Nail polish remover may be sold in plastic containers, but acetone, the active ingredient in most nail polish removers, can damage many commonly used types of plastic, causing it to soften, smear, or even dissolve. This is why you should avoid using acetone-containing nail polish remover on plastic, even if it can quickly clean some types of plastic. Instead, your approach should depend on the type of plastic in question, but it will often involve rubbing alcohol.
Video of the Day
For Hard Plastics
If the polish has hardened, start by scraping it away. Because using a material harder than the plastic you're cleaning may scratch it, avoid using metal items, like butter knives, razor blades, or metal paint scrapers. Instead, try a plastic scraper, such as a plastic putty knife or a pan scraper.
For Softer Plastics
Because soft plastics can be ripped or scratched easily, avoid scraping these surfaces entirely. Instead, try using sticky packing tape. Simply smooth the tape over the polish stain until it's stuck on all the way and then rip it off as if you were using a wax strip to remove hair. With any luck, the polish will come off right along with the tape.
Reach for Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol, also called isopropyl alcohol or isopropanol, is one of the best alternative nail polish removers out there. While it may not work quite as quickly as acetone, it is a lot gentler on your skin, nails, and cuticles, and small amounts of rubbing alcohol can safely be used on most plastics. While many commercial nonacetone nail polish removers feature isopropanol as the active ingredient, it's best to stick with plain rubbing alcohol when cleaning plastics since it is cheaper and does not contain other ingredients that may damage your plastic surfaces.
If you just spilled the polish, it will be much easier to clean up than if it has had a chance to harden and cure. Start by wiping away as much of the polish as possible with a paper towel. Then use rubbing alcohol to clean up the polish stuck on the surface before it has a chance to harden. Apply isopropyl alcohol to a cotton ball and wipe away the still-soft polish. Wipe the area with a towel dipped in water to remove any remaining chemicals.
Once the polish has hardened, rubbing alcohol takes a little longer to work. Apply isopropyl alcohol to a cotton swab and rub it gently on the polish stain. Wipe off the residue with water. If there's more polish left behind, use a clean cotton swab to reapply the rubbing alcohol and then clean with water again. Repeat this process until the stain is fully gone.