How to Get Nail Polish Out of Wood Floors

Acetone or isopropyl alcohol will soften nail polish so you can rub it off a wood floor, and neither solvent should damage the floor finish.

This might come as a surprise, but the best solvent for removing nail polish from almost any surface is ... nail polish remover. That's right; acetone or an acetone substitute such as ethyl acetate will dissolve and remove nail polish in a jiffy, but there's just one problem -- either solvent could damage your floor finish. The possibility is slight, though -- most floor finishes are cured -- and possibly even baked -- polyurethane, and even though acetone is a strong solvent, it isn't strong enough to dissolve that. It's best to test it first, though; if you're squeamish, use isopropyl alcohol.

Nail Polish Removal Procedure

  1. Dab off as much nail polish from the floor as you can while it's still wet, using an absorbent rag. If you get the spill in time, you may be able to remove most of it without resorting to a solvent at all.

  2. Tip

    If the spill is fresh and wet, covering it completely with white sugar makes it harden and congeal, allowing you to simply brush it away with the sugar.

  3. Moisten the tip of a cotton swab with nail polish remover or -- if you don't have any -- acetone from your paint supply cupboard. Dab carefully, and avoid getting solvent on the surrounding floor finish, insofar as this is possible.

  4. Blot and rub the moistened nail polish with an absorbent rag or a paper towel. Moisten a second cotton swab with acetone, dab more solvent on any streaks left on the floor, then rub those streaks off with the cloth.

  5. Use isopropyl alcohol -- rubbing alcohol -- as an alternative to acetone. Alcohol is an ingredient in some brands of nail polish remover. It's even less likely to affect the floor finish than acetone, so you can use it more aggressively.

  6. Fold a paper towel over a few times to make a square large enough to cover the spill. Soak the paper towel with alcohol, place it over the spill and press down. Hold it for a minute or two, then rub the nail polish off the floor. You may need to repeat this procedure once or twice.

  7. Tip

    If the floor is unfinished, you can use both acetone and alcohol quite aggressively, soaking the polish and rubbing vigorously. In the off-chance you can't remove all the polish this way, sand the wood with 150-grit sandpaper.