How to Remove Nail Polish Remover from Wood

Do you need to know how to remove nail polish remover from wood? Knowing how to use nail polish remover the right way isn’t rocket science. 

But we’ve all had unfortunate accidents at some point. 

When we remove lacquer nail polish we often leave the soaked cotton balls on the table. We don’t consider that it might damage the table. But it only takes a little nail polish remover to cause damage.

This is why you shouldn’t use remover to clean nail polish off surfaces or fabric.

Below are a few solutions to help you fix damage caused by nail polish remover. 

How to Remove Nail Polish Remover From Wooden Furniture

how to remove nail polish remover from wooden table

Why Does Nail Polish Remover Damage Wood?

Most nail polish removers contain acetone which is a powerful chemical. That’s why it’s not the best way to remove nail polish from the skin. 

Acetone is a common and effective gel nail polish remover. Although it’s best to remove gel nail polish at home without acetone. 

Any damage caused by the remover is likely not severe. The acetone will strip the wood finish, and bleach the wood. If the finish was thin (or non-existent) then the wood will be slightly warped or “melted”. 

Acetone tends to raise and roughen wood. When fixing the damage, you need to be gentle. The area will be delicate now. 

Now you know why the remover damaged the wood. Let’s dive into the possible solutions.

Clean it Immediately

Seems pretty obvious, right? If it’s a superficial stain, this should work well. Blot the spill with a clean paper towel. Don’t rub or wipe it as this could cause more damage.

Paper towels are also a great way to remove nail polish without cotton balls.

Once the spill is cleaned up, gently wipe the area. Use plain water and a soft clean cloth and go over the area lightly. Dry it immediately to prevent water stains.

You should give the table a good polish after that. This will even out any slight differences or discoloration from the remover. It will also restore the moisture barrier.

The Handyman Solution

This solution is for when the acetone spill has eaten through the wood finish. This usually results in a white mark as it discolors the wood staining. 

You might think that it requires a special skill set to fix this. The truth is, you can restore the wooden furniture in three steps.

For a Small-ish Spill

Get a Stain Marker 

A stain marker works well for small spills. Choose a color that matches your furniture, or as close to it as you can. 

Apply the stain marker on the discolored area and then wipe off with a soft cloth. Once it’s dry, check the color. If it’s still too light, apply another coat and wipe. 

If, after the third try, it’s still too light, then you need a darker marker.

Use a Lacquer to Finish

If the discolored area is ½ inch or less, then cordon it off will masking tape. Any bigger than that and the tape is unnecessary. 

Use an aerosol lacquer and spray a light coat over the area it’s needed. Allow it to dry and then use steel wool to sand it. Be gentle and try to remove any depressions. 

Repeat this process until the area is even and smooth.


Burnishing is an old technique used to flatten and blend any clear finish. 

You’ll need a small denim square for this. Yes, that seems strange, but the results are incredible.

You will be using the denim square like sandpaper. Sand firmly over the area you’re fixing up. You want to create enough friction to generate heat.

Then, you blend the new lacquer with the surrounding finish. 

If you’re removing nail polish remover from a wood table, then burnish the entire top. If it's the arm of a chair, the burnish the entire arm.

The blending needs to be seamless. If it’s done right, no one will be able to see the difference.

For a Big Spill

So, you knocked the entire bottle over and a huge chunk of the table is stained? You might need to sand and stain the whole table. 

You will need to repeat the above steps but on a larger scale. Instead of getting a stain marker, you will need a tub. Remember to choose a color as close to the original as possible.

Upscale It

Upscaling should only be an option with cheap or unattractive furniture. If the wood table (or chair) has no real value then this is a good option. 

You can paint over the stain. If it’s a table, you will need to paint the top and the legs. It might even be an improvement. You could go for a bright splash of color or something more shabby-chic. 

how to remove nail polish remover from wood table

But before we get to painting, you will need to strip the wooden furniture. 

Sand the furniture to remove the finishing. Make sure that it’s smooth and even before you paint it. Bumps and color irregularities could cause inconsistencies when you paint it. 

When sanding it, be sure to be gently over the polish remover spill. That area will be more delicate because of the acetone.

The Easy Solutions

Not all of us are DIY savvy. We’ll either make a bigger mess or just can’t be bothered to try. That’s okay. Here are a couple of easy solutions.

Cover it Up

Out of sight out of mind, right? A decorative bowl or vase will work if it's a small stain. No one but you will know. 

You can cover the tabletop with a decorative tile if it's a big spill. 

Both these options only work if the furniture has no real value (sentimental or otherwise). But, if it’s an antique, our next solution might be best.

Get an Actual Handyman

Hire a professional to fix the damage. 

Yes, you will need to pay them, obviously, but you won’t have to get your hands dirty. And it will likely end up looking brand new, or close to it.

And if it is an antique, be more mindful of that in the future. Especially if it holds sentimental value. Many of us have at least one piece of furniture that’s been the family for ages. 

If you plan on passing it on to the next generation, treat it with care.

Preventative Measures

To avoid this happening in the future, there are steps you can take to protect your wooden furniture.

First, find another surface to use when removing your nail polish. Or at least don’t put remover-soaked cotton balls directly on furniture.

If you don’t have another surface to use then protect it before you start. 

Cover the table with plastic food wrap and place an old towel over the plastic. This provides double protection for your wood furniture. 

Once your work area is set up you can use our genius remover to remove nail polish without concern.

how you can remove nail polish remover from wood table

You can also use a remover that doesn’t contain acetone. But that might make it more difficult to remove no chip nail polish.

Because acetone is a powerful chemical, you can’t simply throw it in the trash. Read our article on how to dispose of nail polish remover safely.

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