Does Nail Polish Remover Remove Paint? (Complete Guide)

You splattered paint on an unintended surface or neglected a dry paint stain. Alternatively, you are ready to clean off an old paint job, but are short on supplies.

You want to just take a paper towel and rub paint stains off, but now you need chemical help.

What you can use to remove nail polish from nails makes it look promising, but does nail polish remover remove paint?

This article explains how and when to apply nail polish remover to remove paint and even strip paint that is fully cured.

Oil-based Paint

Nail polish remover, especially if it contains acetone, can be used to strip paint–even oil/alkyd paints, varnish, and enamel paint.

Epoxy Paints & Resins

Ideally, use acetone nail polish remover for these tough coatings, especially old paint.


These are durable; if dish soap and warm water do not work, use nail polish remover works to go to the next level.


Many lacquers contain acetone, so it is the perfect paint thinner or cleanup.


Acetone can eat through varnish, so you could use nail polish remover to strip off varnish residues.

Water-based Paints

You can use nail polish remover as paint thinner successfully on both water and oil-based paint, whether wet or dried.

  • Gloss & Enamel Paint: Some are oil-based, but it works either way.
  • Latex & Acrylic Paint: You should not need a powerful solvent to effectively remove acrylic paint or latex. Often dish soap and warm water is sufficient–but if you find it hard to strip paint, use nail polish remover.

Spray Paint

If you cannot remove spray paint with a paper towel and warm water (many are latex paint), you can easily remove paint with nail polish remover.

Polyurethane Over Paint

How To Use Nail Polish Remover To Easily Remove Paint

Paint on Capet

Carpet, Clothes & Upholstery:

Acetone and other nail polish remover ingredients are such strong solvents that you should only use nail polish remover as a last resort. It will remove dried paint, but it degrades some fabrics and dissolves dyes.

  • Delicate & Synthetic Fabrics: (e.g., silk and polyester, respectively) Using nail polish remover here is risky. If you work directly on small sections and rub or paint scraper it off promptly, you might get away with it.
  • Canvas: Dip a cotton swab or cloth in nail polish remover to wipe stubborn paint from canvas items, such as shoes.


Nail polish remover is okay to remove paint from glass.


As with glass, remove paint from metal surfaces with any nail polish remover.


All nail polish remover components work for removing paint from concrete.

Plastics That Stand Up To Acetone

Acetone is such a strong solvent that prolonged exposure destroys most plastics, but some hold up better:

  • Polypropylene (PP): Used in bottles, tops, synthetic fabrics, and car parts.
  • Polyethylenes (PEs): Both low- (LDPE) and high-density (HDPE) are used in toys and appliances.
  • Teflon/Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE): Famous for durability.

First, consider natural oils, then denatured alcohol, to strip paint from plastic. If this does not work, apply acetone directly to very small sections, with light pressure, to remove paint on plastic surfaces.

Unfortunately, denatured alcohol can similarly damage plastic; plus, it has additives that could create residue.

Ethyl acetate nail polish remover is safer to use on plastic surfaces–and any painted areas–but is not as strong.

Most DIY products are latex-based paint, so, most often, you should not have to go through this process.


Nail polish remover can irritate skin. However, even pure acetone will not damage your skin, especially with brief exposure. Make sure to wash thoroughly with soap and water afterward.


To undo minor scratches to a car’s paint or remove car paint, use a soft cloth and nail polish remover to gently rub car paint on metal surfaces. Use nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol and paint drips to remove scuffs on other various surfaces of a car–but watch out on wood, plastic, or vinyl.

Do NOT Use Acetone On These Surfaces!

With these materials, your only hope is to rub paint or stains off ASAP.


Acetone is too strong for removing paint on wood.

  • Wooden Furniture & Wall Moldings: Many wood surfaces are actually coated with varnish, which acetone can penetrate.
  • Vinyl Flooring: Many wooden floors really are vinyl (plastic), which does not tolerate most nail paint removers.


Do not use acetone on leather–especially suede, which is so delicate that even clean water causes damage.

Effect of Acetone on Leather

Acetate Fabrics

Even storing these fabrics close to acetone or nail polish remover could harm them.


Acetone degrades it. If you get a stubborn paint stain, instead try dish soap or asphalt cleaner.

Plastics That Are Not Safe to Use Acetone On:

  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): Pure acetone evaporates so fast that it can damage a PVC cap with which it is not in direct contact. However, you might still get away with a few drops directly applied to an otherwise unresponsive paint stain.
  • Polystyrene: Pure acetone will dissolve styrenes. Styrofoam is particularly vulnerable, since it is largely hollow.

Pure Acetone Vs Nail Polish Remover: What’s The Difference?

Acetone is a naturally occurring organic material used in a myriad of human applications, including nail polish remover. It is water soluble, yet it can strip oily coatings. Unsurprisingly, it is sometimes sold as a substance to dissolve paint.

Apply it to an old cloth to take off hardened dried paint or sticky residue (including product sticker remains) from almost any surface.

Many nail polishes have acetone as the main ingredient and, therefore, can be used both to thin paint and to strip cured paint.

Acetone-free does not necessarily mean weaker: methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) and isopropyl alcohol are nearly as strong as acetone.

These are such strong solvents that you should apply judiciously: dip a cotton ball or cloth and rub it on the affected area.

They are flammable, so do not use or store them near flames, heat sources, or electrical equipment.

Acetone, MEK, and isopropyl alcohol are FDA Class 3 solvents: These might cause some irritation but, with normal usage, are not toxic or carcinogenic.

That said, most sources recommend a well-ventilated area and, for use other than nail polish removal, wear gloves.

Pure Acetone Vs Nail Polish Remover

Removing Paint
With Nail Polish Remover FAQs

Will Non-Acetone nail polish remover to remove paint?

Yes it is possible for non-acetone polish to remove paint. Some nail polish removers contain MEK, which can also thin paint. Ethyl acetate removers may work on delicate surfaces with latex paint.

What is the easiest way to remove paint from wood?

The easiest way to remove paint from wood is to use mineral spirits or turpentine for oily stains, but soap and warm water on a soft cloth should work too. A safety razor blade can help remove latex paint without scratching the wood surface.

Can you use nail polish remover on paint brushes?

Yes, but it could possibly damage the brush due to the strong nature of acetone. It's recommended to use a solvent better suited to the paint type to avoid any potential damage.

Can you use a paint thinner as nail polish remover?

While some paint strippers may contain acetone, they are not intended for use as nail polish remover. Paint thinner often contains harmful chemicals like benzene and is not made for use on the body.

Can nail polish remover really remove LEGO paint?

Yes, nail polish remover can remove paint from LEGOs and other plastic surfaces. Soaking the item is necessary for it to be effective. However, caution should be exercised when using it.

Is it safe to use nail polish remover on paint stains during pregnancy?

Normal use of nail polish remover during pregnancy is safe, but it's uncertain if it's safe for paint stains. Make sure to use it in a well-ventilated area.


Nail polish remover can clean, remove, and strip any paint with paint stripper, just as it does the polish on nails. However, this is a mixed blessing since you can just as easily damage many common surfaces with it.

Appreciating the strength of nail polish remover ingredients and how they interact with surface materials gives you an unbeatable cleaning skill.