A close-up photo capturing the process of using hairspray to remove nail polish from clothes, showcasing the spray being applied onto a stained area, with a cloth gently blotting away the residue.

How To Remove Nail Polish From Clothes Using Hairspray: A Comprehensive Guide

Nail polish stains on your favorite shirt or dress can be annoying and difficult to remove. However, you don’t need fancy stain removers to get the polish out – an item you likely already have at home can do the trick: hairspray.

If you’ve got a fresh nail polish stain you need to tackle quickly, here’s a speedy solution: Spray hairspray directly on the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, then rub it with an old toothbrush and wash as usual. The hairspray’s alcohol content will break down the polish.

What You’ll Need

Hairspray (aerosol/spray, not pump)

An aerosol hairspray is a must for this DIY stain removal trick. The spray nozzle allows you to precisely coat the stained area with a fine mist. Pump hairsprays don’t work as well. Choose a cheaper hairspray, as you’ll need to use a lot.

Aerosol hairsprays contain alcohol which will help break down the nail polish stain.

Old toothbrush or scrub brush

You’ll need an old toothbrush or scrub brush to work the hairspray into the fabric. This helps dissolve the dried nail polish so it can be removed. Make sure to use an older brush you don’t care about ruining.

Paper towels

Paper towels are perfect for blotting up the dissolved nail polish as you work. They’re more absorbent than rags or cloth towels. You’ll go through a lot of paper towels, so make sure you have plenty on hand.

Laundry detergent

Once you’ve gotten up the nail polish stain, launder the item in hot water with an extra amount of laundry detergent. This helps remove any residue left behind by the hairspray and polish.

Oxygen-based bleach (optional)

For tough stains on white fabrics, adding an oxygen bleach like OxiClean can help lift out any remaining discoloration. Follow the package instructions and avoid using this on colored fabrics as it may cause fading.

Prep the Stain

Blot excess wet polish immediately

If a fresh coat of wet nail polish ends up on your clothes, the first critical step is to quickly blot away as much as possible. Grab a clean paper towel or cloth and press it gently on the stain without rubbing.

The goal is to lift the still-wet polish off before it has a chance to set into the fabric and become much harder to remove.

You only have a narrow window while the polish is freshly applied, so act fast! Blot and press repeatedly with clean sections of paper towel. This will soak up a good portion of the spilled polish before it dries.

Let the stain dry completely before treating

Contrary to what you may expect, once you’ve blotted away excess wet polish, it is best to allow the stain on the fabric to air dry. If you try treating or rubbing the stain while still wet, it may just smear the pigment further across the fabric and make the stain bigger.

Give the fabric plenty of air circulation until all traces of moisture from the spilled polish have evaporated. This may take a couple hours, but do not proceed until it is fully dry. The hardened polish will lift off more easily in the next steps.

Patience is key here. It is tempting to attack the stain immediately, but that will likely make removing the polish stain much more challenging and damaging to the fabric.

Place stained area face down on paper towels

With the area fully dry, place the garment on a clean stack of paper towels or white rags with the stain facing downwards. The paper or cloth underneath will wick up and absorb the polish as it loosens in upcoming steps.

Lay garment flat with as little creasing as possible around the stained area to allow good contact with the paper towels underneath. You want to give the polish somewhere to transfer so it doesn’t sit on your clothing.

Change out the paper towels or cloths as needed if they become saturated with remover solution and nail polish residue.

This downward stain placement is an often-overlooked but key component to successfully getting nail polish out of clothes!

Apply Hairspray to Stain

Hold can 10-12 inches from stain

When applying hairspray to the nail polish stain, it’s important to hold the can about 10-12 inches away from the fabric. This gives the spray room to disperse before hitting the stain, ensuring even coverage. Getting too close can result in a concentrated stream that only hits part of the stain.

Holding the can further away prevents over-saturating just one area.

Spray liberally to saturate stain

Don’t be shy with the hairspray here! You really want to saturate the entire stained area to give the hairspray its best chance at dissolving the nail polish. Spray back and forth over the fabric until it is thoroughly wet with hairspray. The more you use, the better it will work.

Just be careful not to spray the surrounding area of clean fabric if possible.

Let sit for at least 5 minutes

After spraying the stain, allow the hairspray to sit and work its magic for 5-10 minutes. This gives the alcohol in the hairspray time to break down the nail polish so it can be more easily removed. Don’t immediately start rubbing or blotting at the stain.

Letting it sit prevents pushing the stain further into the fabric. The longer you can wait, the better! For stubborn stains, let it sit for up to an hour before attempting to remove.

Scrub with Toothbrush

Use an old toothbrush or other scrub brush

When working with hairspray to remove nail polish stains, it’s best to use an old or spare toothbrush as a scrub brush. The bristles on a toothbrush provide the ideal gentle abrasion to work the hairspray into the fabric.

Other options like a grout brush, dish scrub brush, or even an old washcloth folded into quarters can also be effective.

Make sure to use a scrub brush that you don’t need for other purposes, as the nail polish could permanently stain the bristles. An old toothbrush destined for the trash is perfect. Just be sure to avoid using anything too stiff or rough that could damage delicate fabrics.

Gently scrub stain to work in hairspray

Once you’ve sprayed hairspray directly on the nail polish stain, use your toothbrush or scrub brush to gently rub the area. The mechanical action helps activate the hairspray ingredients to dissolve the stubborn polish. Take care not to scrub too hard or you may damage the fabric.

Use small, circular motions concentrated on the stained area to work in the hairspray. Let it sit for 15-30 seconds before scrubbing again. The repeated action helps lift the polish from the fabric over time. You should see the stain transferring onto the toothbrush as you scrub.

Scrub for a few minutes until stain fades

Plan to gently scrub the nail polish stain for 2-3 minutes. The hairspray and scrubbing action take some time to penetrate and dissolve the dried polish. But you should notice the stain gradually lightening and releasing from the fabric.

Check the stain every 30 seconds or so to gauge progress. Once it appears almost gone, you can rinse the area with cool water. Avoid hot water, as that can set any remaining stain.

Be patient and persist with scrubbing if the stain seems stubborn at first. The key is gentle, consistent agitation over time. Letting the hairspray sit helps, but scrubbing really activates the magic.

Wash as Usual

Removing nail polish stains from clothing can seem daunting, but don’t panic! With a few simple steps and ingredients you likely have at home, you can get those pesky stains out in no time. Let’s walk through the process step-by-step.

Machine wash with detergent as normal

The first step is to simply wash the stained item as you normally would with your regular laundry detergent. The surfactants and enzymes in most detergents can help break down and lift out many stains on their own. Choose the warmest water setting recommended for the fabric and wash as usual.

Here are some tips for this initial wash:

  • Check the care tag and choose the warmest water setting safe for the fabric type.
  • Use your regular laundry detergent. Liquid detergents tend to work better than powder on stains.
  • Pretreat heavily stained areas with a stain remover stick before washing.
  • Wash the stained item separately to avoid transferring any residual polish onto other clothes.

This first wash with detergent should lift out much of the still-wet nail polish. If any faint staining remains after air drying, don’t worry – the next steps will tackle any leftover residue.

Air dry in sunlight to further fade stain

After washing, it’s best to air dry the clothing in direct sunlight if possible. The UV rays in sunlight act as a natural bleaching agent to help break down and fade stains. Simply hang or lay the garment in a sunny spot until completely dry.

Some things to keep in mind for sun-drying:

  • Avoid using a clothes dryer, as heat can set some stains.
  • Make sure the item is thoroughly dry before assessing if the stain remains.
  • For extra stain-fighting, spray lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide on the stain and let sit wet in the sun for 30-60 minutes before washing again.

By allowing the clothing to fully air dry in sunlight, you give the UV rays time to naturally lift and fade any residual staining. Check the results once dried – you may find the stain is now completely gone!

Add oxygen bleach for extra stain fighting power

If pale staining still remains after washing and sun drying, it’s time to bring in the big guns – oxygen bleach! This powerful stain remover uses color-safe oxygen to lift tough stains and is safe for most washable fabrics.

Here’s how to use it:

  • Check that the garment’s care tag states “bleach when needed” or “non-chlorine bleach when needed”.
  • Add an oxygen bleach like OxiCleanTM to the wash cycle according to package directions.
  • Wash in the hottest water recommended for the fabric.
  • Air dry in the sun again after washing.

The activated oxygen in products like OxiCleanTM penetrates fibers to break up and lift out any remaining staining. With a good oxygen bleach, your clothes should come out looking like new again!

In a recent test, OxiCleanTM removed stubborn nail polish stains that regular detergent could not, proving it’s a must-have for tackling polish spills. Just be sure to check garment care tags before using.

With a simple laundry wash, sun-drying, and oxygen bleach as needed, you can banish nail polish stains for good. No more ruined clothes from accidental manicure mishaps! Follow these steps, and you’ll have fresh, polish-free outfits again.


With this simple hairspray trick, you can easily remove fresh nail polish stains from clothing without harsh chemicals. Just remember to let the stain dry first, saturate it thoroughly with spray, scrub gently with a brush, and launder as usual.

The hairspray’s alcohol will break down the polish so it comes out of the fabric. Your favorite top or pair of jeans will be looking good as new again in no time!

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