How to Fix a Nail Polish Remover Spill on a Wooden Surface?

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By Deirdre Mundorf

Updated: Jun 10, 2024

8 min read

Nail Polish Remover on Wood
Photo: @distinctivewoodfloors

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    It doesn't harm the skin but can severely damage wood surfaces, especially those with stains or paint. Even a small amount can cause significant harm.

    Handling Nail Polish Remover Spills on Wood

    Organic acetone liquid, commonly known as nail polish remover, functions similarly to paint remover and varnish. It potentially causes damage by bleaching wood stains and roughening the grain if the spill is severe or the finish is delicate. Cleaning up such a spill requires caution to prevent worsening the damage.

    Quick Response to Nail Polish Stain

    If the spill occurs, act quickly. Immediately blot it with a clean paper towel or lint-free cloth to minimize the amount of acetone or ethyl acetate that penetrates the finish.

    After blotting, ensure the table is dry, then lightly wipe the spill area with plain water using a soft cloth and promptly dry it. Allow the table to rest before applying your usual protective finish to restore any slight visible differences and reinforce the moisture barrier.

    Restoration of Wood

    If the polish remover has stripped the finish without staining the wood, using very fine sandpaper can help smooth out the damaged area. Gently applying fine stainless-steel wool can further remove any residue and prevent additional damage. Applying a fresh protective finish may help mask any discoloration caused by the spill.

    If the wood is slightly discolored, consider using a touch-up marker in a matching color to disguise the affected area, but be cautious when using this method on valuable or sentimental pieces, as it may be challenging to achieve an exact color match.

    Reviving the Wood

    For a significant spill, you are left with limited options, possibly requiring a full refinishing. Acetone will strip protective coatings, remove stain color, and change the wood's appearance.

    Take action to revive the piece. Conceal the damage by placing a coffee table book or decorative bowl over it, opt for decorative tiling to cover the tabletop while ensuring grout sealing, or undertake a thorough restoration by stripping, sanding, staining, and refinishing.

    If the item lacks value or appeal, consider painting it with a shabby-chic distressed finish. For valuable pieces, take the help of a professional.

    Also Read: How to Repair an Old and Damaged Wooden Deck With Wood Filler?

    DIY- How to Remove Nail Polish Remover on Wood?

    Remove Nail Polish from Wood Floor
    Photo: @distinctivewoodfloors

    Cleaning for Surface Stains

    Promptly attend to the mess by absorbing the liquid with a fresh paper towel, avoiding rubbing to prevent further harm. Paper towels serve as an effective alternative to cotton balls for eliminating nail polish. After tidying up the spill, delicately cleanse the affected spot with a soft, damp cloth. Then, promptly dry it to avoid water marks. Subsequently, apply a generous amount of polish to the table. This action will rectify any minor irregularities or color variations caused by the remover and replenish the protective moisture barrier.

    Effective Stain Removal Technique

    For minor spills, opt for a stain pen that complements your furniture color. Apply it on the affected spot and gently wipe with a soft cloth. After it dries, assess the color. If it is too faint, apply another layer and wipe. If three attempts yield unsatisfactory results, switch to a darker marker.

    Applying Lacquer

    Apply a lacquer for the final touch. If the stained region measures half an inch or smaller, section it off with masking tape; otherwise, omit the tape. Employ an aerosol lacquer to lightly coat the designated area. Let it dry before delicately sanding it with steel wool to smooth out the surface.

    Refinishing Tips: Achieving a Smooth Surface


    Polishing, an ancient method, is employed to flatten and merge any transparent coating.

    You will require a small piece of denim for this task. Though unconventional, the outcomes are remarkable.

    Denim Use

    Utilize the denim as you would sandpaper, applying firm pressure over the targeted area to generate heat. Subsequently, blend the fresh lacquer with the adjacent finish.

    Dealing With Spills

    If you are dealing with spilled nail polish remover on a wooden table, polish the entire tabletop. For a chair arm, polish the entire arm. Seamless blending is essential. When executed correctly, the disparity will be invisible.

    Use of Paint

    Consider upgrading only with inexpensive furniture lacking significant value. You can opt to paint over the stain. This could even enhance the overall furniture made of wood.

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