How to Clean Nail Polish Off Wood Table

Nail polish is a type of lacquer, which is a clear or colored polymer dissolved in a solvent base.

As the solvent evaporates it leaves an extremely hard coating which can be anywhere from matte to glossy. When nail polish dries on furniture it can be extremely difficult to remove. The process of removing lacquer essentially involves re-introducing a solvent which the lacquer polymer will re-dissolve in. It can then be wiped up.

Make sure you have adequate ventilation. Carefully apply the nail polish remover or lacquer thinner to the nail polish. Allow it to sit on the stain for a few minutes and then wipe it off. If nail polish is still present repeat this Step.

Purchase lacquer thinner at a local hardware store, or nail polish remover in the cosmetic section of a local department store. Cosmetic nail polish remover is simply a small bottle of lacquer thinner.

Mix the lacquer thinner with plain wood alcohol at a one to one ratio when removing nail polish from a stained or painted table. Undiluted thinner may take some of the table finish off as well. Diluting the thinner causes it to work slower. It will take a little longer to dissolve the nail polish, but it will also take longer to get into the wood finish.

Wipe the affected area with a soft rag and clean water to remove any solvent residue once the nail polish has been removed.

Things You Will Need

  • Nail polish remover
  • Lacquer thinner (as an alternative)


  • Use a cotton ear swab for a controlled application to small areas.
  • You can also use MEK or Acetone to remove nail polish, these solvents are extremely potent, will work very fast, and will probably remove the finish from your furniture as well as the nail polish.
  • A one to one ratio means equal parts of lacquer thinner and wood alcohol.


  • Nail polish remover, lacquer thinner, and their fumes are extremely flammable. Do not use around any open flame.
  • Extended breathing of solvent fumes can be hazardous to your health. Always use with good ventilation.

About the Author

Jeff Nemes has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Washington and an Master of Arts in theology from Trinity Seminary. Since 1994, he has taught and written extensively on the development and maintenance of healthy interpersonal relationships.