Does Acetone Stain Clothes?

Key Takeaways

  • Acetone Properties: Acetone is a powerful solvent commonly used in nail polish removers and other industrial applications.
  • Staining Potential: Acetone has the potential to stain clothes, especially if it comes into contact with certain fabrics or dyes.
  • Fabric Sensitivity: Fabrics like acetate and rayon are particularly susceptible to damage or discoloration when exposed to acetone.
  • Precautionary Measures: Take precautions to prevent acetone spills on clothing, and promptly clean up any spills to minimize the risk of staining.
  • Testing First: Before using acetone on clothing, perform a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area to check for adverse reactions.
  • Proper Usage:When using acetone-based products like nail polish remover, take care to avoid contact with clothing and use in a well-ventilated area.

There’s nothing worse than wearing a brand new piece of clothing for the first time and staining it. Except perhaps getting a stain on our favorite item of clothing that we wear all the time. 

We understand the feeling of trying every wash cycle imaginable, spending endless hours googling how to get the stain out, and trying different methods without success. But before they throw their favorite garments in the trash, people turn to acetone. 

Acetone can be very effective in removing stains from certain fabrics. However, it is known to damage certain items of clothing even further.

So, if you’re looking to clean a stain with acetone to save your favorite sweater, or even if you’re removing chipped nail polish and accidentally spill acetone on your clothes, it is worth knowing everything you need to know about acetone to find out if it is going to stain your clothes. 

This article will tell you all, so read on for more!

Does Acetone Stain Clothes

What Is Acetone? 

Acetone is a common household cleaner, an ingredient in nail polish remover, and it has also become a favorite solvent for artists. 

It is a colorless, flammable liquid that is commonly used in cleaning paint brushes, woodworking tools, and other equipment. It is also often recommended for removing stains from fabric. 

Acetone, also called propanone, is actually an organic compound, despite having chemical-sounding names. In fact, our bodies actually produce acetone! This acetone is a by-product of our metabolism, and totally natural!

The following ingredients are present in acetone:

  • Hydrogen
  • Carbon 
  • Oxygen 

These three elements come together to make acetone a highly flammable, colorless liquid. The resulting acetone can be an extremely powerful substance.

It is known for having a unique structure that can break down rubber, fats, plastics, and oils, going so far as to be a key part of clearing up numerous oil spills. 

Can Acetone Stain Clothes?

Acetone is very effective at dissolving certain types of stains, such as nail polish, ink, or grease. However, it can also cause permanent damage to some materials, especially cotton.

Acetone is more likely to damage clothes when it is mixed with other chemicals. 

The problem with acetone is that it doesn’t just dissolve the stain; it also removes the material underneath. That means when you use acetone on a piece of clothing, it will actually pull away from the fibers and leave them exposed.

The result is a dingy-looking garment that’s not only less attractive but also more likely to shrink over time.

It is vital that acetone is not used for any items of clothing or fabric that contain triacetate, acetate, or modacrylic fibers because the results can be dreadful. This is because these fibers are plastics, which acetone can dissolve in a matter of seconds. 

So not only can acetone stain your clothes, but it can also cause so much damage to certain fabrics that we would absolutely not recommend using it anywhere near them. This includes natural fibers such as cotton, wool, and silk. 

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How To Use Acetone To Remove Stains On Clothes 

Despite the many issues acetone can cause, it is an effective way to remove stains from certain items of clothing. 

So, if you want to use acetone to remove stains on clothes, you will first need to know exactly what that garment is made from. Once this has been established you can go ahead and use your acetone. 

Acetone is excellent at removing nail polish stains from clothes. And, because acetone is great at removing oils, then it is suitable for removing any grease stains on your clothing, provided that clothing is not a synthetic material like plastic-based fabrics.

It is best to do a small patch test on your garments before using acetone, in an area that cannot be seen. After all, it is better to damage a tiny part of your item than to render it unwearable and risk ruining it altogether. 

It is also useful to note that the acetone you can buy in stores is sometimes blended with other chemicals and will result in more damage, such as bleaching, and stains to your clothes if used. Because of this, acetone used as nail polish remover is one of the worst ways to remove stains from clothes. 

It is best to stick to products that are simply pure acetone if looking to remove a grease stain. Here is our guide to removing acetone from grease-stained clothing. 

You will need

  • Pure acetone 
  • An old towel 


  • First, you will need to roll the towel and then put it on a flat surface
  • Next, make sure your item of clothing is turned inside out
  • Locate the stained area and place it over the towel directly
  • Now, slowly pour some acetone onto the stain. You must ensure you do not spill any onto the surface you’re working on (though getting some on the old towel is absolutely fine!)
  • This step is all about waiting. The acetone should begin to lift the stain, and you should be able to see this happening
  • If some time has passed and nothing has happened, go ahead and add more acetone. Sometimes, stains of oil and grease will go further into the fibers, so they can be difficult to remove and may take a few rounds of acetone before showing any signs of lifting. 
  • Once you begin to see the stain lift, you can go ahead and wash your garment like you normally would. 
  • Once dry, you hopefully will not find any sign of the stain. If you do, repeat this guide until your garments are stain-free. 

Will Using Acetone Leave A Residue?

While acetone is very good at removing grease and oil stains from clothes, there is always going to be residue left behind after doing so.

In most cases, this residue should come off if you blot it with either an absorbent cloth or an old towel. Scrape (but gently) any solids that arise. You can use a spoon (round end) to do this.

Alternatively, if you do notice a residue, you can remove it by using dishwashing liquid, but nothing stronger! Try your best to avoid soap and laundry detergent here, because this may remove the actual color of the clothing. 

To remove acetone residue with dishwashing liquid, you should mix approximately one cup of water with 1/4 of a teaspoon of the liquid.

Use a rag to gently clean the residue, starting from outside of the stain and working inwards with a dabbing motion. It is important not to be too rough or heavy-handed at this stage, because you could potentially ruin the garment. 

When the residue has been removed you can use another to remove the liquid mix. Then, it is best to wash the garment in cold water to ensure the residue is removed in its entirety. 

The final steps are to blot the garment once more with a dry towel, and then wash your garment as you usually would. 

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What Are Some Alternatives To Acetone?

If you’re not feeling confident in using acetone, then here are some alternatives! 

Baking Soda 

If you want to remove a stain without damaging your clothes, try using baking soda instead. Baking soda is an inexpensive alternative to acetone and works well for removing both grease and oil stains.

Simply apply baking soda to the affected area and let sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, rinse thoroughly and wash as usual. 

Lemon Juice 

Another option is lemon juice. Lemon juice is also effective for removing grease and oil stains and works particularly well for removing food stains.

To remove a grease or oil stain, simply rub the spot with lemon juice, wait for 5 minutes, and then rinse. For greasy stains on fabric, you might need to repeat this process several times. 

Tea Tree Oil 

Tea tree oil is a natural remedy for many things including cleaning, deodorizing, and even killing bacteria. This makes it a great alternative to acetone for removing grease and oil.

To remove a grease stain, first, pour a small amount of tea tree oil onto the stain. Wait for 15 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly. Repeat this step two or three times, depending on how stubborn the stain is. 

Rubbing Alcohol 

You can also use alcohol to remove grease, oil, and nail polish stains on leather. Alcohol is a powerful solvent, which means it will dissolve anything.

To remove a grease and oil stain, pour a little bit of rubbing alcohol into the stain. Let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes, and then rinse completely. If the stain isn’t gone after 20 minutes, repeat the process until it’s gone. 

To remove nail polish stains using rubbing alcohol, you will need to act fast. It is best to use this method while the nail polish is still wet. Soak an old towel in the rubbing alcohol and begin blotting the stain. 

After this step is complete, you can finish the process by using white vinegar. Mix it with about one part olive oil and rub it onto the leather using a toothbrush. Make sure you do this gently.


Alternately to the step above, you can pour vinegar onto the stain, cover the item with plastic wrap, and leave it overnight. The next day, wash the item as normal. 


Did you know that it can also be used to remove stains from clothing? You can use hairspray to remove nail polish stains. First, you must wait for the nail polish remover to completely dry.

Then, spray the hairspray onto the stain and use tweezers to remove it and the remaining residue. After you have removed the stain, wash the garment like you normally would. 

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Acetone-Free Nail Polish Remover 

While acetone is certainly useful for removing nail polish stains, there are other options available. One such product is nail polish remover that is acetone-free!

All you need to do is soak some cotton wool into the acetone-free nail polish remover and blot the stain until it has disappeared. As always, you can now wash the garment like you usually would. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Acetone Damage Plastics?

Yes, using acetone on plastic and plastic fabrics will damage them. This is because the chemical make up of acetone is very similar to plastics, so it is likely to cause damage to it in various ways.

Acetone can dissolve, soften, or smear the surface of plastics. 

Will Acetone Take The Color Out Of Your Clothes?

Yes, acetone is known to sometimes cause discoloration of clothing. This is because it cannot tell the difference between the stain and the clothing, so it will remove all traces of color if applied to a stain.

This is something to be wary of when using acetone, and why sometimes an alternative method is better for removing stains from clothes. 

Final Thoughts 

Acetone is a product that is known to remove stains from clothes. It is excellent at removing nail polish and oil-based stains.

By following the steps above you can successfully remove stains from your clothing using acetone, but take care to follow the steps exactly or you risk damaging clothing and surfaces.

It is also important to note that acetone can actually leave a residue, so it is important to follow those steps too to ensure you do not remove a stain but replace it with another. 

Additionally, while acetone is excellent at removing certain stains, it should only be used for certain items of clothing. Many fabrics react, such as wool, silk, cotton, and synthetics, react badly to acetone, which can actually become damaged beyond repair if acetone is used on them.

It is best to do a small patch test in a hidden place on your clothes before using acetone properly to ensure no damage will be done. 

However, if you’re not confident in using acetone, then there are many other methods to remove stains from clothes! You could use alternate methods such as using hairspray, rubbing alcohol, or tea tree oil. Some methods require more work than others, but they all work just fine.

There are no wrong answers here; it’s up to you what method you choose based on the types of stains and clothing you have. 

Good luck, and happy stain-removing! 

Amanda Brown
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