from wooden furniture using toothpaste

You can use this home remedy to remove the nail polish.

Simply apply the toothpaste to the nail polish stain. The toothpaste will react to the the nail polish and will dissolve it. 

Cover the entire nail polish stain with toothpaste and let it work for about 2-3 minutes.

Damped a rag with warm water. Work the toothpaste using the damp rag and rub gently on the stain using circular movements.

Little by little you will notice how the nail polish is absorbed by the damped cloth and the stain will become smaller.

Repeat the process until the nail polish stain is completely removed from furniture!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does acetone remove nail polish from wood?

Acetone is an often used wood paint stripper or wood varnish stripper. An effective solution for dissolving varnishes and paints. But removing nail polish with acetone is harmful to the wood treated surfaces (like wood stains, varnishes, lacquers) and should not be used!

Want to treat wood surfaces and protect them for damaging factors like temperature, water, fungus?

Can I use rubbing alcohol to remove nail polish stains from wood?

Rubbing alcohol is a widely used replacement solution in the absence of nail polish remover. It’s easy to find, cheap, and all you need is a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol placed on the nail polish stains. Rubbing alcohol will clean the nail polish stain quickly. Apply liberally and then wipe with a clean, lint-free cloth. Repeat the procedure using a clean cloth until the stain is gone.

Does acetone damage wood finish?

Acetone damaged wood are usually for finishing only like lacquer or varnish, but if acetone is spilled on bare wood it will not cause any damage due to the rapid rate of evaporation, but it may raise the grain slightly. Acetone can also weaken adhesive joints if exposed to excessive or prolonged exposure.

Can hairspray remove nail polish from wood?

Yes, hairspray is the best method for removing nail polish from wood. Simply add a fairly consistent hairspray to a simple wood cleaning product in a container with a vaporizer and apply it to the nail polish stain.

Deodorants also contain paint-soluble substances. In principle, the removal is just as successful as with hairspray: First spray the nails very close and then remove them immediately with a cotton pad that has also been moistened. Be patient if you don’t get it right the first time.

Can you use nail polish removal for wood surfaces?

Nail polish remover is more likely to damage the finish and protective oil layer on wood surfaces and should only be used as a last resort when removing nail polish stains. 

Ideally, you can remove nail polish from wooden furniture using furniture polish and a clean, soft duster. The solvent in the polish reliably removes the nail polish and the oil it contains protects the wood at the same time.

Adrian Tapu

Adrian is a seasoned woodworking with over 15 years of experience. He helps both beginners and professionals expand their skills in areas like furniture making, cabinetry, wood joints, tools and techniques. Through his popular blog, Adrian shares woodworking tips, tutorials and plans related to topics such as wood identification, hand tools, power tools and finishing.

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