How to Remove Nail Polish from Wood

How to Remove Nail Polish from Wood – 6 Simple Steps

There is no question about the fun and excitement offered by painting nails. You can be as creative as you could possibly be, playing with colors and designs. While this may be the most attractive part of nail painting, reality dictates that some parts are messy as well, literally.

No matter how much care you put into it, there will always be a time when you accidentally spill a drop of nail polish into any surface. While other types of surfaces may be easy to clean, learning how to remove nail polish from wood can be tricky, particularly if the stain has already been there for quite some time. The good news is that there is no need to worry much. With just some cleaning products that you can find at home, you can get your wooden furniture back to its original glamour.

What You Need

  • Denatured or rubbing alcohol
  • Soft, clean cloth (felt is recommended)
  • Cotton swab
  • 0000-grade steel wool
  • Wood touch-up markers
  • Oil-based finish
  • Touch-up brush

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1 – Reminders first.

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If you want to learn how to remove nail polish from wood, there are some reminders that need to be taken into consideration. For one, it is never recommended to use nail polish remover on wood. The reason? It has the capacity to ruin the hardwood surface or the finish of any wooden furniture.

Rather than using nail polish remover, you may want to use denatured or rubbing alcohol. Of course, you may also want to take into consideration the type of the wood, the finish, as well as other factors, as you may also need to use fine steel wool in order to get rid of the nail polish on the wood surface.

Step 2 – Proper Understanding

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It is very important to understand what it is that you are dealing with. Know that wood is porous by nature, with some types of wood being more porous compared to others. For example, Oak is more porous compared to maple, cherry, or birch. Wood may not also completely release the color. While the finish applied on the wood can provide protection against most stains and spills, nail polish is tough as it can still get into the deeper parts of the grain.

Step 3 – Cleaning the Spill While Wet

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The best way to get rid of the polish is to clean it while it is still wet. When the stain goes deep into the grains, removal can become more challenging. For this, you can use a cotton swab in order to soak excess polish, creating small wipes in the grain, dabbing it up. Get rid of as much polish as possible before deciding to use a stain remover.

Step 4 -Apply Alcohol

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Even though denature or rubbing alcohol is considered a reliable solution when it comes to removing nail polish out of wood, the most important part of the process is how gentle you are doing it. This is so important that it will determine the final result.

Step 4 – Use Soft, Clean Cloth

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For this process, you may want to use a soft, clean cloth. The best type of cloth to use is felt. As you wipe the polish away, make sure that you do so in the direction of the grain. It is also important to apply light pressure since rubbing the nail polish stain too strongly can also damage the finish, as well as the wood itself.

Step 5 – Remove Remaining Polish

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You can possibly remove any remnants of the nail polish gently even without using chemicals. You can use 0000-grade steel wool. Applying gentle pressure and working in the direction of the grain is the secret to completely removing the polish out.

Step 6 – Spot Treatment

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If you notice that you have removed the nail polish too much, doing it overzealously, you may want to do a spot treatment of the bare wood. This can be done using touch-up markers. They can usually be found at most hardware sources. Another option to consider is lightly sanding the area that is unfinished, blending the bare spot with the wood in the surrounding using an oil-based finish. Use a touch-up brush to apply the finish.


Yes, accidents can happen! You surely would not want to see your wood furniture be accessorized with that unsightly drop of bright nail polish. Rather than worry too much about whether it is still possible to remove the stain, trying the steps above on how to remove nail polish from wood will solve the problem for you! Whether it is your favorite dining room chair or an antique table that you have accidentally dropped a polish on, learning the process of removing the stain is not as difficult as you may have expected.